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Court reporting is an occupation wherein a person transcribes recorded or spoken speech into written words while in a legal setting. Those employed as court reporters are usually responsible for producing court hearing transcripts, depositions and other types of legal transcripts. A court reporter can also be referred to as a stenotype reporter, stenomask writer or a voice writer.
Machine shorthand or a digital recorder and a voice silencer are the usual tools of the court reporting trade. Machine shorthand allows for court reporting that is as close as possible to the original speech because no parts of speech are left out of the transcript. Voice writers repeat what lawyers, witnesses and other speakers say, verbatim. The abilities to pay attention to minute details, concentrate for long periods of time and understand the language that is being transcribed are all necessary to become a competent court reporter.
Training for court reporting includes academic coursework. Those interested in obtaining a degree in the voice reporting type of court reporting may take classes to help them understand legal and medical language, business law, and of course, English. Usually, a degree can be earned within two years. In contrast, stenotype court reporting may require much more specialized training and basic coursework completion may require a commitment of as much as six years. However, potential students may often take correspondence courses either by mail or online with on-site job training following.
Potential court reporting students should know that their training does not end after acquiring a degree. Court reporters are expected to regularly practice their skills to hone accuracy and speed. They are also expected to continue their education. Both of these measures are necessary to maintain licenses. Some states may also require that a court reporter double as notary public so that he or she can swear in witnesses and certify that the account of the proceedings is complete and true.
If a court reporter joins professional organizations and keeps up with his training, he or she may find court reporting lucrative. Freelance opportunities in arbitration hearings, religious services, educational settings or other events intended for the public may also present court reporters with increased earning potential. In addition, a court reporter can find himself introduced to the world of media if he acts as an independent contractor who transcribes live programs for television closed captioning or webcasts for Internet websites.
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