How Is Court Reporting Changing Due To The Advent Of Digital Recording Systems And Automation?

Court Reporting Changing

May 21st, 2018   |   Updated on February 1st, 2019

Anywhere you look, you will be able to see artificial intelligence and machine learning replacing human labor. The perfection of voice-to-text software and transcription automation systems is posing a constant threat to the court reporting jobs. There is always the possibility that law firms and attorneys will forego human reporters for machines.

Massachusetts has already discontinued the position of the official court reporter, and this change will be effective on June 30, 2018. The state has replaced a conventional court reporter post with a freelance court reporter or a court monitor, who will be overseeing the electronic recording during the proceedings.

Although it is one state out of the fifty that has discontinued the position of stenographers, it is a looming fear that others might follow suit.

Exactly why do the leading court reporting and legislation support firms still emphasize on providing human talent to the lawyers and attorney firms in the era of global digitization?

How real is the fear of replacing the conventional court reporters with AI? Is the future of a completely digitized transcription system near us? How will the rise of freelance court reporters affect the finances of the litigation services all across the US?

Are The Electronic Automated Transcription Systems Perfect For Courtroom Setups?

Just like self-driving cars and self-service kiosks at malls, the automated electronic recording systems are still in the trial phases. The system faces more glitches than you are possibly ready to believe.

There are several cases of missing testimonies and continuity errors. There has been more than one case of machines turning off during court proceedings due to internal faults.

Machines are more likely to miss portions of proceedings where the speech is unclear due to low volume or due to background noise.

During these times the machine is likely to flash disrupting messages like “Low audio” or “Background Noise” instead of capturing the conversations. This can create significant continuity problems.

Human court reporters or stenotype operators are more likely to clarify their doubts after the proceedings and record the details by making small adjustments, instead of skipping the entire portion of proceedings.

Human intervention plays a very important role in everyday courtroom trial transcription. This is something that court cannot do without. Real-time transcription allows immediate changes in the transcript and corrections.

The attorney or the judge can ask them to pause and read a section back for clarifications. In case of audio or video recordings, there are high chances of losing the data from the interim period upon sudden pausing.


What Are The Special Skills Court Reporters Bring To The Table?

A court reporter in flesh and blood makes a lot of difference in a courtroom setup. A human being is capable of interacting with the other parties.

They can assist the attorneys and the judges upon demand. People do not have to learn special commands and run extensive searches for the reiteration of a particular section of the testimony.

Court reporters are ubiquitous to the courtroom, but that is not the only place they find themselves indispensable. They have several responsibilities that extend beyond the seat of a stenotype –

  • Preparing transcripts, checking the accuracy of transcripts and filing them with the county clerk.

  • Providing necessary support to the court management and administrative departments.

  • They are qualified to administer witness oats in certain counties and states.

  • Transferring the stenographic files and performing other clerical duties.

  • Coordinating meeting between legal authorities, scheduling trials, maintaining the court calendar for the judge or for the court.

  • Several courts need them to answer calls, perform administrative tasks and maintain the law library as well.

These are a few responsibilities we do not see AI meeting anytime soon. Machines still need a long time to perfect their transcription processes.

Adding a complex set of interconnected tasks such as these will require uncountable rounds of programming, troubleshooting, and optimization before we can expect automation to take over legislative services completely.

Court reporters are not superhuman, but the best ones have refined set of skills that make them irreplaceable. Check out the NAEGELI court reporting services to know more about the responsibilities of a good stenotype operator cum reporter.

The technology currently available for replacing stenographers is unreliable and at its beta-stage at best. These responsibilities and the need for accurate transcription of court proceedings make up the top reasons the courts still require on-site reporters.

Is Automation Of Court Recording Making The Process More Cost-effective?

Technology should only replace human talent and human labor when it provides a smart way to cut costs. However, does replacing court reporters with audio recording units, video recording devices and automated transcription options actually help in saving legislation service expenses?

  • The present generation of audio capturing technology is not superior enough to record the voices of the witness, defendant, lawyers and judges over the background clamor. They require high-end noise cancellation microphones that can cancel out noises of ruffling papers, scraping desks and people coughing in the background. Instances have shown that repetitive noises like a person tapping their pen near the microphone can create enough disturbances to distort the sound of the recorded voices. This can even render most of the testimony inaudible.
  • Each proceeding still requires a written version of the transcript. Audio to text transcriptions can take a lot more time than a translation of stenotype notes. When someone has to do it from the recordings, there are more chances of incorporating mistakes in the written form if the quality of the audio recording is not high enough. There is little opportunity to correct these errors or verify the text transcription once the session has dissolved. The cost of hiring freelance transcriptionists to work on session audio recordings is a lot more than hiring court reporters to work on their stenotype notes in court.
  • Every technology requires certain hardware and software setups. Research into the aforementioned matter has shown that the cost of putting the new automated recording devices in place can cost significantly more than hiring the best and most experienced teams of court reporters to transcribe your proceedings.

Sadly, there are not many instances where an automated recording of court proceedings have proven to be more cost-effective than real reporters. In fact, the increasing instances of errors in the transcription process have cost the clients money and repute.

What Is A Practical Solution?

Coexistence of technology and human talent has been driving the skyrocketing success of multiple conglomerates and organizations.

Hundreds of food delivery companies, transport companies, communication agencies and even marketing companies are currently raking in over 90% of their profits from the human intervention of automation.

Keeping human skill and modern technology in silos has rarely been fruitful for anyone. There is no reason the states should not consider introducing new software or machinery, but relying on automation right now to replace human beings completely can be a bit premature.

The modern court reporter needs some time to adapt to the changing scenarios and acquire the necessary skills to master the new devices.

Larger corporations that utilize litigation services and court reporting services during their board meetings are not yet ready to automate the process.

Automation demands secure data storage. This creates a new necessity of database management costs for the sole purpose of storing transcription data. This increases company data leak risks.

Manual data transcription is still more reliable than encryption of digital files and in the current scenario of malware and ransomware breaches.

Therefore, conglomerates and smaller organizations still prefer hiring court reporter services for their daily transcription needs.

Court reporters have special training and experience that makes them highly suitable for handling a complex set of responsibilities that machine learning can never substitute.

They have the skill set to filter their notes through processors and provide their clients with understandable case dictations. The reputable legislation service providers in the country offer both traditional stenotype services and computer software-mediated translation services that translate the shorthand to English almost instantaneously.

This bypasses all the concern about the alleged incompetence of reporters or the error-prone nature of the automated systems. It reduces the costs and harassment involved with erroneous recording. It is a perfect balance of both that creates almost 100% accurate transcriptions from a day’s proceedings.

What Is The Consensus About Court Reporter Requirement And Replacement?

Here are a few things we have noticed about automated court recordings so far –

  1. They are unpredictable

  2. They can be prone to error

  3. Only a few operators have the knowledge to maintain the setup

  4. The setups are not user-friendly

  5. The machinery does not cut costs of operations

  6. Recording process faces several glitches.

Attorneys do use recording devices right now, but along with court stenographers. This increases the accuracy of the case transcript. There is not enough number of reasons for the court or for the states to think about replacing human court reporters just yet.