Six Lessons Learned from Court Reporters: Thoughts on Growing up in the Industry

Six Lessons Learned On Court Reporting:

The court reporting industry offers lessons after a seeing it from the inside.

A reflection on skills transferable to any career path that your child chooses.

At NCRA conferences, I have often had the conversation with other children of court reporters that we need to form a support group. The millennial generation grew up with reporting parents who experienced a rapidly changing legal environment, where the demands and stresses were palpable, unprecedented, and impossible not to have some lasting effect on us. Kidding aside, the truth is that looking back there was much to be gained by having court reporters for parents.

1) Nose to the grindstone

Is writing 250-300 words a minute to a realtime feed difficult? Definitely. But while some think the court reporter’s job is complete after the deposition or trial is finished, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Reporters work very long hours editing transcripts, poring over exhibits, proofreading, and then proofreading again. For every one hour of writing live, 1-3 additional hours are actually dedicated to the final product. The lesson learned for me is not being afraid to go over and above. If you are in the service industry, (and 4 out of 5 Americans are) your clients will appreciate the effort and dedication.

2) Time management

Oftentimes, these transcripts are rush turnaround. A job can turn into a rush without warning and without regard to whether it’s a weekend or weeknight, which segues into the importance of time management. I often say that my parents can get more accomplished in one day than many get done in several work days. They must be efficient with their free time.

Simply put, this is not a 9-5 job. In today’s working world, with the emergence of smart phones and 24/7 access, other industries are just starting to getting used to the mobile worker. However, reporters have been juggling this ball for decades. Yes, it is difficult to make commitments in your social life from time to time. But it has taught me to appreciate the “now” and to truly be present when not working. It has also encouraged me to devote time to being off the grid for an improved work/life balance.

3) Technology’s Rapid Pace

Fear of “the new” is not a luxury available to reporters. My parents often tell the story of how their first computers cost more than their first home in the ‘80s. Court reporters, in an effort to stay current and to continue to provide innovative services, constantly feel the pressure to be technologically savvy.

I have never heard my parents express fear about trying out a new product. If it helps court reporting to remain a viable career, they try it. I was exposed to technology constantly as a kid and loved helping out at the office, feeling a part of the family business. For me, having access to the latest and greatest computer programs allowed for creative tinkering with trial presentation software, editing photos, and converting videos much earlier than my peers. Likewise, their emphasis on the importance of continuing education has encouraged me to never stop learning.

4) Roles redefined

I have vivid memories of my mom in the ‘90s lugging her steno machine and that funny shaped paper into the house while wearing shoulder pads and power suits, coming home after a day of reporting and administering her all-women firm.

Court reporting has become a great vehicle for women to claim independence and own their own businesses. Once a male dominated career, today women have emerged as leaders in the field. Because of this shift, it has also been beneficial to witness the important and unique perspective my father brings to the table in a continually evolving, diverse workforce.

Finally, back to number 2 on the list, the need for constant flexibility also challenged traditional roles in the household. If one parent was called in to cover a trial and the Judge extended the day’s proceedings, the other parent cooked dinner or picked up the slack for chores. It was a daily juggling act but one that taught me not to be constrained by society’s stance on whose duties at home belonged to whom.

5) Relationship building and supporting colleagues

The professional relationships my parents have formed with both their clients and colleagues have inspired me to keep track of my connections. I’ve never heard them say a disparaging thing to our clients about their competitors. Competition makes you better, forces you to grow, and allows for companionship with others who can relate to what you’re going through. The network of reporters we have joined has become a vital asset to aiding in our advancement, and in turn we can reciprocate our knowledge and lessons learned.

Witnessing the way reporters give back to the profession, encourage students, and support fellow reporters has shown me that nurturing your profession can secure its success for future generations.

6) If walls could talk

Court reporters are privy to the intricacies of lawsuits and conversations held both on and off the record. “Keeping the record” is not a responsibility they take lightly. Carefully sealing exhibits, protecting a witness’s identity, refusing to comment on case details to the public or news, these are all attributes of an officer of the court who takes their job seriously.

In short, if you are into gossip and enjoy TMZ, this is probably not the job for you. The role of a reporter is to write while remaining impartial, to deliver a specific work product, and archive it properly. Attorneys appreciate your not sharing their case info with others as well.

This translates to any career where the stakes are high and it is important to hold your cards close. Discretion is something all professionals need to exercise, whether it’s a new product or shifting management.

In conclusion, if you’re on the fence about it, reconsider. If you are worried about the impact it will have on your kids, reconsider. For the reasons mentioned above, reconsider a career in court reporting. Your kids will thank you someday.

Katie Coulter
Trial technician and part owner (Power Presentations, LLC)

Daughter of Coulter Reporting, LLC owners (Rick and Ellen Coulter)

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