Elevator Pitches –Contributed by Liz Harvey, Lin Riffle, and Lisa Migliore Black

Why don’t you just record things? 

Because it still has to be transcribed later by someone, and that process is inefficient and less secure.  Even with advances in technology, it still takes four or more transcriptionists to do the same work as one stenographer can do in the same time frame.  And when recordings are sent to multiple transcriptionists, who may be located anywhere in the world, the chances of errors increase.  More importantly, the security of your client's private and confidential information could be compromised.  We always use good technology to make our jobs better and easier, but just recording things is old technology and a step backwards, not forwards.

Aren’t you worried you’ll be out of a job? 

Not at all.  Court reporters are early adopters of technology.   Our writers are fully computerized.  We have sophisticated software that utilizes the latest technology to instantly translate what we write into a readable transcript that requires minimal editing later.  While there are many advances in technology, no other system is even close to being able to replicate what we do.  Problems with overlapping speech, dialects and accents and speech patterns and noisy environments cause unacceptably high error rates in recording systems, even utilizing the latest voice recognition.  Have you ever watched TV captioning that lags behind, misses entire exchanges, or contains nonsense?  That's AI translation.  When you see high quality captions, you're seeing a trained and skilled stenographer at work. 

Oh, you do it the old-fashioned way still?

There's nothing old-fashioned about what we do.  Our writers are fully computerized.  We have software that enhances our skills to provide an instantaneous real-time transcript to anyone in the world, with higher accuracy rates than any voice recognition system currently in use.  What's old-fashioned is simply recording proceedings and having to transcribe it later.  

Don’t they just record that nowadays?

They’re trying, but they will never replace the human brain.  Have you ever run the closed captions on your TV?  Sometimes they’re really bad?  That’s when AI is doing the translating.  The ones that are really good, make sense, and provide true accessibility to the viewers are done by a human using the same equipment and software as a court stenographer.  If you’re a litigant in a civil suit, a wrongfully accused defendant in a criminal matter, or you have a child custody issue, do you want a computer to “guess” at what is being said with predictive text?  A highly trained professional stenographer that interrupts to clarify the record when necessary, has multiple backups, protects personal information and biometrics, and does a word-for-word review and certifies the final transcript is the better option. 

Wow, they still do it the old-fashioned way?

I have an audio backup that I use as an aid to transcription.  Say a prescription name was said on the record.  I can listen to the audio to help me find the spelling.  What I don’t do is release the audio to anyone or allow it to be sent via an unsecure connection over the Internet.  Think about how some banks use voice recognition to allow you to log in to your account information over the phone.  Your voice is a biometric identifier and something you wouldn’t want to be in the hands of just anybody who could use it in a nefarious manner to hack your account.  Hopefully, laws and regulations will catch up to the technology and hopefully protect us.

When are you all going to come into the Digital Age?

Have been for years.  I’ve been using computer-aided transcription since I started court reporting.  Realtime was a great advancement, allowing instant access to my draft transcript in the court or deposition room and now even remotely.  My stenographic notes are watermarked with the time of creation and other metadata to protect the integrity of the record.   

I’ve heard there’s a shortage of court reporters.

There’s a shortage in a lot of fields:  veterinarians, electricians, the service industry, even transcriptionists.  For years, young adults have been steered toward traditional four-year degrees instead of considering a trade or business college program.  NCRA has a program called A to Z that allows interested individuals, whether high schoolers or adults looking for a new career, to try out steno before they commit to a program.  Most students can graduate in two to three years.  If you’re interested or know someone who is, I can give you some information.

What is digital reporting?

If you’ve encountered digital reporters before, you should be concerned about how and where your transcript is being prepared. 

Digital reporting may sound high tech, but the digital reporter is merely recording and making “tag notes,” not a full record of the proceedings.  Digital reporters cannot keep up with the spoken word, and their tag notes are nothing more than a few words jotted down in haste, riddled with typos.  Attorneys take more useful notes, quite frankly. 

Digital reporting is nothing more than after-the-fact transcription that’s typically not typed up by the person recording it, making it far more likely that testimony will be missed or inaccurate.  Additionally, the digital reporter who recorded the deposition is more than likely fraudulently certifying its accuracy without ever having seen the transcript in final written form.  Essentially, there’s a good chance your transcript is being handled from start to finish by someone with little to no training or experience or true responsibility for the quality of the transcript produced. 

If automated speech recognition is utilized to transcribe the proceedings, that comes with its own set of potential breaches of confidentiality.  There’s the potential for interception as it’s uploaded to the cloud, and because the tech isn’t reliable or accurate enough alone, gig workers across the globe are tasked with transcribing it.  Think of the personal information that most transcripts contain:  name, address, date of birth, Social Security numbers, and names of family members—all things that could be sold on the black market for nefarious purposes.  Couple that with the biometric data that is contained in a video or audio file, and you have all the ingredients needed to create a recipe for disaster in terms of identity theft.  ASR also had well-documented gender, race, and age discrimination built into it because of the data used to build its algorithms. 

Speech recognition will continue to develop, but it’s simply not an experiment you should be willing to take with your case.

The Truth About Digital

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2021 Texas Attorney General Opinion l DM-0308 Deposition upon oral examination must be taken by certified shorthand reporter despite rule of civil procedure authorizing another person to take|Conflict with statute, rule of civil procedure must yield

Los Angeles Daily Journal l "Make Sure Your Court Reporter Is Really A Court Reporter"

Illinois Court Reporters Association & NCRA Defeat Attempt To Repeal Court Reporter Licensure