In the age of all things digital, it’s no surprise that that many court rooms and those who work within the legal industry would gravitate away from the days of large stenographic machines and shorthand note-taking to digital recorders and computers to satisfy all of the necessary court reporting, legal proceedings, and transcribing needs.

In order for the shift to electronic tools to be seamless and effective, one must be certain to account for the inevitable shortcomings of technology and be prepared for technological failures from time to time.  Just like one must be diligent about having back-ups of all important electronic documentation on your computer, so, too, must a digital court reporter be prepared with multichannel/multi-track recording equipment and a few hand-held back-ups.  Even a quality smartphone with a digital recorder application can come in handy in a pinch.

As invariably happens in any court reporting event; legal proceeding, depositions, examinations under oath, etc., the spoken testimony has a very good likelihood of being missed due to unexpected sounds and other circumstances.  The most common frustrations that can be foisted upon the digital court reporter includes, but is not limited to; coughing, sneezing, and other bodily sounds, shuffling of papers, distance from speakers, just to name a few.  For the digital court reporter who is trying to capture a good, clean records for the client, this can be quite troublesome.  It’s even been suggested that using a digital audio recorder isn’t the best option for these types of problems.

Fortunately, that’s simply not true.  Preparation is the key to any robust process and digital court reporting is no different.

One approach to digital court reporting involves the use of a multi-track audio system.  This type of system puts each speaker on a different channel.  Should a participant cough, sneeze, belch or what have you during the course of the proceedings, their channel could be muted by the transcriber and what was said could be heard on any of the other available channels.  The same would hold true in cases where simultaneous dialogue is taking place.  When a transcriptionist has the ability to listen to each channel independently, they can capture all of the critical information that is being testified by all parties involved in the discussion.

Another easy way to accomplish this is through simply having multiple handheld digital recording devices.  Each device is placed in close proximity to all speaking parties.  This is particularly helpful in the courtroom arena, where space is often cavernous and sound is simply “swallowed up” by the space.  More simply, the distance between all participants; often a Judge, a Plaintiff, a Defendant, and Witness can be substantial.  In such a a scenario, one or two digital recorders may not suffice and having one near the witness box, the plaintiff’s table, the defendant’s table, and the bench is probably your best logistical set-up.

The following critical skills are just as important for today’s digital court reporters and transcribers as they are for yesterday’s stenographers.  Oh, and let’s not forget about our transcriptionists, too.  They would include:

  • Excellent listening skills.
  • Excellent knowledge of English grammar.
  • Excellent punctuation skills.
  • Acute awareness of correct spellings of names, places, events from testimony.
  • Excellent research skills to assist them with same.
  • Fantastic interpersonal skills and confidence.

That last one is particularly important because the court reporter needs to be able to moderate the proceedings from time-to-time.  While not necessarily explicitly the “director” of the proceedings, per se, the court reporter in many cases is the person who kicks-off the proceedings and helps to close out the proceedings.  Further, some legal proceedings have been known to “get out of hand” and when they do, it requires skill to redirect participants back to the matter at hand to ensure the ultimate clarity of the record.

Digital court reporting is here to stay and it’s a viable, reliable option for all of our clients and the transcriptionists who are part of the team at ALM Transcription, L.L.C.