Much like Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun, court reporters definitely feel the need for speed. Our attorneys and their clients, too, as well as those involved in every case and deposition, are also preoccupied with our pace. We don’t mind. We realize that we’re the ones responsible for keeping the record of all judicial proceedings; real time, real fast is crucial.

New reporters often ask us for tips on balancing between fast and accurate, thinking that one is more important to focus on than the other. In reality, both are paramount to a court reporter’s success.

Interested in a few tips from seasoned court reporters to practically guarantee accuracy? Here you go:

  1. Commit to a system. Your goal may be to become a rapid-fire, precision-driven reporter, but that’s not enough. It’s more important to pay attention to the system you need to employ in order to reach your goal. Is it continuing education? A subscription to a steno club?
  2. Practice makes perfect. As a court reporter, practicing your skills through speed tests is not only essential during training, but also essential to keep up long after graduation. Work on high-speed dictation and practice shortening your writing by learning word and phrase briefs. Just ten to twenty minutes every morning, and you’ll find yourself arriving g to a deposition already warmed up and ready for anything the day throws at you.
  3. Give yourself enough time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a flawless career path. There’s complex terminology, formatting issues, and always more grammar and punctuation rules to learn. Be patient with yourself. On a related note, try not to over schedule yourself. Rushing to meet impossible expectations will probably result in avoidable mistakes and missed deadlines.
  4. Learn from your inaccuracy. Mistakes are proof that you’re trying, but repeated mistakes are evidence that you’re not trying hard enough to self-correct.
  5. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Proofread while you’re transcribing, once more during breaks, and a final time before the work is prepped and delivered to the client. Pay particular attention to those areas where you struggled in the past; pretty soon, with continued diligence, you won’t be struggling!

As a court reporter, you’re expected to excel under pressure and retain sharp focus for long hours at a time, but you’re also expected to deliver a perfect recounting of the legal proceedings. There is so much in the court reporting arena that is unpredictable. Your accuracy should never be one of them.