Stenographers, Court Reporters and Transcriptionist Roles
Isn’t a stenographer interchangeable with court reporter and the same thing as a transcriptionist? Although the career fields may seem the same, there are subtle differences between them.
In general, stenographers and court reporters work exclusively in the legal field. On the other hand, transcribers are employed by a wider variety of agencies and businesses. Yet, this is not the only thing that makes each role unique. Each of these career paths differ in their purpose, qualifications, and professional tools.
According to Project STENO, the terms court reporter and stenographer are often used interchangeably, although there are several differences between the two. In general, both occupations provide verbatim transcription services to transform the spoken word into legal documentation.
Both stenographers and court reporters transcribe, word-for-word, any discussion that happens in court, during a meeting, or deposition. The transcript becomes the legal record; therefore, it must be recorded accurately and completely. Once a transcript is finished, it is given to the court and will become public record.
One of the differences between the two roles are the educational requirements which may vary by geographical location. In most regions a court reporter requires two – four years of formal schooling. They must also pass an official exam to become licensed or certified. By contrast, becoming a stenographer requires six months of training and certificate of completion but in some countries, like Australia requires two years of formal schooling and licensing.
A transcriptionist on average takes about four months to complete an online transcription course. A high school diploma and experience in an office or legal setting are often requirements necessary for an entry-level position. Transcriptionists often receive on-the-job training from an attorney, paralegal, or office manager, team lead, or another individual in the field they work.
In the Courtroom
While all court reporters are stenographers, stenographers are not court reporters. While the focus of the stenographer may include closed captioning services, their focus is to use a stenographic machine to take live shorthand notes of the court proceedings. The information is then edited and compiled to create the formal court transcript.
Court reporters are also responsible for creating the verbatim record. They are present at the hearing, court proceeding, meeting, or deposition. They may use a stenographic machine to capture the testimony or in certain situations, they will record the proceeding using digital recording system while making annotations and notes in the software. They then use the recorded files or the stenographic record to create a certified legal document.
In contrast to court reporters and stenographers, transcriptionists or editors will generally not perform live transcription, however, they are an integral part of the process. With the court reporting market experiencing delays due to personnel shortages, many companies choose to outsource the creation of the verbatim record to experienced legal transcriptionists. This is possible using the latest digital recording technology. Legal transcriptionists work from previously recorded documentation, so they can stop and rewind unclear recordings to increase the accuracy of the verbatim transcription.
Different tools and technology are necessary for each role.
The last major difference between these fields is in the technology they employ. Transcribers use a PC with security protocols and special software to transform speech to text. They also need to be proficient with audio/video devices and a foot pedal. A court reporter or stenographer needs to master the stenographic machine, which has a modified keyboard for shorthand. However, with the emergence of “on-demand” or “instant” first draft unedited transcriptions using Artificial Intelligence, drafts are available immediately without the use of the human element, changing the industry as we know it today.
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