The Evolution of Court Reporting

The Evolution of Court Reporting

With computers so completely entwined in every aspect of our lives, some lawyers think that court reporting is going the way of the dodo.

We at Orange Legal are here to tell you that this is absolutely not the case. One only has to look at the history of court reporting to see that it’s firmly entrenched in the industry and that its unique features mean it will survive and thrive.

Stenography at Its earliest

Stenography (or “narrow writing,” for the Greek among us) is the fancy name for court reporting and dates back to the 4th Century when a stone slab was discovered at the Parthenon with shorthand carved into it. Reporters wrote by hand until a designated machine, the stenotype, was invented by Miles Bartholomew in 1877. These machines have far fewer keys than an alphanumeric keyboard and spell out words, syllables, or phrases in phonetic “chords.” These are then later dictated or transcribed by the reporter.

Stenographs were the way of life until the 1980s, when computers became commercially available and didn’t cost more than your mortgage. This helped stenographers grow their profession into closed captioning and television broadcasts (which actually began with Julia Child and The French Chef).

Realtime translation came into being a few years later, with reporters typing at speeds as high as 250 or 300 words per minute. This was professionally known as CART, or Communication Access Realtime Translation; and it allowed stenographers to provide realtime captioning of courtroom proceedings, concerts, sports events, lectures, and far more.

Modern Court Reporting

Nowadays court reporters can work from almost anywhere, thanks to remote video access. Even though computers and robots are taking over other jobs and relegating other professions to the dustheap of history, stenographers have one crucial advantage: Judges can’t ask a videotape, “Can you please read that back?”

Many courtrooms do utilize video footage to capture trials for the simple reason that it records literally everything. However, stenographers are trained to hear when witnesses mumble, when they cough, and when they are struggling to speak. And most importantly, they can read testimony back to the Court. Computers can’t do that… yet.

As such, there has actually been a steady demand for court reporters in recent years that is projected to grow approximately 10% in the next decade. According to the Ducker Outlook Worldwide Industry Report, there might even be a shortage of 5,000 reporters by the year 2018. This means it is the perfect time to jump into the industry.