What to Expect From Your Court Reporter

January 07th, 2019

They say that disappointment occurs when reality fails to meet one's expectations. As court reporters, fully meeting each client's expectations is a high priority and an area in which we're practically perfect. Sometimes, though, attorneys make requests or seem to have expectations that either aren't in line with our Code of Ethics or the laws of nature.

What should attorneys reasonably expect from their court reporter?

1. Professionalism. These days, it seems that expecting professional and dignified behavior in the workplace is an antiquated notion. As court reporters, we reject that notion. We believe that professionalism goes beyond ensuring that we have courteous, dignified interactions with every attorney and witness we encounter. A true professional court reporter keeps abreast of changes in the profession, keeps their skills sharp, and is constantly looking for ways to innovate and provide more value to their clients. If what you receive from your court reporter in terms of services hasn't changed in 10 or 15 years, it might be time to find a different court reporter.

At a bare minimum, attorneys should expect their court reporter to dress and act professionally and to provide an accurate, verbatim transcript of the proceedings, delivered on time.

2. Attention to Detail.It is helpful for attorneys to provide court reporters with copies of motions filed in the case from which they can gather the proper spelling of names, places, and technical terminology, or to ask the witness to spell out names during the deposition. Regardless, it is the court reporter's duty to ensure they have the proper spellings even if that means scouring exhibits, searching online, asking the attorneys or witness during a break, or even calling the attorney or witness after the deposition (which is very rare, but has happened).

3. Commitment to Ethics. All court reporters are bound by a Code of Ethics promulgated by their professional association*. Court reporters in many states are legally bound to a Code of Professional Standards set out by a state licensing board.

Professional codes vary slightly by jurisdiction but all require court reporters to: maintain impartiality and avoid the appearance of partiality, disclose potential conflicts of interest to all parties, maintain confidentiality of the proceedings (including what is contained in exhibits), and prepare an accurate, verbatim transcript of the proceedings in a timely manner.

There are a few things attorneys shouldn't expect, such as:

1. Bias for or against a particular attorney or litigant. Above all else, court reporters must be impartial guardians of the record. As part of treating all parties equally, court reporters shouldn't offer special services to one side and not the other. They shouldn't speak poorly of any witness or attorney they encounter. They shouldn't appear to be chummy with one side or another, especially in a courtroom situation.

2. An assessment of the case. Court reporters should not offer an assessment of your case or the opposition's case or the witness' performance and are placed in an awkward situation when attorneys ask. Most court reporters have developed diplomatic answers to those questions, though, as a survival mechanism.

3. The ability to do 10 things at once. We can easily do two or three things at once (and do at every deposition or court hearing). Some attorneys, however, expect that the court reporter can just have a "working lunch" with them. We have yet to find a court reporter who can use one hand to put a sandwich in her mouth while using the other hand to keep up with an attorney and witness who are speaking between 150 and 200 words a minute, take notes on spellings, mark exhibits, and do readbacks.

4. Magic. We understand that sometimes attorneys have tunnel vision while they're in a deposition, especially if it's a late-night deposition with a trial looming, and can make requests that defy the laws of nature without realizing it. Unfortunately, court reporters cannot bend the time-space continuum... yet.

For example, if an all-day deposition is taken in a remote location and ends late at night, it is probably not humanly possible for the attorney to receive a final, certified transcript on their desk the next morning unless they've arranged for an overnight expedite ahead of time. If the reporter knows ahead of time they will be prepared to upload audio and data files to the office at each break so the office staff can start production work. If the attorney waits until the end of the deposition the reporter will have to either stay at the location, likely for hours, while audio and data files upload, or make the trek home and then do the upload. It's also possible that the reporter will be unable to reach anyone from the office, if it's late at night, to alert them to the expedite status. (Yes, this has happened to us.)

At Legal Media Experts we are dedicated to providing professional, accurate, and timely service to our clients, and to fulfilling every special request humanly possible. To schedule your next  deposition, use our online tool or call 800-446-1387.


*There are three national court reporting associations (National Verbatim Reporters Association, National Court Reporters Association, and American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers), each of which has its own Code of Ethics.