Transcription vs. Court reporting vs. Interpretation: Which service do you need right now?

Court reporters are indispensable during trials, dispositions, and litigations. On the one hand, there is an increasing need for automating the service due to the lack of experienced legal reporters; on the other side, the finesse of human touch is impossible to replace with a machine. It is quite a conundrum people in the legal world are facing right now. Legal transcriptionists transcribe the spoken words into written form. They usually make “notes” of the legal proceedings during shorthand with the help of their stenograph machine. Modern technology has made it possible for them to utilize laptops and processors to convert their shorthand transcripts into English in real time. The processor can further display the English text on a live screen for the judge, lawyers, jury and the other parties present in the courtroom to see.

Who are court transcriptionists?

Transcriptionists use a phonetic system rather than a traditional QWERTY keyboard to transcribe the dialogs. It takes a lot of training and practice to master. That is one of the reasons the conventional transcription system in court is faster and more efficient in comparison with the new digital systems. The new automated systems are aiming to replace the manual talent but without much success. Court reporters need to undergo certification training procedures. The coursework usually hones their typing speed, accuracy, and their legal know-how. There are strict codes of ethics each legal transcriptionist has to follow to become an expert in the field of court reporting. Several paralegals and legal assistants in the US start out as court reporters and later choose a new allied career that requires their skill set. That is one more reason for the increasing crises of skillful court reporters across the different states.

What kind of transcription services should your legislative service agency provide?

A legal transcriptionist’s job can require them to transcribe the proceedings from shorthand, or they may have to transcribe audio recordings into text. Transcriptions can stem from dictated notes, an audio recording of depositions, and minutes of meetings or court proceedings. The last one is most common among them all. However, there is a clear distinction between transcriptionist services and legal court reporter services. Transcription services may need to cover many essential services that overlap with the functions of legal assistants.

  • They have the necessary training to draw up legal documents through proofreading and revision.
  • Transcriptionists can draft legal documents including discovery and pleading as per request.
  • They can complete Revision of existing transcriptions as per the demand.
  • They can help in the Preparation of paperwork for filing.

In addition to these services, they need to possess specific skills that are in accordance with the technological requirements of the state –

  • Operation and management of the latest recording equipment inside court premises.
  • Experience in real-time transcription and legal clerical work.
  • Understanding of legal libraries and databases to conduct necessary research.
  • Knowledge of ethics including client-lawyer privilege.
  • Using the necessary software including Microsoft Excel and Word.

You must remember that the transcript, a digital reporter or translator provides is often inaccurate. The accuracy can range as low as 78% to 80% for direct digital transcription services. A court stenographer and a court transcriptionist have better command on the accuracy of the text. An excellent court reporting and legislative services company may also offer rush transcript services. These are the written texts that have a deadline of fewer than 24 hours. Before picking your court reporting agency, check if they provide separate legal reporting and transcriptionist services to their clients on demand. To know more about the services, you can visit

Court reporting vs. transcription: what service do you need?

Court reporting services usually do not involve recordings. They work in real-time. They transcribe the dialogs between the judges, juries, attorneys, defendants, and plaintiffs as the proceedings are on. They require more rigorous training in typing and accuracy since they cannot usually afford to miss parts of the processes. Most accomplished court reporters in the country have certification from the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). This certification training requires 2 to 4 years to complete. Reporters use a steno machine to transcribe spoken words usually at a speed which is around 220 words per minute. Court reporters typically undergo coursework that is more stringent and demanding.

While both legal reporters and transcriptionists can freelance, they usually choose a more stable job with a stenography service. Since the work of a court reporter is often more demanding, the payment requirements are generally higher too. However, the expense should not decide your choice. Your choice of the legal service should depend upon your need. To choose correctly between a transcriptionist service and a court reporting service, you need to consider a few facts –

  1. Do you need a verbatim transcription of the proceeding, deposition or meeting?
  2. Do you need editing on the document? (for example – removing the “uhh”s and “erm”s of the people speaking)
  • Do you need full-time service or a per-minute or per-line service?
  1. Do you need someone with technological prowess?

Your requirement of editing, part-time services, and technological advantage, points towards transcriptionist services. The need for verbatim transcription services and fulltime commitment, points towards court reporting services. In fact, do not forget to consider the field of work. Legal reporters usually work in courtroom scenarios, but a transcriptionist can work in myriads of settings including law enforcement, financial, academic, medical and business. Transcriptionists even find work with authors, writers, and individuals working on their memoir.

How can you find qualified transcriptionists and legal reporters?

An established litigation firm usually offers both court reporting service and transcriptionist service. One cannot replace the other since they have similar job descriptions but distinctly different benefits to their customers. Their employees should have certifications and training from recognized associations. The quality of their service will reflect on their company website and business profile. The best way to judge a company is by its website. The quality of the site, the mobile-readiness and the ease of access will tell you everything you need to know about the quality of service you can expect from the company. Always choose a company that knows in detail how court reporting is different from legal transcription, and which service you may need today.

Having an agency that offers last-minute services always helps an attorney and an individual client in the hour of need. An eleventh-hour service does not call for a compromise in quality or qualification of the reporters. Therefore, do not shy away from asking about the last moment availability of trained reporters or transcribers. Most importantly, the training and expertise of a reporter or transcriber can differ from one field to another. While some professionals are better at medicolegal transcription, others might be better at business related transcription. So, always mention your area of concern while looking for a professional.

How is a court interpreter’s job different from a transcriptionist’s job?

It brings us to the necessity of legal interpreter services. Translation services are very different from transcription services, although several individuals often believe them to be the same. Translation services usually involve verbatim translation of one spoken language into another. In fact, the conversion of American Sign Language into English or vice versa is also a part of translation service requirements. The requirements of all legal professionals can be very different from one another. They can be highly specific, and there are times when the expert requires translating several clauses, acts, and laws from one language to another without missing a beat. It not only requires years of training, but it also needs years of practice in practical setups.

There are situations where the client or the attorney might be hearing impaired. It calls for special translation services that can adhere to the standards of the American Sign Language and at the same time serve all the parties involved. There are three types of interpreter services in the US as per the US Courts Administrative Office –

  • Professionally qualified interpreters
  • Language skilled interpreters
  • Certified interpreters

The skill, training and language abilities necessary to become a legal or court interpreter are highly complicated. Therefore, there are only a few legal interpreter services that meet the required standards today. You have to be very careful while choosing your interpreter services, so your hired professional is well-versed with legal terminologies, dialects, jargons, formal registers and informal registers.

Choose your agency wisely

Yes, interpretation, court reporting, and transcription services are very different from one another, but their scopes can overlap significantly. There are times when you might want your transcriptionist to translate a given recording into another language. These are times when the requirements become a little complex. That is another reason why you need to speak with an expert litigation service to understand what you and your client needs precisely. Experienced court reporting and litigation agencies often have an overlapping reporter, transcriptionist and interpreter services for those in need.

Post Comment