A study was published nine years ago and put hard numbers behind a phenomenon that most of us in the court reporting profession saw coming for many years. The court reporting profession has seen a substantial gap between the demand for court reporters and the supply. As most of you know, the shortage is now upon us. The greatest shortage is in the more rural areas.
How will we serve the needs of law firms with fewer court reporters?
It is imperative that we continue to make use of the latest technology. Because of the pandemic, many of us have become experts in conducting virtual depositions. Some of our clients prefer virtual depositions, avoiding travel, and having access to all of their documents in their office. Technology will continue to allow court reporters to handle depositions remotely. By reducing the amount of time reporters are traveling, reporters have the ability to cover two or more depositions in two or more locations within the confines of a single day. Likewise, having our reporters appear remotely allows us to assign reporters from other parts of the state, or country, increasing the size of our team despite the shortage. Think about a reporter who lives in Norfolk. We can have that reporter appear remotely to cover virtual depositions in Roanoke.
We’re also going to need to be more efficient by, for example, employing proofreaders to help with the production of transcripts, thereby protecting and more effectively deploying the finite resource of stenographic court reporters.
Be sure to include the court reporting agency in the discussion when scheduling depositions and selecting available dates with opposing counsel. Some days we have more availability than other days. Just as when you are making appointments with medical professionals or even your hairstylist, it is always best to check availability first to ensure you have a top-notch court reporter available as well.
Lastly, schedule early! Our schedule is full routinely one to two weeks in advance. While we often have cancellations, it is always best to schedule your court reporter as soon as possible.
How do we recruit more court reporters to the profession?
Those of us who love this profession always have scratched our heads why more people don’t look to court reporting as a career option. The benefits of court reporting are substantial. It provides solid, reliable compensation. It has multiple career paths: working as a deposition reporter; as an official reporter in the courts; or as a broadcast or CART captioner who converts live speech to text on television, in classrooms, and elsewhere to serve the informational needs of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
What might be most attractive about court reporting compared to other professions, it doesn’t require the massive expense of a four-year college degree. It’s difficult, make no mistake about that. It takes two to three years of intense training to learn the skill. You must have a strong work ethic. You must be good with language. And you must be persistent and disciplined with your practice.
What’s also great is that many court reporting schools now have online programs so that students can complete their schooling remotely. Still, a prospective student might want the opportunity to try court reporting out for a while without making the commitment to a career.
And that’s where I have great news. A number of groups around the country have assembled orientation-type programs to teach prospective students the basic skills of court reporting to see if they have an interest and/or the proclivity for it without having to make a life commitment at the start.
The programs, called A-to-Z, are free and are something anyone can complete over the course of several weeks. After that, there is another group, called Project Steno, that exists to provide those who complete A-to-Z programs with tuition assistance to defray the cost of court reporting school.
So please pass the word to young people who might be interested in court reporting. Of course, once they’re done with court reporting school, we’ll be ready to put them to work at Hart Reporting.