Court reporters are responsible for keeping written records — word for word, syllable for syllable, of your legal proceedings. Not all court reporters or court reporting agencies are created equal. Read on for the five biggest mistakes attorneys make when hiring a court reporter and how you can ensure that you are working with the best.
All court reporters have the same skills.
When beginning your search for a qualified court reporter, look for a court reporter that has been certified by NCRA.org and is a member of relevant state associations. Credentials to look for include RPR (registered professional reporter) or CM (certificate of merit).
Along with the right certifications, a skilled court reporter will have a clear understanding of the law and how it works. Fluency in legal, medical and related technical terminology as well as advanced spelling, punctuation, vocabulary and grammar skills are also necessary. Furthermore, a skilled court reporter should be able to type faster than you can speak (not really, but you get the idea!).
On the topic of speed, real-time reporting offers the immediate translation of a court reporter’s shorthand into English displayed on your own computer, iPad or device (which has been connected to the reporter’s computer) in draft form. After the deposition, the draft is provided to the attorney immediately. Although your deposition may not always require this level of service, if it is necessary, be sure your court reporter offers this service since this type of transcript requires a high level of skill, and not all reporters are capable of doing real-time.
A larger court reporting company will have better services and prices.
Many large court reporting companies are burdened with maximizing profits for their investors and the pressure to place profits over people results in these agencies losing focus on what really matters: the customer experience.
Along with a lack of personalized service, many large agencies have impersonal call centers that are disconnected from the local markets. Employee turnover is high, and staff often has little industry knowledge. An intimate understanding of the legal space is a key factor in what separates the good court reporters from the great ones.
A smaller court reporting company will have better services and prices.
On the other hand, small agencies are not always the answer. Unfortunately, many small agencies simply do not have the resources and/or technology necessary to support an attorney in the increasingly technologically driven practice of law (see real-time reporting in point #1). Full-time customer service support is also often lacking in an agency where the same players are wearing numerous hats. Case in point, in many of these small agencies the owner often also does court reporting. If the owner is not focused on managing a full team of reporters and support staff, they are likely distracted from meeting their clients’ time-sensitive demands.
Other downsides of going the small agency route?
- Lack of cash flow needed to allow an attorney time to procure payment from their client.
- Older technology.
- Limited resources to help a law firm meet their needs with just one call (think scheduling out of town depos, interpreters, trial services, etc.).
All court reporter fees are the same.
Rates for court reporting vary from state to state, agency to agency. If you’re scheduling depositions out of town, talk to your local court reporter about what you can expect. Some questions to ask include:
- Does your court reporting agency have relationships with other agencies across the country, making standardized pricing an option?
- I have case with multiple parties and potentially multiple copy sales, is a reduced rate available?
- I am starting a large case, can we discuss a special rate, so all parties can take advantage?
This list is not exhaustive. Speak with a few court reporting agencies about your options.
All court reporters use the same technology.
As discussed above, technology is a chief differentiator between court reporting agencies. You want to work with an agency that utilizes the latest in technological advancements to safeguard the record — and your case.
A bigger concern is HIPAA compliance. Anyone who hears testimony or sees written exhibits has an ethical and legal obligation to protect the records. Your court reporters handle personally identifiable information (PII) almost daily and you want to work with an agency that is fully compliant with all of the security requirements established by HIPAA and the HITECH Act
To ensure a fluid, cost-effective process from end to end, spend the time up front comparing and contrasting various court reporting firms’ capabilities and reputations to ensure they match your, and your client’s, needs.