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Your First Six Months

An essay by one of Reportex's newest reporters

I have been working as a court reporter for six months now. I have learned a lot since joining the work force, and I hope my not-too-long-ago status as a court reporting student will help me impart some of this to you.

I studied court reporting online. "Isolating" is the word that comes to mind. If you have the luxury of attending classes, count yourself lucky. If not, know that once you start your working life you can expect to benefit from the collective hundreds of years of court reporting experience your colleagues have under their belts. Court reporters are some of the most helpful colleagues I have ever worked with. The end of school will mean the beginning of a whole new kind of learning.

Despite the fact that probably 90 to 95 percent of my time in school was spent practising and building speed, speed and accuracy I have found are not actually the most important predictors of success. When I left school, I was convinced my writing was terrible and was not sure how I would actually fill that lofty steno chair as the official court reporter. It's true my writing has a long way to go, but it's never as bad as I think and it's always getting better. If you're worried about the quality of your writing, just remember these helpful tips: one, you're not doing realtime; two, pray for no readback. Actually, I'm kidding about that last one. I think I got a readback request on my second job ever, but I nailed it and it gave me a lot of confidence. Your writing is always better than you think it is, so don't sweat it.

Court reporting is one of the best jobs out there if you are looking for a job that pays a professional salary while allowing you a lot of flexibility with your work hours. One of the things that surprised me was that it's quite common to write only a couple hours in a day. The rest of your time is spent scoping and proofing your work and building your dictionary. Building your dictionary is one of the most important things you can be devoting your time to as a novice court reporter. Sometimes what your theory teaches you doesn't work for you. Sometimes you have that one word that you always misstroke. Adding entries to your dictionary to suit your writing style makes your writing much cleaner. Learn how to make dictionary entries efficiently and do it sooner rather than later.

Before I close out I'm going to put a word in for quality equipment. Court reporting is expensive, but as soon as you can afford to you should put some money into getting yourself what you need to make your job as easy as possible. I used my student machine for about the first three months of work. Then I decided to get a Diamante, and I'm so glad I did. A steno machine to a court reporter is like an instrument to a musician. You should not be afraid to aim for a professional machine that is comfortable for you. You use it so much that your body will thank you for it.