Digital Court Reporting: An Insider’s Perspective

By: Sarah Roberts

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Digital court reporting isn’t exactly new. Professional digital court reporters have been practicing in America’s courtrooms and transcribing depositions for decades. Still, people often misunderstand the practice and differences between digital court reporters and stenographers.

Stenographers use a specific type of machine- a stenograph machine. Digital court reporters use high-tech software to perform the same functions. With court reporters in short supply, the industry is leaning on digital court reporters more than ever. Verbit sat down with veteran digital court reporter Louanne Rawls, one of the presenters at this year’s Court Reporting Virtual Summit, to get insights into what it takes to thrive in this fast-growing profession.
A photograph of Louanne Rawls.

Getting Started as a Digital Court Reporter

Fifteen years ago Louanne, a former medical transcriptionist, chose to learn digital court reporting to “have a life outside of just my family” once her kids grew. Digital court reporting offers ample career opportunity in light of the current court reporter shortage.

Today’s court reporting hopefuls often turn to the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) for certification. The AAERT’s CET and CER certificates are the industry standard in much of the US, Canada and elsewhere.

Louanne now teaches digital court reporters entering the industry through her course Digital Court Reporting 101. She explains, “I focus a lot on being a professional and how we conduct ourselves as professionals,” as the work digital court reporters perform is vital for the legal system. Louanne believes that it is crucial to build a trustworthy reputation with clients and perform the work with integrity.

Benefits of a Digital Court Reporting Career

Digital court reporting offers plenty of work for professionals with this skill set. Louanne pointed out that “right now, especially in Florida, we are inundated with work.” Statistics from other states show even more substantial deficits of court reporters.

“I love my job,” she told us, “I still love it today, 15 years later. Every day, I am excited about what my day holds because every day is different.” Louanne also pointed out that digital court reporting also offers flexibility, a job perk 92 percent of millennials prioritize when seeking a position.

Gracefully Facing Industry Resistance to Technology

Digital court reporters sometimes face criticism. Transitioning from the “old way” of doing things (stenography machine) to AI tools is a sensitive subject, but shouldn’t be.
For anyone who fears digital court reporting or sees it as a threat to stenographers, Louanne points out that there is plenty of work to go around. Digital reporters were not designed to take jobs away from stenographers. Instead, Louanne says, “schools weren’t producing stenographers at a rate of the need that was out there, so digital court reporting came about to fill that gap.”

Louanne also has advice for digital court reporters entering the field and facing “backlash”: work with integrity, be a professional and your reputation will speak for itself. Now, Louanne works with future court reporters to “teach others what I know and how to be well respected in the legal community by applying the tactics that I use and the skills they learn in the course to produce quality transcripts, which is the ultimate goal.”

After all, lawyers, judges and others involved in the legal system are not concerned about the court reporter’s machine. Instead, these professionals respect court reporters who reliably perform their jobs and produce accurate transcripts.

When it comes to those in the industry who are reluctant to embrace technology, Louanne says, “Every industry evolves with technology. Seize the opportunity.” She explains, “You could be expanding your business covering more jobs, making… your clients happier, No. 1, but No. 2… the income that you would generate from [incorporating digital tools] is just phenomenal.”

Industry Projections for Digital Court Reporters

Digital tools are extremely reliable and are the way of the future. As a result, court reporters who learn to use technology will have a lot to offer their clients.

Digital court reporters are also well-suited to accommodate virtual depositions. Virtual depositions became the norm during COVID-19, but predictions indicate that about 50 percent of future depositions will remain remote. Thus, these proceedings offer a way for digital court reporters to expand their service areas and grow their practices.

The bottom line is that there is a clear and substantial need for court reporters. Digital tools and the reporters who use them will have ample opportunities in their field.

Embracing digital court reporting gave Louanne the career she wanted and was, in her words, “the best thing I ever did in my life.”

Louanne Rawls will be presenting live at Verbit’s annual Court Reporting Virtual Summit. Join the event and take advantage of the chance to ask Louanne and other industry leaders your digital court reporting questions.