​ Old School or AI? A Guide to Court Reporter Supplies and Equipment Options

5th Jan 2021

​ Old School or AI? A Guide to Court Reporter Supplies and Equipment Options

A Guide to Court Reporter Supplies and Equipment Options

Whether you're just starting your career as a court reporter or have been one for quite some time, check out this list of court reporter supplies and equipment.

After slaving away at your resume and job application for weeks on end, you've finally reaped the fruits of your labor: you've got a job as a court reporter!

However, there's still one hurdle you need to overcome, and that's securing the proper equipment. But what gear do you need to be a court stenographer, and what choices do you have?

Well, that's where we come in. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or new to the team, it's time to take a look at our list of all the court reporter supplies and equipment you need to succeed!

But enough preamble! Let's get into this thing.

The Gold Standard of Court Reporter Supplies

One of the (if not the) most important supplies you'll need as a court reporter is a stenograph machine. The machine acts like a typewriter but has special keys to spell the phonetic sounds of the words getting transcribed rather than the full spelling. Otherwise, a reporter would have to type every word anyone in the room said, which could easily lead to them falling behind and missing details.

It's also important to note that there are three main types of stenograph machines. The first kind prints the typing onto paper, either through a manual approach (like old-school typewriters) or through a computer printer.

For those looking for the classic approach, models like the StenoRam II or the Stentura 200 are great choices. The Stentura 200SRT (or 400SRT) are solid picks for a more updated approach.

If you want to go all-digital, machines like the Wave or Stentura 8000LX give you a screen to see a digital readout of the notes you type. Finally, there are special CAT stenograph machines that ditch the readout for a more compact design and get used in tandem with CAT (computer-assisted translation) software.

While these machines are state-of-the-art, they are difficult to operate and cost more than their compatriots. So for starting out, you'll want to stick to either the manual or digital machine.

Customization Options

Make sure to keep in mind that many stenograph machines are customizable to the individual user to allow ease of use. For example, you can swap key placement or configure the keys to respond to more or less force.

You can also calibrate any digital stenograph machine to a "language" of your choosing if it has a USB port. You design the key on your computer (like a= ??%, b=$#, and so on) and put it on a flash drive. If you then put that flash drive in the stenograph machine, the keys will swap to print your new format.

Office Supplies With a Twist

Another tool you'll need as a court reporter is office supplies to keep your notes secure and organized. Binders are a great way to do this, as well as using plastic tabs to denote different sections of the binder. You can also use special transcript covers to label and protect individual transcripts.

Finally, you can purchase exhibit stamps to help differentiate the pieces of the individual transcript by each piece of evidence shown at the trial.

Audiovisual Gear

For some reporters, it's easier to record the court with audiovisual devices rather than typing it all down. While video recording is an option, some higher-level federal and state courts place limitations on it to the point of being non-viable.

Thus, audio recording is a safer option. To get a full recording, you'll need to place mics around the courtroom to record different points of where the sound is coming from. To do this you'll need a mic with a focus on a specific point: getting a general mic will result in background noise bleeding through and ruining the integrity of the sound.

When this happens, you'll want to use a dynamic microphone over a condenser mic. While both will work, dynamic mics are more resistant to loud noises and won't spike or distort if there's a sudden outburst by a witness in the court case you're recording (for example). Condenser mics, on the other hand, are more sensitive and don't handle loud, spread-out sounds well.

Another option to try is a stenomask. This mask fits tightly over your mouth to block out extra sound with a small microphone installed inside. While you would have to hold up the mask yourself, some variants come with straps so you can use your hands.

You can repeat everything that's said into the recorder to get a voice-made transcript of the events. It's more in-the-moment work than audio or video recordings, but it comes cheaper than rigging the whole court with mics. Some good choices of a mask to use are the Steno SR Pro and Dragon Stenomask.

Rise of the A.I

As A.I technology continues to improve, court reporters have started using a type of speech-to-text software to transcribe court cases. While the speech-to-text in and of itself is not A.I, the program learns phrases over time and will improve its output and vocabulary with each use. The programs also come with various templates you can customize, allowing the software to tailor itself to your wish.

This development also unnerves some court reporters, as this software operates without any human oversight, effectively reducing the need for their job (though many companies do hire human readers to double-check the A.I's work). The use of A.I systems also makes lower to non-existent operating costs, meaning the courts save money not having anyone in the room.

However, you can use this technology in tandem with other methods to ensure you get the best report of the case possible.

Order in the Court

And there you have it! Now that you have this guide to court reporter supplies and equipment, you're all set to get out there and start your new career in court reporting (or give your current court reporter job some fresh life)! And to make sure you stay up-to-date on all the supplies you need to jot those cases down, feel free to contact us and let us know what we can do to help!