If you’ve noticed scheduling a court reporter for a deposition is getting more difficult, we hate to be the ones to inform you that it’s only going to get worse. If you haven’t experienced this, we still hate to be the ones to tell you that it’s only a matter of time. It’s not all bad news though if you have the right court reporting firm bookmarked or on speed dial.

The long-predicted, nation-wide shortage of court reporters is here. Ducker Worldwide sounded the alarm in 2013 when they conducted a study on court reporting, the field’s issues and what the future looked like if conditions found at the time didn’t change soon.

Going back 8 years, there already was a large gap between the number of available court reporters and demand for court reporting services. This gap has continued to widen and, for many, is now affecting their ability to find an available reporter, much less in-person and/or on a moment’s notice. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly didn’t help the situation, even with the rise of using (and widespread acceptance) of remote depositions via video technology like Zoom.

Given the current trends and future predictions from organizations like Ducker Worldwide, the legal industry is now (or will very soon if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid it thus far) grappling with a shortage, and it’s not going away.

Why?

There are 920 fewer court reporters entering the field than those retiring from it.

Even back in 2013 when Ducker Worldwide released their findings, 70% of court reporters were over 46 years old. This puts the majority very close to retirement today. Also, there are not enough young professionals entering the field to take retired court reporters’ places. On average the available pool of court reporters is shrinking by 920 each year. It’s a matter of simple supply and demand; there is not enough supply of court reporters to meet the demand for their services.

So, why not “court” young people into the profession?

79,500 fewer students enrolled in court reporting training programs than needed to overcome a shortage.

To address the shortage, 82,000 new students would’ve needed to enroll in court reporting training programs nationwide in 2019 and each year following in order to overcome the deficit. The reality is that approximately 2,500 enrolled in a program. Of those 2,500, only approximately 10% graduate. That averages out to 125 court reporters entering the profession each year.

It is yet to be seen how a remote or hybrid work schedule will affect the decisions of those considering becoming a court reporter (or re-entering the field). Whatever impact, it does mean scheduling an in-person court reporter will be tough.

READ MORE: Survey shows remote depositions are here to stay even as restrictions start to ease

We’ll just use digital reporting instead.

A Certified Electronic Reporter (CER) administers the oath, records the audio, performs readback/playback of testimony and monitors the legal proceeding. It’s similar to a court reporter’s role. However, there are certain functions and nuances that digital reporting cannot do that human court reporters can and will, including interrupting conversations between attorneys, clients, witnesses and other parties to request repeating or clarifying questions and statements. This is key, considering that legal cases are won and lost based on the quality and completeness of a transcript.

There are courthouses and law firms across the United States that are using digital reporting as their sole means of recording hearings and trials, including the Supreme Court of the United States. The problem with relying on digital reporting is that any testimony spoken too fast, illegibly or over others talking may not be captured correctly.

Also, despite how tragic, vile, shocking or mundane a legal proceeding is, reporters must maintain their professionalism and composure as they capture every spoken detail. What they report becomes the official record that judges, counsel, clients, witnesses, other courts, law students and more will reference in future citations, appeals, and even in landmark cases for many years to come. For those reasons, court reporters must be the defenders of an accurate record, recording each word accurately.

Now What?

As the supply gap of available court reporters continues to widen each year, it’s becoming increasingly more important to have a strong relationship with a solid court reporting firm that you can rely on for a wide variety of court reporting services.

The Cooper Group, a Veritext company, has court reporters available remote and in person across the country. We added access to more reporters and video and remote technology when it became clear that a shortage was imminent.

There is no substitute for experienced court reporters with traditional work values, a sense of professionalism and ethics and a firm grasp on new technology. Though The Cooper Group is based in Kansas City, we work with clients wherever they need us across the U.S., offering state-of-the-art conference rooms, highly skilled reporters and videographers, advanced technology, remote services, unparalleled client service and on-time delivery. And, more importantly, we’re there when you need us.

Have a deposition looming? Schedule your court reporter today.

The Cooper Group Court Reporting & Videography