An obvious skill for a court recorder to possess is to be able to type really, really fast. Saying that one of the challenges of being a court recorder is fast typing is like saying one of the challenges of being a race car driver is not hitting the wall. It’s a fundamental basic element of the job at hand, but yes some do it better than others.
There are physical challenges for a court recorder that go beyond developing fast fingers and committing countless combinations of keystrokes and chords to muscle memory. These are the less glamorous, but very real difficulties associated with a job rooted in a requirement to appear as if you are doing nothing at all. Building the physical and mental resolve to keep complete control over every fiber of your body for hours on end is a skill reserved for Navy Seals and Court Recorders.
1. It Takes The Mental Strength Of A Seal Team Sniper
Remember the strain of a long flight. Imagine sitting in those stiff seats, packed into a narrow space. Your muscles start to tingle, then ache, then burn, and tense and all you want to do is hit the latrine, stretch, move, and pace the length of the cabin. That’s uncomfortable enough. Now sit straight, feet flat, elbows tucked to your sides, hands at the ready, fingers arched over a keyboard, and keep your face completely stoic. Now hold. No, you cannot go to the bathroom.
Desk jobs are common, but this “desk job” is more akin to the human statues busking for tips along the boardwalk. While the rest of your body is numb to its surroundings, your fingers are striking chord combinations at record speeds as dialog flies across the courtroom too fast for you to pause and take a sip of water. With such physical skill on display as if performing on a stage, maybe court recorders should start passing around the hat at every proceeding.
Removing emotion from your face and reaching a level of disconnect that allows the most extraordinary statements to float through your ears and out from your fingertips while remaining unaffected is a rudimentary requirement, but it takes a lot of practice.
2. Cultivating Your Thousand-Yard-Stare
Keeping a stoic face is not necessarily the issue at hand. The issue is preventing your heart from being tugged in either direction as you’re feverishly hammering out the official court transcripts. Yes, court recorders get first row seats to some of the most mindlessly hilarious questions and statements ever to be uttered in court, but what is more difficult is to remain unaffected by the serious and the tragic.
Having to appear placid and neutral while burning those fingers across the keyboard, and operating at a high level of accuracy as a victim is recounting a gruesome and heart-wrenching story is harder than not laughing at a ridiculous question or silly statement.
After years of experience one can forge the stonewalled mask and float by on the sense of duty that pushes her through the day’s work, but saying some testimonies don’t follow you home, don’t affect you on a deep level would be a hard statement to muster.
3. Court Reporting As A Performance Art
Creating a court transcript in real time as everyone watches each keystroke requires a new level of focus. Realtime Court Reporting has become the new normal. With expectations of instant court transcripts and an expected 90% level of accuracy, typing fast and typing accurately has never been more important.
Realtime Court Reporting is an incredibly valuable service that some court reporters are equipped to offer. Through a direct feed from the court recorder’s computer to a monitor, a court recorder can provide the realtime translation of a court transcript from the stenotype’s shorthand code into English, creating a readable first draft transcript on-the-fly.
The benefits to the client are extremely valuable and realtime reporting makes for a much quicker turnaround in producing the official record.
However, Realtime Court Reporting presents a new set of challenges to the court reporter. Troubleshooting technological issues become ever important to ensure the live feed is operating properly. This is an additional step in the court reporting process that takes a little getting used to.
With the realtime translation of court transcripts into a readable text for all to instantly view, the emphasis on exactness is incredibly important. The court reporter doesn’t get the comfort of the unseen first draft to be edited, tweaked, and corrected in her private office before fulfilling requests. This is an immediate feed of everything she types at that moment.
Speed is important, accuracy is paramount, and the ability to perform while on display brings us back to the court reporter as a performance artist argument.
The skills required to perform at the highest levels of court reporting are varied and highly specific. It takes a long time to master the technical as well as the physical and mental requirements to become a top performing court reporter. Just like learning the piano, it’s easy to strike the keys and start banging out a few choppy notes, but excellence is reserved for the masters.