If you’re a lawyer, you already know why having a court reporter is necessary. If it wasn’t drilled into your head during Trial Advocacy, it almost certainly was when you started your first internship or post-Bar job. Court reporting is an important part of any litigation—there’s no substitute for an accurate written record.
When you’re a client, however, you might not understand why lawyers insist on having court reporters present at depositions as well as hearings and trials. Here’s an overview of why you need a court reporter.
Why you need a court reporter
Throughout the litigation process, whether civil or criminal, preserving evidence is paramount. Court reporters provide a written record of every spoken proceeding, whether that’s a motion to dismiss or a preliminary hearing.
The written record preserves witness testimony, but it also can prove what judges, lawyers and other courtroom staff said during proceedings. This is especially important when you need to make an appeal. Since appellate courts don’t conduct their own trial, they rely entirely on the trial record. The written record is crucial to proving errors in law or fact.
Of course, the record can also be used at trial. When a lawyer cross-examines a witness, they may need to impeach the witness’s credibility. This means that if the witness gives a conflicting answer to something they answered on the record before, the attorney can pull up that written record. They’ll read the testimony back to the witness and ask which version of their story is true. This can be an effective technique to damage credibility—and is often the closest you’ll get to a Law & Order moment in real life.
Services court reporters provide
You’re probably familiar with how court reporters provide the written record: they have specialized keyboards with phonetic sounds. By pressing a combination of these keys, they can create all the words in the English language, and then some.
The special keyboard allows them to type at over 250 words per minute—about how quickly the average person can talk. However, that’s not the only service they provide. Some court reporters provide real-time transcription services. Attorneys, the judge and their clerk can follow the written record as it’s being typed—which makes it very easy to review if a witness changes their story mid-testimony.
Some court reporting firms transcribe recordings, too. This allows lawyers to retain written records of informal proceedings, or proceedings in which they were unable to get a court reporter.
Finally, court reporters may provide translation services for pre-transcribed records. In court proceedings, there is usually a court-appointed translator who translates for the witness and parties when necessary. Otherwise, lawyers must find their own transcriptionist and translator.
In short, court reporters are some of the most valuable people in the courtroom—and are likely to use highly sophisticated recording equipment. If you’re interested in getting your own recording equipment and transcription software for your court reporting operation, get in touch with Efficiency, Inc. today to learn more about your options.