Court Reporter

    If you are wondering how to become a court reporter, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of administration and job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Court reporters, sometimes known as stenographers, verbatim reporters and shorthand writers produce precise records of courts proceedings with machine or traditional methods of shorthand.

    Many court reporters use to use Stenotype or Palantype stenograph machines, which can type words or phrases in a single stroke. This keyboard is links to a computer-aided transcription or CAT system, displaying shorthand notes straight away as text. Skillled court reporters can exceed 200 words per minute.

    Duties include:
    * attending court proceedings
    * machine shorthand for producing accounts of evidence, speeches and judgements
    * reading back passages in court when requested
    * transcribing notes after court sessions
    * checking accuracy of notes
    * correcting and editing text, producing final transcripts that maintain the original meaning
    * sending copies to judges for appraisal before producing a final record.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of a good court reporter include:
    * good listening abilities
    * ability to work quickly and accurately
    * an excellent standard of English
    * strong computer keyboard skills
    * a confident and clear speaking voice
    * good patience and concentration
    * interest in law
    * ability to work to strict deadlines.

    How to become a court reporter
    You dont usually need academic qualifications as a court reporter, but you could have an advantage with 3 – 5 GCSEs at grade A-C, including English. Many court reporters have A levels / Highers or degrees.

    You dont need paper-based shorthand skills before beginning machine shorthand, although it could be advantageous. You must have good strong keyboard skills.

    For accreditation to be a court reporter in the English and Welsh crown courts of you must be endorsed by the BIVR – British Institute of Verbatim Reporters, and to be seen as competent you will:

    * show machine or written shorthand skills
    * gain trainee court reporter experience
    * reach machine shorthand speeds of 180+ words per minute (wpm).

    Many firms will expect shorthand of 160 – 180 wpm and you need 200+ wpm for real-time reporting.

    Training and Development
    You can start with a machine shorthand course at a training centre or through distance learning, with training taking around 2 years. You could find training providers through the BIVR.

    When you reach shorthand speeds of 180 wpm, you can apply to be a BIVR associate and after practical testing, you become a provisionally-accredited as a Shorthand Writer, able to work indepentently in court. You then have in-court training.

    After three more years of experience, you can apply for BIVR full membership.

    With BIVR membership and Deaf Awareness training, one can apply to join the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People and become accredited as an STT (Speech to Text) Reporter. These take notes for the deaf and hearing-impaired in numerous settings, like courts of law, lectures, meetings and conferences.

    The Pay
    Salaries vary , but averages according to 2006 surveys are:
    Starting at around £15k
    Experienced reporters could earn £20k+

    Some court reporters are freelance so income will vary according to quantity of cases. They can earn between £40 and £300 per day, dependant on nature of work.

    Job Prospects
    Court reporters in England or Wales will usually be employed by firms with contracts from the Ministry of Justice, providing reporting services for the Crown Courts or courts of appeal. Other options could be freelance or contract work.

    You can also work in conferences, public inquiries, disciplinary hearings or tribunals, television subtitle production or theatre captioning. At present, there is a shortage of qualified court reporters.

    Useful resources:
    Her Majesty’s Courts Service
    Clive House
    Petty France
    London SW1H 9HD
    Tel: 0207 189 2000

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