Although much of what court reporters do occurs behind the scenes, they play an integral role in the legal system. In this respect, court stenographers are not unlike paralegals. But despite the similarities, it has been my observation that many paralegals are uncertain of what to expect from court reporters.
Given the amount of interaction that paralegals and court reporters have with one another, it’s important that you know how best to work with court stenographers to foster a better working relationship.
Professionalism in Court Reporting
Court reporters are conditioned to abide by some of the strictest deadlines in the legal field, and for good reason. Since legal proceedings cannot begin until the reporter arrives, punctuality is not just a courtesy, it’s a must. Add to this the fact that law firms can’t bill for lost time, and only then can one truly appreciate the gravity of promptness. Hence, it goes without saying that when you hire a court reporter, there should be no doubts about his ability to show up on time.
Similar to timeliness, courtesy is expected from all court reporters. As a matter of fact, most reporters are so polite that you will rarely even hear them during proceedings, but make no mistake – their presence has a tremendous impact on the overall success of the case. Furthermore, you should anticipate this type of professionalism not only during the proceedings, but also when receiving the transcript, along with any other interaction that occur thereafter.
Confidentiality of Stenographers
In addition to recording legal proceedings, court reporters must also safeguard confidential information. In fact, the majority of information that comes into a court reporter’s possession is private and shouldn’t be divulged to anyone who isn’t part of the proceedings. Court stenographers understand that a breach of confidentiality may spell disaster for their case and for the court reporting industry, as a whole.
This is why as a paralegal; you should feel confident in the fact that your court reporter will maintain the highest level of integrity with the information that you entrust to him. Indeed, depending on the circumstances, there may be times when court reporters come in contact with information that may be struck from the record, which further necessitates the need for confidentiality.
Impartiality in the Court Reporting Profession
The bulk of what you do, as a paralegal, involves carrying out various tasks for your clients to improve the firm’s odds of winning the case. As such, it isn’t your responsibility to present the case of the opposing party or to be neutral in your proceedings. However, the same does not hold true for court reporters. This means that even though the court reporter was hired by your firm, her position calls for neutrality in all proceedings and does not allow her to say or do anything that could imply bias.
Furthermore, court reporters are trained to avoid expressing their opinion, as it relates to any case that they may be involved in. In essence, your court reporter’s role is to record and deliver a written transcript of the information – as presented – with the highest level of impartiality.
Court Reporters and Accuracy
The very nature of a court reporter’s job requires accuracy. So you should always expect your court reporter to display a firm commitment to accuracy, when delivering transcribing trials, testimonies or other proceedings. Likewise, inaccurate transcripts can prove damaging to your case and that of opposing counsel. While court reporters are not perfect and mistakes may happen, from time to time, you should still expect high standards where accuracy is concerned.
High Quality Transcripts
Transcripts represent your court reporter’s output or end product. If you’re working with an experienced court reporter, you should expect to receive a high quality transcript that is not only free of errors but that follows standardized formatting guidelines of the profession. Furthermore, while each state may have their own formatting requirements, your court reporter should be familiar with the standards and apply them to the final transcript.
In summary, a court reporter is a trained professional, whose role in legal proceedings is highly valuable to you and other members of the legal community. Accordingly, your court reporter should always strive to meet your expectations, which will ultimately lead to smoother trials, depositions, testimonies and other legal proceedings.