Certified Court Reporter vs. Digital Recording – You Decide

unhappy lawyerWhen scheduling a deposition or trial, it is important to ask what method will be used to produce the transcript of the proceedings.  Why is this important?

Because if stenographic equipment is not specifically requested, it is possible that the assigned court reporter will arrive with only digital recording devices to record the transcript. And relying solely on digital devices is not a smart option, if you care about accuracy in your transcription.

I was once at a deposition where the court reporter had no stenographic machine. She had only a laptop and a backup recorder. When I made a gentle inquiry into the lack of a stenographic machine, she replied that she didn’t need one. She would “simply” digitally record the proceedings and a typist at her office would later produce the transcript, she said.

I suspected what the outcome of this plan would be and, to satisfy my curiosity, I followed up after the deposition with relevant counsel who was present at the time. When I asked about the quality of the transcript they had received from that recording, I was not terribly surprised to hear that the transcript had several places which read as “inaudible.”

This is not an uncommon problem with digital recordings that have no stenographic backup – as many courthouses and law firms have found to their chagrin. Parties that have tried relying only on digital recording as their sole source for the transcript quite often discover the transcript was insufficient or, in some cases, could not be used at all in the case of an appeal.

One of the main reasons why digitally recorded transcripts are likely to have “inaudible” sections is obvious to anyone who has ever sat in a courtroom or deposition room. Especially during heated testimony, participants rarely wait for someone to completely stop talking before they interrupt or interject.

Judges will throw their thoughts at counsel while counsel is making their argument. Participants in a deposition will try to talk over each other. Even when restraint is used, participants in a deposition or court setting may answer so quickly that – to a digital device – they could have been the same person talking.

Then you have issues of accents, or of people speaking so quietly that they can barely be heard. There can be interference from background noises that only becomes apparent when the typist (much later) tries to transcribe from the recording to produce the final transcript.

These are all problems that can be avoided or completely eliminated by using an experienced, properly-equipped certified court reporter.

Certified stenographic reporters attend two to four years of schooling.  In order to graduate they need to write a minimum of 225 words per minute.  The curriculum to become a certified court reporter includes grammar, punctuation, legal terminology, medical terminology and a host of other subjects.  And, in order to maintain their certification, court reporters need to take 30 hours of continuing education every three years.

What this means for you is, when you hire a stenographic court reporter, you get someone who can report with far greater accuracy and efficiency than any digital device. If your case goes to appeal, an inaccurate transcript of proceedings could be devastating to your chances of success.

When booking your next case, make sure you have a stenographic court reporter present.  You won’t be sorry!