A court reporter is someone who records or takes notes of court proceedings for others to read or listen to. Most court reporters work in court houses or official buildings, but some work from home as freelance court reporters.
The title of a court reporter can vary from state to state, but it usually includes the word “reporter” and is often the same as the profession. For example, in Florida the title is “reporter for an administrative agency” or “reporter for a court of general jurisdiction”.
Who Works as a Court Reporter?
In most states, the title of a court reporter is restricted to certified journalist professionals and people with a background in law. Still, others consider legal secretaries to be court reporters as well since they are often asked to take notes during a court hearing and prepare case files later.
Many people assume that a court reporter must be a man since they are often seen as “just putting down what the judge said” in a verbatim manner. However, technology has changed how court reporters work and the field is now open to both men and women. In fact, some court reporters even report on cases in which they are not physically present.
What Education and Training is Required for a Court Reporter?
Most reporters either attend college or graduate school to earn a degree in journalism or legal shorthand, both of which are considered essential for the job. A court reporter can also earn a graduate certificate in legal news reporting or report writing through a graduate program in legal journalism. Additionally, many reporters receive on-the-job training from more experienced journalists and legal professionals.
Once they have completed their education and training, reporters must then pass a proficiency exam before they can begin working. In most states, this exam is taken either through the American Society of Legal Editors (ASLE) or the National Association of Legal Editors (NALA) either before or after working as a court reporter for a prescribed number of years.
How Many Court Reporters Do There Typically Need to be at a Trial?
The number of court reporters needed at a trial depends on several factors. If the trial is lengthy, more than one reporter may be needed to keep up with the proceedings. In cases involving a lot of legal jargon and/or complicated evidence, multiple reporters may be required to record every aspect of the trial. Additionally, the workload may vary from state to state, city to city, and even courthouse to courthouse, so it is essential to consult with the court administrator in charge of all proceedings in your area.
Do Court Reporters Wear a Badge?
Most journalists working in a courtroom wear a badge identifying them as such, but this is not the case with court reporters. Instead, they wear a black suit with a white shirt and a blue tie. The shirt should not have any symbols or text on it, such as “Press” or “New York Times.”
The badge is not necessary in all states, but it is highly recommended since it helps identify the reporter during a legal proceeding. Most judges will ask the court reporter to remove their badge before entering the sanctuary of the bench.
What Is the Typical Day Like for a Court Reporter?
Court reporters spend most of their day sitting in courtrooms or offices listening to or reading testimony, taking notes, and preparing for the next session. A court reporter does not usually set their alarm clock for a few hours before the start of a court day since they have to be at the courthouse by the bell. They may also be asked to cover more than one court session per day and work long hours when there is a lot of testimony or legal briefs to be filed. Most reporters work some form of a rotational schedule so they do not end up working more than 60 hours per week.
How Much Money Can You Make as a Court Reporter?
The pay for a court reporter varies by state and is based on several factors. While the per-mile rate for travel can be quite high, the hourly wage can be low (roughly $25 to $35, depending on the judge and court administrator). Additionally, the amount of work available can vary from state to state, so the hourly wage can be quite volatile.
However, most courts offer hourly wages that are quite high considering the amount of work available since court reporters are in such high demand. In 2018, the average salary for a court reporter in NJ was $30,000 per year and the average salary for a legal assistant in the same state was $28,000 per year. The job outlook for court reporters is excellent, which means there are plenty of opportunities for individuals looking for a career in this field.