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What does the court reporter shortage mean for earnings?

court reporter shortage mean for earnings

You’re called for a deposition and in the room is your attorney, opposing counsel, and the court reporter. You’re sworn in and asked questions related to the case in question and you provide answers to the best of your knowledge and leave. While the deposition may be over for you, it’s really just beginning for the court reporter who can earn in the six figures for their quiet work at depositions and other venues. There’s just one problem – a court reporter shortage.

According to Ducker Worldwide, there will be a shortage of more than 5,000 reporters by 2018 including 120 in Arizona and 2,320 in neighboring California.

What does the court reporter shortage mean for earnings? It means new reporters start at average annual earnings of $42,000 and median pay is $51,000; it can be even more in urban areas like Phoenix. For those with experience, they can make well into the six figures.

The reason is simple economics and the law of supply and demand. Court reporters are the product and the price is their salary. When the supply is low and demand is high, as it is today, salaries increase.

Because of the court reporter shortage, Arizona courts only require a court reporter at certain types of cases.

According to the Arizona Supreme Court, human court reporters are only required in cases involving a Grand or felony jury trial, death penalty murder cases, some sex crimes, and parental consent for abortion. That leaves a lot of cases without a human court reporter.

Without a person to record the proceedings, courts are forced to use digital technology and then hire freelance court reporters to transcribe from the recording.

The problem is that the technology is good but not great. Often portions of testimony or exchanges is inaudible in a recording leaving the reporter no choice but to mark it as inaudible and move on.

As an industry, we need to be better about communicating not only the opportunities for court reporters in legal, business, political, civic and educational venues, but about the earnings potential.

Interested in becoming a court reporter? Check out the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) list of approved court reporting programs.

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