Well, I used to be a court reporter in PA, and a little in FL. I did that for 12 years. Everyone always thinks -- court reporting, wow, you must be earning so much money, blah, blah, blah. It is truly a lot of fluff!!!
Court reporting agencies seem to dole the good work out to reporters that have been there for a long time. Some have their favorites, and some prefer little and cute ones. The little and cute ones that can make their "clients" happy, if you know what I mean.
Court reporting is a lot of non-stop hard work. It literally can go around the clock. If you are sitting in court all day or even at a deposition, and you write 300 pages, and if the lawyers need the testimony tommorow, guess who's going to be up all night working -- and only at a page rate, which is doubled, but still...
On top of this, you are considered self-employed. You get no benefits and pay quarterly taxes. Sometimes the lawyers don't pay right, so you may have to wait months to see your money for their work. Work varies, and sometimes good work is not easy to find. Jobs cancel and you're running every which way -- with hundreds and hundreds of pages of testimony waiting to be put out. Then the insurance companies are giving the agencies a lot of work in bulk, but it's contract work -- which means a reduced rate for the reporter; meaning, the reporter is doing the work at a cut rate. Some reporters have scopists and typists, but that takes time to find someone reliable; and then you're putting more money out to pay someone. And not to mention, the court reporting equipment is so expensive.
I'm not court reporting anymore, and I'm glad. I feel like I gave 12 years of my life to the profession and don't have much to show for it. I've had to cancel many plans along the way and let down friends.
Temp agencies are different from court reporting agencies; although, they do assign jobs. I guess in that regard it's similar. And certain individuals at my place of work and other big mouths seem to feel that I have enough money, so that I don't need benefits or something. It's disgusting. My finances and my benefits are none of their business, first of all. There are just some reporters out there who like to talk and brag, put on a show about how much money they earn and how great it is. Court reporting schools will tell you that you can earn so much money -- boulderdash!!! The money jobs are there, but they're few and far between for most reporters -- unless of course, you own an agency and take all of the good work for yourself. Then there's real-time, which is the closed captioning stuff you see in courtrooms, on television or for the def students in colleges. A lot of money is there, if you can get the work. We're talking a tremendous amount of work, schooling and expense. For me, after working as a reporter for 12 years, I would have to re-learn how to write on the machine to make it real-time compatible. So many words in the English language can be written the same way on a steno machine, like, "your" and "you're." It's fine on the paper tape of the machine and in private edit, but if you're doing real-time, the lawyers are seeing everything you write on a computer on their table. Then if there are any names and unusual spellings, the reporter needs to get those beforehand to have everything pre-set into the machine to come up translated; otherwise, everything looks like gobbledegook to a person trying to read the text, unless you can read steno. Then lawyers and people talk on top of each other all of the time. Guess what? It is impossible to write two people at once, so someone's words are going to be missing from the text. Then, finally, if you have been writing all day, or are overtired and not having a good day, it reflects in your writing, which means, text can literally be missing out of the transcripts from natural human error. Stenography and closed captioning are not a complete science. It takes a lot of money for the equipment and a lot of training -- on top, of trying to get all of your other transcripts done, taking more assignments, family obligations and daily life stuff. You literally have no time for anything other than reporting. You can be a reporter and only take a job here and there, but agencies don't really like that because you're not there for their needs. It's seriously a lose-lose career. You lose your personal life, social life, family life -- everything gets backed up and jammed. Things get put on hold because you're trying to satisfy certain lawyers on certain cases to get their work to them. And then you will get a phone call from a more patient attorney who's looking for his transcript, which is something you took at a deposition two or three weeks earlier and haven't had time to get to it yet. Then you have to get that out to make sure that client doesn't get upset. Does this sound like a fun career path???
Thank you for that. My younger sister went to school to become a court reporter, but never followed through. Instead she works for a computer chip manufacturer in human resources, and has some potential for advancement. Her court reporting ambitions were thwarted by carpal tunnel syndrome.
Her husband is a court videographer, and bought the registry he worked for. He works enough to satisfy himself. Keeps his equipment top of the line and state of the art. Loves what he's doing. I envy the free time he has.
There are many important and (in my jurisdiction) bewigged and be-robed personnel in a courtroom but a witness, at their peril, upsets the court reporter. I well remember giving evidence in a matter and I must have been responding to defence counsel questions a little too rapidly because I remember the pause in the tempo of the court reporter' steno work and a huge, theatrical sigh coming from her when she cocked her head and glared at me as I stood in the witness box. I got the message.
That's so true, Diuretic. People talk over one another all of the time. It makes the job a whole lot worse. There are just so many little things that go into it, that people can't even imagine. If you stop and think that the court reporter is literally trying to get down every single word that comes out of a person's mouth, it is pretty incredible -- and quite impossible!
Oh, and Tele, I'm glad that I helped shed some light on things for your sister. Her carpal tunnel was a blessing in disguise.
They have machines now that are taking down people's words, but they are not as fast as reporters. One day, court reporters will be obsolete with the continual advancement of technology.
I had a good friend in the 60's that was the size of and looked like the deceased movie actor Rock Hudson. He was a court reporter and looked funny sitting on that little chair with his knees together operating the machine. So prim and proper, didn't really fit his personality, but he made good money.
I have been in the court reporting industry for some years now. I am a Miami court reporter. I really enjoy what i do and my team is passionate about our work. Though it really needs some heavy work but the outcome is always satisfying.
Last edited by koan; 10-21-2010 at 12:09 AM.
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