Impact of the Court Reporter Shortage

Impact of the Court Reporter Shortage

A shrinking pool of court reporters in North Carolina and across the country could open opportunities for qualified industry professionals. A shortage of court reporters in recent years could lead to many court jurisdictions feeling the pinch as the shortage deepens.

Is there a court reporter shortage? 

The short answer is, “yes.” Courts continue to hear cases and witnesses continue to be deposed and the judicial process churns forward. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a looming court reporter shortage, though. According to Drucker Worldwide, “there is a shortage of 5,000 or more court reporters and that number will grow in the near future.”

Written transcripts remain the industry standard and is the preferred method of presenting information from the official record. That is not to say a quality transcript cannot be produced from a digital recording, but the management of the process is necessary to develop a timely receipt of transcripts as well as consistently accurate transcripts and quality-controlled documentation.

Court administrators have expressed little concern and feel if the shortage comes to fruition, digital technologies may pick up the slack. Court reporters know the fix is not as simple as relying on digital technology to capture testimony and other legal proceedings.

Can technology replace court reporters? 

Trial court administrators who require accurate, written transcripts for an appeal or an appellate court administrator waiting for transcripts understand there is a deeper implication to a growing shortage of court reporters.

A court reporters’ relationship with the court is not traditionally mainstream. A court reporter may earn a salary as an employee and they may contract out and earn additional income by producing and selling transcripts. This has been an accepted practice for decades. The reason many court reporters took on outside work was because they have been typically paid a salary lower than the skill level of their work demanded.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median salary for a court reporter has increased to $51,000. Travel and remote service opportunities have increased the demand for qualified court reporters; even with the increase in digital recording in the courtrooms, the shortage of court reporters could slow down or even put a halt to court proceedings.

Lower courts may be able to rely on digital technology and have already implemented systems but in many court proceedings the human interaction of a court reporter is necessary.

A court reporter can ask for clarification, denote when people are speaking over one another and may be able to pick up what’s being said by those who mumble or don’t speak clearly enough for a transcriptionist to decipher from a digital recording. If a transcript isn’t able to be made from the digital recording, a case may need to be re-tried or even thrown out because a proper record of the proceedings couldn’t be captured. This could be a costly expense for court jurisdictions.

In complex court cases what would happen if a court reporter wasn’t available to record and accurately transcribe the proceedings? It’s a frightening prospect, but could eventually become a reality in North Carolina courtrooms if the predicted shortage comes to fruition.

How to address the potential court reporter shortage

Individuals in North Carolina interested in becoming a court reporter may find it a viable career path. To succeed as a court reporter the individual needs:

  1. An extensive vocabulary
  2. Strong grammatical skills
  3. A desire for formal court reporter education
  4. The focus to continue learning after they’ve received their certification
  5. A dedicated focus to the task at hand.

At Ruffin Consulting, we are dedicated to providing the best court reporters and meeting your deadlines. Call us today to learn more.

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