Court Reporter Versus Legal Transcriptionist: What’s the Difference?
Transcription is when a recording in the spoken word is put into its written form. This is typically required in several situations such as in secretarial work, for medical purposes, in court reporting and in legal environments. Court reporting sounds similar to legal transcription but in fact they are not the same as a court reporter and a legal transcriptionist have different duties and have different educational requirements.
A court reporter creates a type written verbatim report of all the proceedings taking place in a court. This means the court reporter creates a transcription of everything that is taking place in real time. The court reporter will use a stenotype or a voice writing device which records everything that is said as it is said. This includes all those involved in the court such as the following:
- the judge,
- the jurors,
- the clerk,
- the bailiff,
- the plaintiff,
- the defendant,
- the attorneys,
- the witnesses involved.
Also sometimes a court reporter is required to be a notary public who administers oaths to witnesses and certifies their transcripts of the court proceedings. A court reporter must transcribe in real time and not from an earlier recording.
Typically a court reporter must possess a 2-4 year degree from an institution that the National Court Reporters Association approves. This education puts the emphasis on legal terminology, legal research, business law, English grammar and medical vocabulary. A court reporter must pass specific competencies and undergo education courses so that the certification is maintained to a high level. The professional and educational demands of a court reporter means the job attracts a high salary.
A legal transcriptionist’s job is to take legal information which has already been recorded and type up a verbatim report. A transcriptionist can use a transcription machine when working with different types of digital files. A legal transcriptionist does not normally undertake work in the courtroom. They might freelance or be employed by either: a transcription company, a law firm, a government agency or a corporation. The transcriptionist transcribes recorded depositions, witness interviews, hearings, 911 calls, legal documents and dictation. It tends to be less demanding work than that of a court reporter. The transcriptionist may stop and rewind recordings that are unclear until their transcription is perfect. They are not required to transcribe in real time during a courtroom proceeding.
A legal transcriptionist does not require the same educational requirements because the job is not quite as demanding as for a court reporter so no formal degree or certificate is needed for a legal transcription. Some US states require that a one-year certification course be completed.
Even though both a legal transcriptionist and a court reporter come under the umbrella of transcription, they are not the same. Court reporting is much more specialized and requires a far more demanding education, but legal transcription does not require so much pressure.
What should I choose: a court reporter or a legal transcriptionist?
Even though the work may be similar, a transcriptionist and a court reporter do have different jobs. A legal transcriptionist is typically 25-50% cheaper to hire, has access to cloud hosting and security features, and works with a large range of specialties. A court reporter can produce a partial document as the event happens, so the written record is completed as soon as the court event has finished. An employer should consider the above benefits when making the choice whether to hire a court reporter or a legal transcriptionist.