Takeaways: Our AAERT Panel on Self-Advocacy for Digital Court Reporters

By: Sarah Roberts
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As a part of this year’s Digital Court Reporter and Transcriber Week, Kaci Hardin, Verbit’s Legal Quality and Delivery Manager, participated in a panel discussion focused on how digital court reporters and certified electronic transcriptionists (CETs) can better self advocate.

A live survey was conducted during the event, hosted by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT), and it showcased why advocacy is so important to the profession. Around 73% of participants responded that they had experienced at least one instance where others disparaged their method of preserving the record. Misconceptions about the industry can be harmful to the professionals who make a living preserving the record of legal proceedings, and to the future of the industry overall.  

Hardin and the other panelists — U.S. Legal Support’s Michelle Baden, Veritext Legal Solutions’ Erin Pollock Loyka and Planet Depo’s Joey Velazquez — offered valuable insights for court reporters about overcoming false narratives and promoting themselves and the profession in a way that helps educate others in the industry. Their advice is useful for court reporters, transcribers and anyone who wants to know more about how tools and technology are supporting the legal profession.  

Always be a professional 

One of the best ways to serve as a self-advocate is to be professional in all your business communications and interactions. Showing up on time, producing quality results and getting deliverables to clients when promised goes a long way. From the customer’s perspective, the methods a court reporter or transcriber uses are far less important than the final product.  

If you conduct yourself in a professional manner and perform the job well, customers aren’t going to think about what equipment you used. A job well done will mean that attorneys, judges and other legal professionals will gain confidence in your skills and ability. The more positive experiences clients have with digital court reporters, the less susceptible they’ll become to falling for myths about the profession. 

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Challenge critics and myths with facts 

Since most reporters did say they’ve faced criticism, it’s important to know how and when to defend against negative comments in person or online. According to the panel, responding online might not be worth the trouble. Trolling behavior can waste time or even reflect poorly on anyone who chooses to involve themselves with others who are engaged in online rants or insult flinging.  

In cases where it is worth responding, such as in person or in a professional setting, the best tactic is to challenge faulty perceptions with hard facts. Here are a few examples of common industry myths and the facts that can dispel them. 

Myth 1: Digital court reporters can’t offer the necessary accuracy and quality 

In truth, the record that digital court reporters produce goes through rigorous editing and quality control. The final product is the same as other reporters provide, they just use different tools to perform their job. 

Myth 2: Digital reporters use offshore transcribers 

Transcription companies may use offshore transcribers, but clients with companies like Verbit can opt for an all US-based team to work on their projects. Reputable players in the industry will also have undergone careful security screenings and earned the necessary credentials for handling sensitive information.  

Myth 3: Digital court reporters can’t offer readbacks 

Digital court reporters can and do offer readbacks as they’re recording all parties during a proceeding. They can play back anything that occurred just as quickly and easily as any other reporter. 

Myth 4: Digital court reporters just hit a button 

Hardin said that some members of the industry might disparage digital court reporters by claiming they do little more than just hit the record button. However, digital court reporters serve the same role as other court reporters and are responsible for recording everything that happens in the room. They fill a required role during many legal proceedings, they just use more modern technology to support them.  

Myth 5: Digital court reporters aren’t certified 

Digital court reporters, CETs and other professional transcribers undergo rigorous training and certification processes and are qualified to perform in their roles.  

Loyka pointed out that digital reporters tend to be younger than stenographers simply because the technology is newer and more young people are learning modern court reporting methods. As a result, a stenographer may have decades of experience while a digital reporter might have just a few years. That discrepancy could mean that the digital reporter doesn’t have the same depth of knowledge as a seasoned stenographer. However, it has nothing to do with the tools and more to do with the wisdom professionals in any field gain after years of honing their skills and perfecting their craft.  

Remind other court reporters of your shared goals 

The truth is automation of tasks is happening in every industry. Digital court reporters may use more new technology, but like others in their field, they’re committed to providing an accurate, high-quality record. The panel expressed that they don’t believe that technology alone, or “unmanned recording or untrained individuals,” can perform the job of a court reporter. While people are concerned about AI taking jobs and creating problems in the industry, Hardin said that the technology transcribers use, automatic speech recognition (ASR), supports reporters and shouldn’t replace them. 

However, there is a shortage of court reporters, and if the industry can’t find people to fill those roles, the door will open for disruptors touting a tech-only approach. At some point, the lack of availability could mean attorneys choose to simply turn on a recording device themselves – a practice that isn’t currently permitted, but that some in the profession could argue for in the absence of a trained workforce to perform this role. Avoiding a future where the legal industry turns to inadequate solutions because of the lack of qualified reporters will require the court reporting industry to find common objectives.  

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Lobby for the future of the industry 

The panel also noted that advocacy goes beyond speaking up for yourself. It’s also about joining lobby efforts that educate the industry and promote rational policies. Joining organizations like AAERT is a great way to stay informed on the latest efforts, legislative updates and other industry news. 

Hardin suggested that digital court reporters and transcribers join AAERT, become involved in advocacy panels, contact local lawmakers about relevant legislation, get certified and stay in the know.  

When it comes to CETs, Hardin also said that some professionals treat this advocacy work as the responsibility of digital court reporters. However, without laws that protect digital court reporting and the ability to use modern technology in the industry, transcribers will lose work as well.  

Verbit is supporting digital court reporters and transcribers 

The legal team at Verbit is supporting transcribers, digital court reporters and the legal profession. Our team includes legal experts who are helping to shape the future of the industry. To learn more about legal transcription options, reach out and connect with Verbit