Whether you’re a Law and Order addict or have spent time in an actual courtroom, you’ve probably noticed someone in those legal settings pecking away at a keyboard with lightning speed. And whenever the judge asks that court reporter to repeat what was just said, he or she does so with dead-on accuracy. It’s pretty amazing.
But how do they get every word correct when people speak at rates often over 150 words-per-minute? Even the most proficient typists usually don’t type more than 70 WPM. Are they superheroes?
Actually, they’re trained court reporters—also known as stenographers—and they use a stenotype machine to record every word that’s said by judges, lawyers, defendants, plaintiffs, and witnesses. Outside of the courtroom, they might record the proceedings of depositions, hearings, grand juries, and more.
The machine: If you’ve always thought court reporters were just really fast typists, you’re wrong. Not only aren’t they just typists; they don’t use a traditional QWERTY keyboard. Instead, they use the 22-button keyboard of a special word processor known as a stenotype machine. A stenotype machine doesn’t act or look anything like a simple typewriter. Experienced stenographers can far exceed typists’ WPM; the best can type over 250 WPM!
The process: Court reporters spell words phonetically, using their left fingers to type a word’s first syllable; their thumbs to type vowels, and their right fingers to type the second syllable. Keys are usually pressed in groups, much like the chords on a piano. That’s probably why so many court reporters say musical aptitude and court recording go hand-in-hand.
Training: Just like learning a musical instrument, learning how to use a stenotype machine takes training and practice. A great court reporting program will teach you how to use modern stenotype machines, and whole lot more. You’ll become familiar with legal terms and learn about courtroom personnel and procedures. You’ll also learn how to behave appropriately in offices, courtrooms and other professional settings.
Did you know that New York court reporters are the third highest paid in the country? And while many court reporters work full time, others work as freelancers in courtrooms and beyond. The same skill that enables them to record a defendant’s testimony with exact precision is also used in closed captioned television. If you’d like a rewarding career in a fast-paced professional environment, court reporting might be right for you. At New York Career Institute, we have certificate and degree programs in court Reporting. Fill out the form to learn more or download our free e-book now to learn the ins and outs of this rewarding profession.