In a world where human labor is consistently being replaced by automated machines, one occupation has been deemed safe from further computerized replacements: court reporting.
It hasn’t always been this way. In the 1990s, budget cuts led to mass layoffs, and court reporters were quickly being replaced by electronic recording devices, according to the New York Daily News. However, court administrators began to learn the hard way that recording devices just couldn’t hold a candle to the accuracy of human stenographers.
“There have been many, many instances in the past when recordings have failed, the machinery didn’t work, or it just wasn’t turned on due to human error,” said Eric Allen, president of the Association of Supreme Court Reporters. “It’s not really cost effective then because you have to do the whole proceeding over again.”
Allen also noted that outsourcing didn’t quite fit the bill, either. Even though a company can save an average of 60% in operations costs with an outsourced individual, it just isn’t right for every situation.
“If you don’t have that human interaction, it can be hard to tell who is speaking, it can be impossible to decipher legalese … It’s just not that easy,” he said. “Right here in the city, the Surrogate’s Court put in recording devices years ago, for budgetary issues, but now whenever there’s a really important case, we get a call. ‘Can you please come cover this trial, we need a live court reporter.'”
That’s one of the fundamental reasons why employment of court reporters is projected to grow 10% from 2012 to 2022. Still, the New York Career Institute, which was the last school in Manhattan with a court reporting program, shut down for good. Luckily, the students who were in the middle of the program will be able to continue at Plaza College in Queens.
“I was really relieved when I found out I could continue,” said Angela Fontana, a court reporting student in her second semester.
While commutes will certainly be tougher, the payoff will be well worth it. Officials say that court reporting graduates can easily find employment right out of school.
“We get calls all the time from agencies who need accredited court reporters for depositions, grand juries, pre-trial meetings, all kinds of things,” said Karen Santucci, court reporting professor at Queens College.
Clearly, the demand for court reporting won’t disappear anytime soon. But be warned — it’s not easy work. Students must be able to type 225 wpm with 95% accuracy to qualify for employment. An 18-year-old court reporting student, Floriana Krifca from Staten Island, is awaiting the day she’ll graduate with her Associates of Occupational Studies in Court Reporting.
“It’s a lot of practicing, a lot of repetition and studying. But if you like it, it’s worth it,” she said.