Is a Transcriptionist the Same as a Professional Court Reporter?

Is a Transcriptionist the Same as a Professional Court Reporter?
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


Although a transcriptionist and a court reporter perform the similar job of transcribing the spoken words, there is a major difference in their jobs.

While the transcriber works on creating a hard copy of the words spoken by the attorney in the court, the court reporters often must transcribe verbatim in real-time during proceedings.

This article discusses the key differences between the jobs of a transcriptionist and a court reporter.

The Job of a Transcriptionist

The transcriptionist’s job is to listen to the words spoken by attorneys, witnesses, judges, the plaintiff, the defendant, jurors, etc., in the audio recordings of legal proceedings and convert them into written words.

They can listen to the audio recordings several times and transcribe them as per their understanding.

They often also take dictations from an attorney or legal professional and transcribe the content of the legal proceedings. These transcripts can be stored and used for reference by legal professionals in the future.

The Job of a Court Reporter

Although the court report also transcribes the verbatim words for the court proceedings, their job is far more difficult.

They have to go through a stringent training routine, and the setting in which they work is entirely different than the setting a transcriptionist works in.

Court reporters need to work within the courtrooms, depositions, and other legal proceedings as they are ongoing and create real-time transcriptions.

To become a court reporter, you must complete the qualifications approved by the National Court Reporters Association and pass the various competency tests to start working in the legal setup.

See Also: 6 Ways Secure Legal Transcription Can Benefit Your Business

When Do You Hire a Transcriptionist and When a Court Reporter?

Since a court reporter and a transcriptionist's work are similar, you may not know who you should hire. For instance, if you want to have official records of all legal proceedings, you must hire a court reporter.

In other words, if you have a judge present in the room, you must also have a court reporter to get the transcribed version of the words spoken in the courtroom.

However, if you want to keep audio or a video recording of the court proceedings, you can hire a transcription services company to get the transcribed documents later.

Most courtrooms now choose to go for video and audio proceedings for later transcriptions. These video and audio recordings help the attorney and the lawyers discover any nuances of the case that can be important to them.

To sum it up, a real-time transcription needs a court reporter. An audio or a video recording will work with a transcription service. Transcribers typically cover events like legal meetings, 911 calls, etc., along with court proceedings.

Generally, a legal transcriptionist is approximately 25-50% cheaper to hire as compared to a court reporter.

Additionally, a transcriptionist works with a wide range of specialties and has access to cloud hosting and security features.

In contrast, a court reporter can develop a partial transcript of a legal proceeding as it is ongoing.

Therefore, by the time the event has finished, there is a written record of the same available.

What Kind of Training is Needed for Each of These Jobs?

If you want to become a court reporter, you must complete formal training by the National Court Reporters Association. The course is usually two to four years long.

You will learn to use the steno machine and the various techniques of verbatim transcription. Court reporters will also need to pass a standardized exam.

The education also majorly focuses on legal terminology, business law, legal research, English grammar, and medical terminology.

Court reporters need to pass specialized competencies and complete education courses to maintain a high-level certification. 

For working as a transcriptionist, you need not follow any rigorous course as the work is not as compared to a court reporter.

Therefore, legal transcriptionists typically don’t need a formal degree or certificate to start working as one.

However, certain states in the U.S. would need you to complete a one-year certification course before you start working as a legal transcriptionist.

Nevertheless, both court reporters and transcriptionists must learn and be highly proficient in all the legal procedures and court terminologies to practice inside the courtroom.

See Also: Key Benefits of Choosing the Right Legal Transcription Company

What Is the Outlook of the Job Scenario When It Comes to Legal Transcription?

As per the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the opportunities for both court reporters and legal transcribers will be high in the future.

However, now that several new technologies are being implemented in our everyday jobs, it will also bring new challenges for court reporters regarding legal transcriptions.

They must learn to use new techniques and machines to transcribe their work.

The Bottom Line - Transcriber Vs. Court Reporter

The transcription takes a lot of effort and time for a professional to deliver, but the turnaround time is crucial.

Thus, it is always better to choose a reputable professional service for a better turnaround time. A professional transcription company will provide you with a skilled transcriptionist for the job.

Furthermore, if you do not have verbatim word records from the legal proceedings, you can hire a professional transcription service to get your job done.

A reputed legal transcription service has the right kind of exposure to handle court audio and video recordings from around the world, and hence they can provide accurate transcripts.

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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.