Court Reporting & Stenography
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When most people hear the words “court reporter,” they automatically think of the person they have seen on television or in a legal proceeding who quietly sits at the front of the courtroom pressing keys on a funny little machine. Those court reporters are referred to as “official court reporters,” and, in actuality, they make up a very small percentage of the nation’s total court reporter population. In addition to official court reporters, there are freelance court reporters performing the same important duties.
Courtrooms and Administrative Agencies
The most obvious environment in which a court reporter might work is, of course, a courtroom. Official court reporters generally work for one judge in one courtroom. Some official reporters, however, may travel with the judge to multiple courthouses within a specific state district. Within the courtroom, the reporter is usually provided a special desk located near the witness stand. Rules vary by jurisdictions, but, for the most part, the official reporter is responsible for taking down proceedings when court is in session and for securely maintaining the notes and/or recordings that would be utilized to produce a transcript, if requested. Most official reporters are provided with an office and the equipment necessary to perform their duties. Also read Court Reporters in the Court Room to get a more detailed picture of what it's like for a court reporter working in a trial.
Some administrative agencies employ their own court reporters, though there are many agencies that utilize the services of freelance court reporters. Agency meetings and hearings may take place in a hearing room, which is usually arranged very much like a courtroom. Some meetings and hearings, however, may involve the public in a specific location, and agency staff will arrange for accommodations to hold the meeting closer to the members of the public affected by certain decisions the agency has been asked to consider. For these types of meetings, the agency may rent space at a community center, a school auditorium or cafeteria, a local church, or a town hall. The court reporter is provided with a special area to set up his or her equipment to record the proceeding.
Law Firms and the Offices of Attorneys
The greatest majority of work done by court reporters is done by freelance court reporters who take deposition testimony and sworn statements from witnesses. Much of this work is done in the offices of attorneys. Prior to a case going to trial, there is a period of time called “discovery.” During this time, attorneys arrange to take testimony from various witnesses involved in the case. Freelance court reporters are hired to create a certified record of what is said by the witness being deposed.
When a court reporter arrives at an attorney’s office to take a deposition, he or she is usually taken to a conference room and allowed to set up the necessary equipment. Some attorneys’ offices, however, are quite small, and the court reporter may actually have to set up on the corner of an attorney’s desk. The court reporter is usually positioned closest to the witness, with the attorney for the witness sitting on the opposite side. The attorney taking the deposition, as well as any other attorneys involved in the case, is positioned across the table or desk from the witness.
Court Reporting Firms
As a service to their clients, many court reporting firms provide conference rooms for taking depositions and sworn statements. An attorney with a small office or a scheduling conflict for the use of his or her own firm’s conference room will utilize the conference room provided by the court reporting firm through which the court reporter was hired. Many court reporting firms provide equipment for depositions to be taken through video conferencing or a speaker phone. The scheduling of the conference room also usually includes provision of coffee, soft drinks, bottled water, and other refreshments.
Many times freelance court reporters are hired to take the testimony of medical providers involved in a case. Upon arriving at the scheduled location, the court reporter is usually led to the area where the deposition will take place and is allowed to set up his or her equipment. If the medical provider is being deposed as an expert in a case, some medical offices will not allow the court reporter to set up for the deposition until the attorney taking the deposition has arrived and paid a deposit in advance to the medical provider. Like the situation with some attorneys’ offices, many times the court reporter may be instructed to set up and work off of the corner of a medical provider’s desk. Some medical facilities, however, have a conference room, a break room, or even an area in the front lobby to accommodate a court reporter and attorneys.
Other Work Environments for the Court Reporter
One thing to keep in mind if you are considering becoming a freelance court reporter is that your work environment will change every day. You may work in a courtroom filling in for an official court reporter one day and then spend the next day in the office of an attorney or a doctor. There are also times you may work in a hotel banquet room, a restaurant, the home of a witness, or an attorney’s home. You might even find yourself working while sitting on a plastic milk crate in an old country store with no air conditioning. A freelance court reporter must be versatile and ready to adapt to any situation that may develop.
Written by Suzanne Lee, CCR on 2/11/2013 Suzanne has been a court reporter and worked in legal communities for over 18 years.
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