Court reporters create an official record of everything said during negotiations, examinations for discovery and court proceedings. They do so using a language that doesn’t resemble regular written English or French, known as shorthand.
Court reporters prepare a written record of everything that is said during legal proceedings. They must record exactly what everyone says. This written record is known as a transcript and becomes the official record of the proceedings.
Here are the main functions of a court reporter during hearings, examinations for discovery, negotiations, pre-hearing conferences, etc.:
- Record everything said using shorthand and typing on specialized keyboard;
- Convert everything they type into English or French using software;
- Revise the final documents to ensure the transcript represents exactly what was said; and
- Provide official copies to the judge as well as to the parties or their lawyers, sometimes charging a fee.
Thanks to the technology available today, court reporters generally are no longer required to transcribe the dialogue at a hearing in real time. Courtrooms are now equipped with a recording system that captures the audio portion of what takes place. Court reporters are still present in the courtroom however. They listen to the audio recording as it is being recorded to ensure it is clear and to ask for clarification if anything is unclear. A court reporter:
- Is present when any pre-trial questioning or discovery proceedings are being recorded;
- Prepares transcripts of audio recordings from hearings or other types of proceedings (these are needed if, for example, a party is appealing a judge’s ruling in another court or a lawyer needs to review transcripts in order to prepare for cross-examination); and
- Creates “live” transcripts of less formal hearings that are not recorded, such as labour grievance arbitrations.
To do their job, court reporters use a special language known as shorthand that allows them to capture the spoken word more quickly than by writing full words and sentences. Rather than being made up of letters and words, this language is made up of phonetic codes, or symbols, that represent sounds. Court reporters’ tools of the trade include a computer, a specialized keyboard and transcription software. Being able to create transcriptions digitally has been a great improvement in the way a court reporter works.
The final product of the reporter’s work, called a transcript, is an indispensible document within the legal system. This official document is referred to if evidence given by witnesses or other information presented during a hearing or other proceedings has to be reviewed. The court reporter must attach a certificate to each transcript certifying its authenticity.
For this reason, parties must be able to trust that the court reporter’s work is reliable, unbiased and impartial. When a person becomes a court reporter, he or she makes a pledge to always produce accurate and true transcripts. Court reporters are the only persons authorized to produce official written copies of what was said during legal proceedings.
Most court reporters are self-employed, but sometimes they work for a private court reporting firm. Their clients are generally lawyers and the public, and they often work for multiple clients at the same time.
Court reporters usually work where the action is, which can be anywhere. In the case of hearings, court reporters work at the courthouse. However, they may also be required to work onsite at law firms or at a company’s office.
Education and training in French
The École de sténographie judiciaire du Québec offers a college certificate (ACS) in court reporting.
This two-year program runs over six sessions and includes a 90-hour placement in the field. For more information on this program, visit the École de sténographie judiciaire du Québec website (in French only).
- Relevant experience;
- Pass a French language exam;
- Successfully complete a selection interview aimed at evaluating your hearing ability, level of concentration, general knowledge, typing speed as well as your knowledge of certain software.
In Ontario, once you have completed your training, you must become a member of the Court Reporters’ Association of Ontario. This association provides a testing and certification process, which leads to official recognition of a court reporter’s competencies and the Certified Court Reporter (CCR) designation. For more information, visit the Court Reporters’ Association of Ontario website.
Most other provinces have similar associations. In Alberta, visit the Alberta Shorthand Reporters Association website.
Here are some of the key skills needed for a career as a court reporter.
Attention to detail
A court reporter has to pay attention to every detail of what is being said and must be very precise. It is critical for court reporters to transcribe things exactly as they are said.
The court recorder’s world is one of shorthand codes, where following the rules of this code are very important. Court recorders must know and apply the rules of shorthand so that what they write makes sense.
Ability to listen
Court reporters must have excellent listening skills because they must often spend many hours in a row transcribing spoken word.
Excellent written communication skills
Court reporters must have excellent written communication skills in order to produce accurate, high quality transcripts.
These are just some examples of the skills you would need to be a court reporter. Qualities like being disciplined, thorough and independent would also help you become an excellent court reporter.