Do You Hire a Court Reporter or a Transcriptionist?

Although court reporters and legal transcriptionists have very similar jobs, there are distinct differences between the two professions. So should you engage the services of a court reporter or a legal transcriptionist to transcribe court proceedings?

Court Reporters

Court reporters (also called stenographers, shorthand reporters or law reporters) are in the courtroom to provide real-time court reporting. Their job is one of speed – they type a transcript of legal court proceedings as it happens, so the document is almost ready immediately after the conclusion of a hearing or trial.

Furthermore, real-time court reporting is also used in some other fields outside the legal profession, such as television (closed captioning) and public events. Furthermore, these reporters are typically hired as direct employees of a court.

Being a court reporter requires time, dedication, and a willingness to learn. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) sets the gold standard when it comes to court reporting and offers a comprehensive licensing program to anyone seeking to be a certified court reporter.

Moreover, the NCRA licensing program typically takes two to four years to complete and provides instruction in all aspects of court reporting. Depending on the level of certification requested, the program will more than likely include classes on legal transcription services, transcription machines, legal documents, legal proceedings, steno machines, and other common legal terminology.

A legal transcriptionist’s work also relies on speed, however there are some key differences between a legal transcriptionist and a court reporter.

Transcriptionists work with an audio or video recording of an event.  Such as court hearings, witness interviews, trials, etc. – to produce a written document of the proceedings. This document can be either verbatim (which is word-for-word, like what a court reporter types) or lightly edited (taking out ums, ahs, breaks in speaking, etc.,) depending on the needs of the client and the states require. Transcriptionists usually work on a conditional or contract basis – they are not full-time employees but rather independent contractors. They get paid for the work they do, usually by audio minute or number of lines they type, not salary. Most importantly, a legal transcriptionist needs to have an understanding of legal terminology or a background in legal research.

Legal transcribers can be self-employed or work for a transcription company. If they work for a transcription company, the transcriptionists usually have access to technological systems court reporters don’t have – cloud hosting for documents, online systems for downloading and completing dictations, etc. This is important, as there have been court cases overturned due to a court reporter losing the transcript and recording of a trial.

Transcriptionists also provide services for a variety of other fields outside the legal field, including medical, law enforcement, academic, financial, business and more. Transcriptionists even take work from individuals – say a recorded memoir for a book or family history.

Although the work might be similar, transcriptionists and court reporters have different jobs, each with a different benefit for a potential employer.

Legal transcriptionists are typically 25-50% cheaper to hire than a court reporter, have access to security features and cloud hosting, and work with a much larger range of legal specialties.

Court reporters are able to produce partial documents as an event happens, called real-time court reporting, so a partial record is almost ready as soon as an event concludes. Employers, and anyone else looking, should consider these options when choosing to hire a legal transcriptionist or a court reporter.

Ditto Transcripts is a Denver, Colorado-based legal transcription company that provides fast, accurate and affordable transcription services for law firms, individual attorneys, court systems and legal services companies of all sizes. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial.

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