To understand the importance of information when scheduling depositions today, we have to go back to August of 2013. That was the first public evidence that a court reporter shortage was starting to rear its ugly head. The Augusta Chronicle cited a shortage of court reporters as the reason two court days were suddenly canceled. The State could not provide a required court reporter, and the County Clerk reported that this was not the first time it had happened.
South Carolina has been pulling court reporters from the freelance arena into state courtrooms at a steady pace since 2013 when it had 22 vacancies, partially fueled by the addition of circuit and family court judges to the bench. In 2014, NBC reported the National Court Reporters Association had predicted that within five years there would be 5,500 job openings in the court-reporting field across the country.
What has caused the current shortage here is South Carolina now that we’re almost entering 2018? Part of the reason is the median age for a working court reporter is 51 years old compared to the median age of 42 years old for all occupations. Court reporters are retiring at a higher rate than new reporters are entering the field.
Another reason is there is a smaller pool of talented professionals. As a general rule, reporters who are new in the industry cannot produce as many pages within a given time frame as a seasoned professional. Older court reporters are winding down their careers and are not wanting to write as many pages as they once may have.
Court reporting is not a lost art. The court reporters’ tools may be changing, but the skills of preparing a usable, accessible, sometimes immediate transcript are still much needed in the legal, broadcast, and public sectors. Consider recommending young people investigate a court reporting career. It’s a rewarding and interesting choice.
So with that background, we tackle these two questions when you’re scheduling depositions.
The length of deposition information is for planning purposes. We never want a lawyer to feel rushed or pressured to finish a deposition on account of the court reporter. Court reporting firms (and court reporters) prefer to have a freelance court reporter cover only one assignment a day, and that is exactly what happens most of the time. However, just like court administration with its personnel scheduling challenges, court reporter schedulers deal with the unpredictability of the total number of requests for a court reporter on any given workday at any given time during that day.
So occasionally, in our current climate, there are times when it’s necessary to look at different ways to cover all of the requests. In those situations, communication is the key to successfully matching assignments up with court reporters.
This is also helpful information, but if you can’t provide that information at the time of booking, be sure to get that information to the scheduler before the day of the deposition if you know you’re going to need it in an expedited manner. Otherwise a regular turnaround delivery is the default by which we are scheduling.
All freelance court reporters are not the same. Some are at the beginning of their career, some have young children or children that play on a traveling sports team, and some reporters just prefer short assignments. Shorter depositions accommodate a multitude of reporting and transcription time constraints and preferences from a court reporter’s perspective.
On the other hand, you have realtime court reporters and other court-reporting professionals who prefer all-day, expedited transcripts. They favor the challenge of streaming accurate text or hitting tight turnarounds to generate higher yearly incomes.
Add to the scheduling mix freelance court reporters’ vacation schedules, doctors’ appointments, and other engagements that have to be coordinated with turnaround times.
With the help of our clients, both attorneys and their legal support staff, the court reporting firm can match the right court reporter with the appropriate assignment when you’re scheduling depositions. That successful match will result in the appropriate professional providing you with an accurate transcript within your required delivery time.