Tips to Hire a Court Reporter

Every word and subtle nuance of spoken interaction that passes within the confines of the courtroom or deposition carries weight — from the precise wording of legal arguments to the specific phrasing in witness testimonies. Once you understand why the details in the dialogue of a legal proceeding can make or break a case, capturing them for the record becomes even more important. Documenting this record is not something to be done yourself, but by a professional with the proper training and experience. This is why we turn to court reporters.

A court reporter creates formal transcripts that are admissible as evidence in court. These transcripts accurately preserve every word that is spoken during depositions, hearings, or trials. While a rough draft of the transcript may be readily available after the legal proceeding, a quality check for accuracy will be conducted before the transcript is officially submitted as evidence. A reporter’s ability to multi-task between observing proceedings and transcribing the words they hear is a unique skill set that takes years of practice to master.

It is likely you have heard court reporters referred to as “stenographers” or “digital reporters.” These are both types of court reporters, but with some unique characteristics we will explore later. Regardless of which type of court reporter you choose to hire, they are responsible for ensuring the deposition or trial is captured in its entirety. As such, having access to the right court reporting service is essential to building an effective legal team.

What the Best Court Reporters Offer

Effective court reporters bring to the table a very specialized skill set. These skills include a mixture of academic and organizational expertise, along with the technical understanding needed to operate complex equipment and software.

Specifically, top-tier court reporting services share the following attributes:

  • Accuracy: Ensuring that each word is correctly transcribed is foundational to the responsibilities of a court reporter. Every word matters, and without an accurate record of hearings and depositions, vital information may be lost.

  • Clear Understanding of Legal Terminology: Considering the high stakes of legal proceedings, there is no room for ambiguity. Court reporters must be experts in legal terminology. This allows them to transcribe accurate records without having to consistently ask for clarification, allowing proceedings to run more smoothly.

  • In-Depth Knowledge of Procedures: An intimate knowledge of legal protocol makes it possible for court reporters to anticipate needs and adapt to the dynamic environment of a trial, hearing, or deposition. Procedural familiarity ensures seamless integration into the legal team, contributing to the efficiency and effectiveness of the trial process.

  • Extensive Training and Certifications: Court reporting skills cannot be acquired overnight. Certifications from recognized institutions is a testament to a court reporter's ability. Accredited training ensures that reporters are proficient in the latest technologies and methodologies, enhancing their ability to deliver viable transcripts.

  • Adaptability to Difficult Environments: There is more to reporting than fast typing. Court reporters must be able to maintain a running record of what is being said while distinguishing between various voices, adapting to interruptions, accounting for accents, filtering out additional noise, or even working with uncooperative parties.

  • Ability to Produce High-Quality Audio Recordings: Court reporters should be able to record high-quality audio of legal proceedings. As previously mentioned, court reporters perform quality checks on the rough drafts of their transcripts. High-quality audio recordings are used to verify that their written account of what was said matches what was captured by the recording device. Video recordings of legal proceedings are another common practice, useful for when you want to highlight the nonverbal side of witness depositions. However, this is not something a court reporter is equipped to do. To learn more about video depositions and how to use them for your case, click here to read our Guide to Video Depositions.

How to Find a High-Quality Court Reporter

For quite some time, the U.S. legal system has been struggling with a nationwide court reporter shortage. According to the U.S. Labor Department, this shortage is expected to see little to no change by 2031. Even when you can find a court reporter available for work, you may discover they do not match the criteria outlined above. Freelance court reporters, for example, often lack the skills or additional support base of those backed by a full-service court reporting firm.

Given just how important this decision can be, consider the following before choosing who to hire:

  • Get Started Early: Good court reporters are always in high demand. To ensure that they are available, clearly establish when their services will be needed and reach out to the court reporter or their firm as early as possible. This will allow everyone the extra time they need to align their schedules. If unexpected circumstances arise that would affect the court reporter, such as a change in time, location, or number of deponents, give them notice as soon as possible.

  • Identify Your Needs: Consider the specific requirements of the case — whether this includes real-time transcription, immediate rough drafts, remote capabilities, or specialized recordings. This advice is particularly relevant when handling highly technical cases that might have their own unique requirements. Create a clear list of “must-haves” before beginning your search, as this will simplify the vetting process and save you valuable time.

  • Research Court Reporting Firms: Hiring a freelancer can be a risky move. While individual court reporters may be skilled, court reporting firms offer an additional layer of assurance. Court reporters with NAEGELI Deposition & Trial, for example, go through an extensive vetting process, have years of experience, and receive ongoing training to ensure they continually provide the most exceptional service. Prioritize firms that have been officially recognized for their capabilities and are fully HIPAA compliant.

Stenographers vs. Digital Reporters

As previously mentioned, stenographers and digital reporters are both part of the court reporting family, but there are some distinct differences you should be aware of.

The primary discrepancy between these two reporters is the type of equipment they use. Stenographers use stenograph machines to provide real-time transcription. They do not look like your typical keyboard, but a complex series of buttons that allow court reporters to transcribe speech in shorthand at an average rate of 225 words per minute. In contrast, digital reporters will deploy a combination of detailed note taking, high quality audio recordings, and advanced transcription technology to produce transcripts on a traditional keyboard.

Whether a stenographer or digital reporter, their goal is producing accurate transcripts that can be submitted as admissible evidence to the court. Either methodology will require a quality check on the rough draft of the transcript before the record can be made official.

Why NAEGELI Deposition & Trial is the Best Option for Court Reporting Services

Optimize the way you search for legal support services. NAEGELI Deposition & Trial delivers unmatched expertise and reliability, backed by more than 40 years of experience serving the legal industry. Our team of highly skilled court reporters are experts in legal terminology, procedures, and cutting-edge transcription technology. NAEGELI Deposition & Trial is the preferred choice for legal professionals, with services available nationwide.

Click here to learn more about court reporting services with NAEGELI Deposition & Trial. Contact us for any additional questions, or if you are ready to schedule!