Freelance Court Reporters




The majority of court reporters are freelancersMaking up approximately 70 percent of the judicial court reporter population, freelance court reporters are probably the least recognized of the group.  As the job title would seem to indicate, most people understandably assume that a court reporter always works in a courtroom.  Though some freelance court reporters do accept assignments that may take place in a courtroom, many of them work their entire careers and never cover a hearing or a trial.

What Is a Freelance Court Reporter?

Official court reporters are those who are employed by a specific court and usually work with the same judge on a daily basis.  Freelance court reporters do fill in for official court reporters when necessary, but, for the most part, these reporters primarily provide services for many different attorneys and agencies.  An insurance company attorney may ask a freelance court reporter to cover the sworn statement of a victim of a house fire on one day, and a medical malpractice attorney may ask him or her to cover the deposition of a surgeon on the next day.  A freelancer is usually based out of a home office and accepts assignments from a variety of sources.

The nature of the job of a freelance court reporter usually involves a significant amount of traveling.  Some freelancers in larger cities may have enough work to be able to remain in one general area, but many freelancers may travel 30, 70, 100, to 300 miles from their homes to provide their services.  Locations of the jobs vary and many times are based on the location of a witness.  Though an attorney may have an office just a mile from a court reporter’s home office, if the witness the attorney wishes to depose lives two hours away, it is generally expected that the attorney will accommodate the witness by traveling to his or her location.  Because the court reporter must be present, the freelancer must travel to the location of the witness as well.  For more information about the types of locations a freelancer may work, read our article “Work Environment for the Court Reporter.” 

The most obvious reason a freelance court reporter must be present for the assignments he or she is hired to cover is to be able to clearly hear and record the dialogue taking place during the statement or deposition.  One of the most important reasons, however, for a freelancer to be present is because it is his or her duty to put the witness under oath.  In a courtroom setting, either the judge or the court clerk will swear in a witness.  A deposition or a sworn statement carries the same weight as testimony given in open court.  Because no judge or court clerk is present, it is the duty of the court reporter to administer the oath prior to taking down any testimony from the witness.

Who Hires Freelance Court Reporters?

Freelance court reporters are generally independent contractors.  Even those who work primarily for one court reporting firm are not considered employees, though there has been increasing debate about this subject for years in the court reporting community.  As independent contractors, freelancers can choose what assignments to accept.

Freelance court reporting can be very rewardingWhen first beginning a freelance court reporting career, most reporters choose to work for a court reporting firm.  The process of receiving an assignment begins when a client of the firm contacts it about needing services.  At that point, the firm owners and then the most senior court reporters have the first choice on accepting the assignment.  If those reporters do not prefer the assignment, it will then pass to the roster of lower level court reporters.  A scheduling person will begin contacting court reporters on the roster until he or she finds someone to accept the assignment.  A beginning court reporter must be willing to accept almost any assignment that comes his or her way.  Doing that, though, will lead to more work and more preferable assignments.

More established court reporters many times have their own personal clients, in addition to taking work from one or more court reporting firms.  Some court reporters may have been legal secretaries or may even know some attorneys from church.  These kinds of contacts can be quite beneficial to freelance court reporters.  Several reliable and busy clients can keep one freelance court reporter very busy.

Because of the ever-changing situations faced by a freelance court reporter, versatility is an essential characteristic to have.  If you are ready to take that first step, freelance court reporting can be an exciting and rewarding career.  Choose the training program that is right for you, and open the door to your future today.

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Written by , CCR on 11/2/2012 Suzanne has been a court reporter and worked in legal communities for over 18 years. 

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