Court reporting agencies are companies or corporations that provide various legal and litigation support services, including court reporting services. Since they have designated their organization as an “agency,” their network of professionals usually consists of certified court reporters. In addition, some court reporting agencies provide services that expand well beyond their local territory. In fact, many have such a large number of employees that the agency has a national or even global reach. Of course, these mega-agencies are usually headquartered in a central location with numerous facilities being positioned across the territory in which it covers.
Court reporters play a critical role in the litigation process since they have the task of transcribing court proceedings and trial testimony. Obviously, the quality of the transcript is greatly dependent on the accuracy of the court reporter. In fact, it is imperative that a complete and true depiction of the events taking place in a courtroom is captured. Otherwise, the integrity of the proceedings may be compromised and improperly preserved. For that matter, broken speech, pauses in speech, and descriptions of physical gestures and emotional reactions are also often recorded in a court transcript.
Aside from courtroom transcription, court reporting agencies often arrange for the provision of other types of services. For example, court reporters are often called to an attorney’s office to prepare a transcript of the deposition of a witness. Some court reporting agencies also provide video production services, documentation management services, and on-site training in the use of various litigation and document management software. In addition, some court reporters employed by an agency never set foot in a courtroom. Instead, they may prepare transcripts of corporate-related events, such as product presentations, sales meetings, telephone or web-based quarterly earnings calls, and live conferences.
Technology has ushered court reporting agencies into a new era in terms of the methods used to provide the services they offer. For instance, it used to be standard for a court reporter to use a stenotype machine, which has a keyboard made up of letter combinations and symbols rather than individual letters. Similar devices are still in use, but now they are capable of producing real-time captioning as the event is taking place. Voice writing has also become commonplace, which involves the court reporter wearing a special mask that allows him or her to repeat what is being spoken, but without risking being overheard by others.
To become eligible for employment with most court reporting agencies, certification is highly desirable. The length of time needed to train and prepare for certification varies, but most court reporters begin on-the-job training within two years. In addition, some states and provinces in the U.S. and elsewhere require licensing, which is achieved by passing a test administered by a board of examiners.