How Do Court Reporters Transcribe Legal Proceedings?

How Do Court Reporters Transcribe Legal Proceedings?
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


Court reporters usually transcribe legal proceedings such as court hearings and dispositions.

However, their work took a hit when COVID-19 entered the scene and significantly disrupted in-person court/legal processes.

Consequently, revenue for the industry dipped 16.2% in 2020 and was expected to drop a further 2.5% in 2022.

However, the shift to an online format for legal proceedings in 2020 and most of 2021 ensured that court reporting transcription services remained essential and in demand.

With the post-pandemic recovery and resumption of in-person court sessions in most states, the industry has been experiencing better revenue growth as of late. 

As long as there’s a need to accurately transcribe legal proceedings into text formats, there’ll be demand for professional transcription services

Here’s a look at the role that court reporters and transcribers play in this growing industry.

Training and Equipment Requirements for Court Reporters

A court reporter requires special skills to accurately and clearly transcribe legal proceedings. They should be capable of a real-time transcription speed of 225 words per minute.

For this reason, court reporters require rigorous training that may take one to two years to gain the prerequisite skills. Also, some states require courtroom transcriptionists to pass a prelicensing certification exam.

A stenography machine is the main tool of the trade for court reporters, which is why it’s a primary focus of their training. The equipment has 22 unmarked keys, each of which generates a unique phonetic sound or symbol when pressed.

Court reporting trainees must learn how to use those keys to quickly type what they hear into words, sounds, or phrases. After recording a court session, they can use a steno paper or a digital system to read out the input. 

Besides mastering the stenotype machine and transcription, court reporters usually study the following in a program that’s accredited by the National Court Reporters Association:

  • Ethics
  • Vocabulary
  • Dictation
  • Legal procedures

Court Reporter vs. Transcriptionist: What’s the Difference?

There are several similarities and differences between a court reporter and a regular transcription services provider. These include: 

1. How They Transcribe

A court reporter transcribes live legal proceedings, trials, witness testimony, and other spoken words in court. The professional must work very fast and still produce an accurate verbatim transcription.

A transcriber who provides court reporting transcription services can also deliver high-quality texts, but only by first listening to audio recordings of legal proceedings.

Since they don’t transcribe in real-time, they can rewind a recording or replay it multiple times to ensure they don’t miss any critical detail in the final document.

See Also: What Is The Key Difference Between a Typist, Transcriptionist, and Stenographer?

2. Where They Work

Court reporters usually work in courtrooms and transcribe proceedings that involve judges, attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs, and witnesses. Like transcribers, they may work in the government or private sector or run a business that provides court reporting transcription services.

A transcriptionist can operate from home or work in a law firm, but they don’t transcribe in courtrooms.

When hired by an attorney, their job often includes converting words into the text as dictated to them. They also offer a broader range of transcription services outside of the legal domain.  

3. How You Get the Transcript

To get transcripts from court reporters, you have to ask for access from court reporters, then ask for permission from all parties involved, and let everyone know why you need the transcript.

On the other hand, legal transcriptionists are hired privately, so their transcripts are much more easily accessible.

4. Tools of the Trade

Real-time courtroom reporting requires a stenography machine. Nowadays, part of the transcription workflow can be digitized, for example, to read a recorded court session.

However, a regular legal transcriptionist works with video and audio formats and uses technologies like computers and the cloud to do their work.  

5. Training

The need for speed and accuracy when transcribing live courtroom or other real-time judicial proceedings makes rigorous training mandatory for a court reporter. These experts often need a degree or certificate to qualify for state licensing.

On the other hand, transcribers have to undergo a certain screening process themselves. While doing legal transcription, the transcriber must know the technicalities of court proceedings to maintain legal accuracy.

At GMR Transcription Services, Inc., we hire only well-qualified and experienced legal transcriptionists who are based in the US.

6. Cost

If cost is a major factor when you’re deciding between a court reporter and a transcriptionist, you should probably go with the latter.

You could typically save 25-50% by hiring a legal transcriber without necessarily compromising on the quality and accuracy of the converted text.   

Accurate Court Reporting Transcription Services with GMR Transcription

A court reporter can be resourceful when it comes to live verbatim transcriptions.

However, our team of US-based human transcriptionists at GMR Transcription Services, Inc. can also assist when you require high-quality text from an audio or video recording of a legal proceeding.

We can customize the transcript to your required formatting and can also provide certificates of authenticity.

We hire transcriptionists only after doing a thorough background check and signing a confidentiality agreement with them to keep your data safe and secure.

From attorney dispositions and court hearings to 911 calls, our U.S.-based, English-speaking team transcribes recorded legal sessions with 99% accuracy on good quality audio every time.

Contact us today for quick and efficient legal transcription services!

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the Cofounder & President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc., a California-based company that has been providing accurate and fast transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed nearly ten years of success at GMR, playing a pivotal role in the company's growth. Under Beth's leadership, GMR Transcription doubled its sales within two years, earning recognition as one of the OC Business Journal's fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids.