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You may have heard the terms “digital reporter” or “electronic court reporter” around when booking litigation support services. These are people who usually sit in a similar place as the court reporter, but do not have a machine they are typing on, or a voice mask that they are speaking into. They usually only have recording equipment and a pad of paper to take notes on. Okay. So what? They are still writing the record like court reporters, right?

Even though they may seem like an actual court reporter, there are many differences between the two.

First, they do not actually write the testimony as it is happening like a court reporter would, they just take notes and record the deposition on a recorder. The truth of the matter is that the audio is all they have. If any equipment malfunctions, the testimony might be lost completely. Additionally, most court reporters have audio backup as well, in case of emergencies, but do not depend on it for the record. The record is written as it happens.

Digital court recorders, on average, require about six months of education, while court reporters take an average of two-and-a-half years to finish their specialized education. Most court reporters are required to take classes in medical terminology, legal terminology, court procedures, transcript productions, and classes in grammar and proofreading, in addition to learning how to write at speeds around 225 words per minute on a stenograph machine.

A court reporter is also responsible for producing the transcript after the deposition is completed. When the digital court recorder’s recording leaves the deposition, the recording will be sent to someone who was never at the proceeding, and who most likely has no prior knowledge of the case. If there is the potential for confusion on the record, the court reporter can stop and ask for clarification of what was said from a mumbling witness, ask for the spelling of a proper name or term, ask for people to speak one at a time, or whatever it may take to maintain an accurate record of the deposition. Because a court reporter is the one that actually produces transcripts, they know when trouble spots hit and when to speak up.

The audio from the digital court recorder could also be outsourced to other countries to make the costs associated with reporting cheaper, which would drastically increase the probability of a poor transcript. Someone who speaks English as a second language trying to understand the nuanced technology of a complex case could be detrimental to an accurate legal transcript, as many technical or medical terms can sound very similar to each other, with words such as abduction and adduction, or anuresis or enuresis not only sounding the same but having very different meanings. Some depositions can also contain people speaking with thick accents or mumbling, which only adds to the difficulty of transcribing.

It might seem more cost effective to hire someone that is cheaper, but in doing so, the chances of paying in loss of quality is significantly higher. It is more important to pay once and receive high-quality services.

This article has been written by Brittaney Byers. Brittaney, is a current court reporting student intern at Cady Reporting. She is currently in her final speeds at Cuyahoga Community College and hoping to graduate in May 2018. Brittaney has been featured in the National Court Reporters Association’s student publication Up-To-Speed as the Student Spotlight in October 2017. After graduating, Brittaney hopes to either become a freelance court reporter taking depositions, or an official court reporter working in a courtroom. When she is not practicing or doing homework, she enjoys playing the piano and caring for her cat, Kiara.