The Difference Between a Court Reporter and a Machine

For a number of years, court reporters have proven to be an invaluable component to the courtroom. Not only can a court reporter provide an attorney with essential documentation of proceedings, they are precise and free from bias when they do so. Unfortunately, with advancements in technology, a number of courtrooms across the country have turned to alternative forms of technology for transcriptions. Although this has been a more cost effective option for courtroom budgets, there are a number of differences when it comes to forgoing the services of a court reporter.


The Accuracy of a Court Reporter

The presence of a court reporter in the courtroom is vital to obtaining transcription from legal proceedings that is accurate and timely. Court reporting can take on a variety of forms. The most popular way in which a court reporter may transcribe is through the use of a computer-aided transcription (CAT). CAT allows for a court reporter to produce a transcript as events unfold. Other alternatives may include the use of the stenomask, a mask in which a court reporter speaks into to capture legal proceedings. Primarily using technology may be less reliable than a court reporter. Technology can be complicated and may even fail when it’s most needed. Court reporters are trained to provide timely and accurate transcripts that are free from biases.    



In more recent years, the use of alternative technology to record and transcribe documents has been utilized in a number of areas throughout the country. The idea of replacing court reporters with audio and video technology is to implement a cost effective strategy to courtrooms with budgets that are incapable of supporting the salary of a court reporter. As this type of technology moves more the forefront of transcription, it is widely believed that the court reporter will take on the responsibility of operating the technology.


Disadvantages to Technology

Despite the draw for courtrooms to save money through the use of machines and advancements in technology, there are a number of complications that could ensue. Although it is widely believed that technology is a more cost effective way of producing transcripts, in the long run, there may be a number of hidden costs.

  • Some courtrooms are using audio video as a way of capturing record of courtroom proceedings. It is relatively inexpensive to make a copy of a video recording, however, reviewing an entire legal proceeding on a DVD may take hours of an attorneys time. When a transcript from a court reporter is produced, an attorney may be able to read through the information in a relatively timely manner.
  • Some court reporters are able to provide a transcript in “real time” meaning a transcript can be accessed almost immediately. In some cases, a transcript may even be able to be accessed as it is produced and from remote locations. For example, an attorney or interested party may be able to read the transcript remotely as proceedings are happening.
  • A recording device will have a difficult time deciphering body language and nuances to someone speaking. It may even pick up background noise such as a foot tapping, heels clicking or side conversations.

Although for some courtrooms, technology may seem like a cost effect option, court reporters still provide essential services to the courtroom. In a number of situations, it’s likely that courtrooms will incorporate both court reporters and technological advancements as complementary services to each other.


San Francisco court reporters are a necessary part of the legal process as they are able to produce accurate transcripts free from bias in a timely manner. Speak with your attorney today regarding how a court reporter’s services may be helpful the next time you must endure a legal process.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at Veritext Legal Solutions for their insight into court reporting and the difference between a court reporter and a machine.