Will Court Reporting Get Replaced by Technology?
27 January 2023

Will Court Reporting Get Replaced by Technology?

Nowadays, everywhere you turn, you see automation technologies replacing humans. Almost all key industries use advanced technologies to perform their tasks. They develop artificial intelligence and robots to increase efficiency, cut costs, offer new value propositions, etc. As a result, many workers in different fields experience anxiety over the future of their employment, and court reporting is no exception.

While technology continues to advance and add efficiency to some industries, it certainly can’t replace the human touch. Technology lacks the human ability to cater to the needs of individuals. In many instances, we still want to deal with an actual person who can talk us through the processes and services we need help with. So people-to-people communication is always going to remain fundamental. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the courts had started integrating digital transcription technologies to meet increasing needs. This is primarily because the industry needs more court reporters. As a result, many legal professionals wonder if court reporting will get replaced by machines. In this article, we touch on this central question and more.

The Court Reporting Industry and Technology

Court reporting has always been an essential part of legal proceedings. Court reporters play a huge role in capturing words spoken by counsels, witnesses, and other parties during a court or deposition proceeding. In addition, these highly trained professionals prepare verbatim transcripts of proceedings and make them available to parties when needed. 

No matter the compelling evidence of witnesses or pointed questions asked by counsels during proceedings, it all goes to nothing if there is no record of the deposition. Court reporters must be present at courtroom trials and depositions to document vital information. They will listen closely to every word said, observe physical countenance and intonation expressed. 

Over the years, technology has helped reshape the nature of work in the court reporting industry. For example, courts now adopt digital transcription technology for automatic transcription to generate faster transcripts. However, even though the legal space continues to evolve with technological changes, it still maintains the vital need for human operation. 

For example, technological transcription solutions must be combined with human editing to provide detailed transcripts from recorded audio or video files. When recordings are processed with an AI system, a court reporter will assess the file and make grammar, punctuation, and spelling corrections for better accuracy.

Also, legal proceedings can be contentious. You may have parties talking over one another or mumbling responses. So, a court reporter must be there to ensure decorum, administer the oath, identify parties, ask questions to be repeated for clarity where necessary, etc. 

Moreover, court reporters are known for their swift typing skills. When combined with technology, transcriptions can be even faster. Ultimately, technology will always need the human element in the court reporting industry.

Reasons Why Technology Cannot Replace Court Reporting

As the legal profession evolves with technological advancement, the job outlook for court reporters still appears positive, and here’s why.

  • Real-Time Reporting

Real-time reporting renders court reporters irreplaceable. It is a value-added service rendered by court reporters in which there is an instant translation of a court reporter’s shorthand into English. When your computer or phone is linked to the reporter’s computer, it displays the translation in front of you through a software program. Lawyers and clients can immediately access testimony in court or deposition hearings to analyze or store for future purposes. 

Lawyers can take note of transcripts as it is being written, allowing the correction of misstatements and prompt reviews. Doing the preceding is impossible with a voice recording system.

  • Off-the-Record Attorney-Client Exchange

Experienced court reporters know the difference between privileged attorney-client communication and otherwise. During a court hearing or deposition, they can sieve out confidential information. However, the same cannot be said about digital voice recordings. Situations have occurred where digital recordings have made privileged information and conversations official records, which is unacceptable.

  • Accuracy of Transcription

Despite technological advancements, digital recordings often malfunction, leading to distorted testimonies. For this reason, it can't compete with the professionalism and reliability of a court reporter. Court reporters can understand different heavy accents, distinguish between multiple speakers, detect emotions, block out background noise, clarify technical terms, ask questions, prevent overlapping speeches, etc.

All these require human judgement, skills, and experience, which is impossible with voice recognition software or digital recordings. So instead, court reporters employ digital recordings and can accurately transcribe dialogues with their knowledge of the subject matter.

  • Technological Voice Recording is Not Cost-Effective

As stated earlier, most industries have replaced human efforts for efficiency and cost reasons. While many believe adopting technology can be more cost-saving than hiring a court reporter, it is not all true. Audio and video recording technologies come with hidden costs. For instance, after purchasing the recording system, you must pay for installation. 

Also, network upgrades to store large digital files may cost a fortune. Not to mention that it will require the management of a human IT expert. Often, these costs shift from the courts to the attorneys and, after that, to the clients. But this is not the case with human court reporters because they are paid per case and per transcripts.

  • Transcriptions by Different Transcribers

As most courts are adopting technology, digital recordings are often used as the primary record of legal proceedings. In many cases, these recordings are later transcribed by a human being who wasn’t present at trial or deposition. 

In other cases, it is given to different transcribers. This can lead to a conflicting interpretation of the proceedings as each transcriber will transcribe based on their experience, diligence, and training.

Final Thoughts

Undoubtedly, technology is transforming the legal system and the world in general. It will be naive to think it will never catch up with court reporting. However, for court reporting to stand the test of time, it must combine technology and well-trained professionals. 

Court reporters will have access to programs and functions to help them work smarter and not harder. In conclusion, human effort cannot be dispensed with, so technology cannot replace it.


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