Shorthand speeds of between 160 and 180 words a minute are normally required for real-time court reporting.
Court reporters work for firms contracted by the Ministry of Justice to provide reporting services to crown courts and courts of appeal. Some firms also offer freelance opportunities. A court reporter's services may also be required at political conferences, court martials, public inquiries, tribunals, disciplinary hearings, television programmes (for subtitles) and police interviews etc. As Hansard reporters, they provide transcripts of proceedings in the House of Lords Chamber and Committees. Verbatim reporters can also find work captioning television programmes.
Typical responsibilities include:
- attending court sessions
- listening carefully to everything said
- using traditional shorthand, stenograph/palantype machines or ‘real-time’ computerised systems to make accurate records of the proceedings
- using machine shorthand to type phrases and/or whole words in single keyboard strokes
- reading back transcripts to lawyers while in court as required
- transcribing speech into written records after court sessions
- ensuring that records can be easily read and understood
- correcting grammatical mistakes
- preserving the original sense of what was said
- editing text
- producing final transcripts
It is becoming increasingly common for courts to make use of recording equipment in trials in addition to or instead of court reporters.
Vacancies tend to attract modest competition as there is a shortage of qualified court reporters. Jobs are advertised via the internet, by careers services and recruitment agencies and in local, regional and national newspapers.
Both university graduates and school leavers can become court/verbatim reporters because normal academic qualifications are not required for entry. It is, however, vital to possess good IT, computer keyboard and secretarial skills. To work as a court reporter in the crown courts it is necessary to satisfy a number of criteria specified by the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters (BIVR), namely: to gain experience as a trainee court reporter; to learn written or machine shorthand; to reach a shorthand speed of 160 words per minute or more. It is necessary to undertake shadowing of a qualified reporter to become a full member of the BIVR.
Employers seek confident candidates with good communication, English grammar, listening and concentration skills. Confidence and the ability to work quickly and accurately are essential. Traditional shorthand skills and an interest in law can also be helpful.