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The Huseby Journal

6 Reasons Why Technology Will Never Replace Court Reporters

For the past decade, possibly even longer, there has been a lot of chatter regarding whether or not court reporters will be replaced by voice recording technology. Your initial reaction may be to believe the chatter… we do live in a time where you can ask your phone for directions, there are vacuums that clean all on their own, and it looks like pretty soon cars will be driving themselves. Technology continues to improve and add to the convenience of many daily tasks and in some instances, it has been known to replace human jobs, but that doesn’t mean that it can take over all human jobs. Court reporting is one job that technology will not be replacing any time soon.

1.     Real-time. The legal profession is a sensitive one, and even more so than with other professions, time = money. Not only do court reporters produce accurate transcripts in a timely manner after a deposition, but they serve an important function during the deposition as well – with real-time. Real-time allows you to have instant access to a live transcript feed as it is being taken down by the court reporter. You have the ability to keyword-search the transcript, mark key sections for later reference, highlight and issue code text, and make notes, all while the deposition is still happening. Real-time feed can also be accessed remotely, saving time and money for people who choose to stream from a separate location. This is not something that would be possible with a voice recording system.

2.     Accuracy and reliability. As high-tech as voice recognition has become, it still cannot compete with the accuracy and reliability of a professional court reporter. Voice recognition cannot distinguish between multiple speakers, it cannot understand different heavy accents, cut out background noise, detect emotions, stop for clarification, prevent multiple people from speaking at the same time, clarify technical terms, go back and read a portion of the notes when requested, or figure out what people are saying over laughing or crying. Mistakes that a technological voice recognition system may cause in the court room could be detrimental to a party or parties of the legal system. Wasting time is wasting money. After all of the effort that goes into procuring the testimony, the last thing that either party wants is a mistrial due to technological difficulties or mistakes.

3.     Off-the-record attorney-client exchanges. Digital voice recording is not able to block out attorney-client exchanges like a live court reporter is. Because of this, there have been occurrences where digital recordings have recorded attorney/client conversations and made privileged information official record. This is unacceptable when procuring a testimony.

4.     Technological voice recording would cost more in the long run. Many are under the impression that technological voice recording would cost less than hiring a court reporter to do the same job, but that is not the case. After the initial purchase of the recording system, which may cost around $2,000, you then have to pay for it to be hardwired, which could cost around $20,000, and network upgrades to store the large digital files could cost up to $50,000. In addition to these costs, the recording system would require human management by someone that understands technology, such as an IT professional, who would handle any issues that arise. Court reporters are paid per case, per transcript, and according to national reports – this is much less than the cost of digital recording.

5.     Extra benefits offered by court reporters. Court reporters provide many added benefits throughout and following the trial. They can provide daily copy for parties involved in complicated trials, ensuring that a rough draft is available immediately following the day’s proceedings. They can provide either a printed or electronic version of the transcript, instantly, according to preference. You don’t get these conveniences with digital voice recording.

6.     Different transcribers. Transcripts produced by voice recording would likely be prepared by different transcribers. This could result in conflicting interpretations of the proceeding, due to variations in background, education, training, diligence, and other individual factors.

Maybe now you are realizing that the chatter regarding the replacement of court reporters is greatly unsupported. There is no substitute for the presence of a live court reporter, just like there is no substitute for the presence of a live police force. Technology, however, has helped the court reporting world progress. Without technology we would not have the sophisticated real-time services that we have today, enabling attorneys to view and take note of the transcript as it is being taken down. Court reporting is an invaluable public service that will be around for many years to come. Until we have robots ruling the world, court reporting will still be a viable career path.