Last updated: July 13, 2022
As a lawyer or someone involved in practicing the law, knowing the difference between court reporting and legal transcription can help you greatly, as they can be pretty similar in many ways. This is especially when you need to know where to get your legal transcripts from to help you in your next case.
To help you distinguish between the two and know which one to rely on, here are four main differences you should consider:
1. What is being transcribed
As the name suggests, court reporting covers all the dialogue done in a court setting. A court reporter or stenographer transcribes case trials, or whenever the judge is involved, and is done primarily for recordkeeping purposes.
Legal transcription services cover various legal facets, including:
- Case trials
- 9/11 calls
- Legal meetings
Both court reporters and legal transcriptionists can do court reporting transcription.
2. Who is the one transcribing
With court reporting, the transcriptionist is a certified professional with the following qualifications:
- Completed education approved by the National Court Reporters Association, usually in the form of an associate degree or a postsecondary certificate from a community college or technical school
- State-mandated licenses, acquired by passing the corresponding exams
- Certifications to prove competence
A legal transcriptionist represents the transcription service being availed. They’re typically anyone who’s experienced in transcribing. Though not necessarily state-certified like stenographers, they’re trained specifically to transcribe legal documents, hearings, and depositions to assist lawyers, law firms, or even private individuals looking to get transcriptions of their own cases
3. How is it transcribed
Because the transcription is for recordkeeping purposes, court reporters transcribe every single detail in trial deliberations. Transcripts are written in full without additional notes. Court reporters do this with a device called a “stenotype,” which is a special keyboard designed to form letter combinations rather than individual letters like the typical desktop keyboard. They usually follow a standard format in their transcripts.
Legal transcriptionists tend to use a regular keyboard to transcribe deliberations. However, unlike court reporters, they can put additional notes or focus on certain details for quicker reference by lawyers. This flexibility makes them very helpful to legal practitioners.
4. How you get the transcript
To get court transcripts by reporters, you have to go through a process that may involve:
- Requesting access to the court transcript
- Asking permission from the parties involved
- Specifying why you need the transcript
Since legal transcriptionists tend to be hired directly by lawyers or law firms, the transcripts are readily accessible to them.
In both cases, however, it’s important to consider that the transcription must be  done in accordance with the law and  agreed upon by all the parties involved. Some states in the US prohibit unofficial audio and video recordings in court, for instance, so you’ll have to be extra careful when planning to get a transcription.
5. What you can do with the transcript
Lawyers and law firms have a lot of uses and benefits for legal transcripts, whether it’s from a court reporter or from a third-party legal transcriptionist. These include:
- Establishing a strong case
- Focusing on details or nuances
- Finding a mistake in the opponent’s arguments
- Discovering a loophole in a witness’ testimony
- Creating legal documentation for private recordkeeping
- Training fellow lawyers in a firm with similar cases
Some lawyers may find court report transcripts more helpful if they want a full picture of the trial deliberations. They can get complete information from a court report that’s made professionally and impartially.
On the other hand, some lawyers or private individuals will benefit from third-party legal transcriptionists for their flexibility. Besides being able to highlight important details, legal transcriptionists can be flexible to the needs of the lawyers when it comes to formatting or filtering unnecessary items.
Learning the differences between a court reporter and a third-party legal transcriptionist is vital especially if you need to know where to get your legal transcripts. If you choose to go with the latter, be sure that your legal transcription service of choice is up to the task.