Don’t Wait Until You’ve Lost It…Use Scopists/Proofreaders!


PaulaRichterBy:  Paula Richter – RPR, RMR, CRR

I have been a court reporter for over 20 years.  (I always cringe when an attorney asks me how long I’ve been reporting, as I don’t FEEL that old!)  I love court reporting, and I love being a busy court reporter.  In fact, I start going a little bonkers when it’s slow.   But too much time spent in my home office is not good for me….or likely for anyone!

I used to think being busy all the time, and therefore making more money, would make my life so much easier, and therefore make me more relaxed.  (Don’t most of us think that way at some point in our lives?)   These days, I’m more into working smarter, not harder.   We court reporters know there are always going to be very busy times, and when they’re here, we just have to power through them.   But when we’re writing on the job all day, then coming home and editing well into the night, working that hard day after day certainly takes its toll.  At least it did for me.

I think my turning point in working so many crazy hours was when my kids started complaining that all I ever did was come home from work, change my clothes, talk to them for MAYBE five minutes, then impatiently say, “I need to get some work done.  Can you just leave me alone for a little while?  Ask Dad if you need something.”   Kids being kids, they still constantly came into my office and tried to talk to me or play a game or read or just BE with them.   But mostly they got to look at the back of my head, because I couldn’t tear myself away from my editing.  I always had a rough draft due (and, gosh, that had to be “perfect”), or I just needed to get a few more pages done, as I had to go back on a job the next day and I already had three days of backlog awaiting me.   I used to get super stressed out just taking time away from my desk to tuck my kids in at night!  (I certainly wasn’t winning any Mother of the Year awards back then.)  My kids used to love to chat with me at bedtime.  Now I get it.  Aside from wanting to delay going to sleep, they just wanted to spend time with their mom, as they usually hadn’t seen or talked to me much all day.  They would ask, “Mom, why are you always working?”  And I would say, “I just need to get this job done, but tomorrow I won’t need to work when I get home.”  Then tomorrow would roll around and I’d say, “Okay, I just need to work for ONE hour…” which would turn into two or three.  We all know the drill.  You know how hard it is to walk away from your desk when you’re almost done.  Or when you’re right in the middle of something.  Or when you want to get to a certain page before stopping for the night.   Or you just need to fill out the billing sheets.   And since we never know what we are going to be doing in the coming days, it’s always wise to just make sure we don’t have too much backlog, or else we are REALLY going to be working some long hours!

Well, I finally got tired of this lifestyle.  Really tired of it.  I love my job and wouldn’t choose any other profession, but I began feeling very guilty about the lack of time I was present, really present, for my family.  I knew I was missing out on a lot.  My kids were at an age where they still liked me (most of the time), and I knew I wanted to spend more time enjoying that.   I resolved to either cut back or get help.

I decided to hire a proofreader.   That turned out to be one of the best decisions I had ever made.  She is a true gem and I absolutely love her.  I really rely on her expertise, as she’s very smart and knows way more than I could ever hope to know.  Her turnaround time is unbeatable!  This is actually what drew me to her in the first place.  My work is always back within a day or two at the most.  She turned out to be my lifesaver!  I know many people have proofreaders who read directly in their transcripts and then send back the entire transcript already corrected.  My proofreader reads my transcript and then sends me back a correction page so that I am the one who makes the ultimate decision on what to change.  (Yes, many court reporters struggle with perfectionist tendencies!)

So now I had a proofreader.  Wow, how nice life became!  No more going through 300-page transcripts and wasting precious hours reading what I’ve already sat through, and then sat through again while editing.  However, I realized I still was spending a lot of time editing.  Other reporters kept mentioning a scopist (who is someone who listens to the audio and does all the editing of your transcripts) and how invaluable they are to a court reporter and how I should use one.  But wait – someone else messing with my masterpieces?  What if they get a word wrong?  What if they misspell a name?  What if they don’t catch that I identified the wrong speaker?  What if they put “Ms.” instead of “Mr.” in front of the attorney’s name?  How can I trust that they will do as good of a job as I would?  Gosh, this scopist stuff is scary!  Overcoming that fear was huge.  It took me a long time, but I finally decided a few years ago to take the plunge and hire a scopist.

I have come to know that having a reliable scopist in whom you can trust is so worth the money you pay them!  There is an investment of time for them to get to know how you handle certain things in your transcripts because everyone does things a little differently, but it’s so worth it in the end.  They have your audio, listen to everything, and if they have a question about anything, they tag it for you and send it back for you to proof.  I’m not going to say that all of the “what-ifs” are gone, but it is my job to catch any scoping errors in my proofreading.  Yes, I do my own proofreading of work that others scope for me.  I believe my eyes need to be on the transcript before it goes out.  I’m responsible for this transcript, and I was in the room and heard and saw what went on and will likely catch anything that looks strange.  Our scopists weren’t at our job, so while they have the benefit of the audio, there is still room for error when my writing isn’t clean (how could THAT ever happen?!) or the audio isn’t crystal clear.  So they do their best to discern, but then all of those uncertain parts are flagged for the reporter’s review.   The more pages you put out together, the better you work together.

When I think back to the days before I had a scopist or proofreader, I am not sure how my husband and kids stuck with me!   I had basically used up all my “niceness” on the attorneys during the day, and by the time I got home, the “nice” tank was often empty.  Sure, that still happens from time to time, as there will always be very stressful, very hard and very long days behind the machine, and of course there are always going to be those unexpected expedited orders.  But when you have a scopist and a proofreader, they take much of the burden off your shoulders.   Plus, you can take a lot more work when you have competent professionals working on the “back end” of your transcript.  It enables you to spend more time on the front lines writing, which is exactly where I want to be, as that is the part of my job that  I truly love.

So, yes, it’s a bit scary at first to let go of some of the control and allow someone else to have hands on your transcripts.  However, today I can be very busy yet it is extremely rare for me to work late into the night.  I may come home and do a quick clean-up on the rough draft, but normally that’s it.   After that, I am able to spend the evening with my family.  I get enough sleep, I have time to eat decent meals, and my kids and husband no longer have to look at the back of my head all night.  Yes, I still lug my computer all over–even to sporting events–and everyone kind of chuckles at me, but when you live the crazy life of a court reporter, you learn to use all of our time wisely.  (It just took me a bit longer than hopefully most other reporters to learn how to use it REALLY wisely!)

So if any of you reporters out there find yourselves super stressed, working all the time, barely getting any sleep, not making time to eat decent meals and instead grabbing fast food on the fly and snacking on chips and cookies as you’re editing, I would highly recommend finding a scopist and/or a proofreader.  You’ll be so glad you have one when “super busy” hits!  Think of it as an investment in your health and your family’s wellbeing.   You will be pleasantly surprised at how much “nice” is left in the tank when you can go home knowing you can relax and enjoy the evening because the next leg of your transcript’s journey is being handed off to someone you completely trust.

5 Responses to "Don’t Wait Until You’ve Lost It…Use Scopists/Proofreaders!"
  1. Just saw this as a post on the Triple Threat Job Board. Sure opened up my eyes! I knew court reporters were busy people, but I did not think this busy. I can see how having scopists and proofreaders can help everything move along!

  2. Hello Paula! Rest assured — I am not soliciting for any proofreading jobs! I really enjoyed reading your blog here about freeing up more time for yourself! I am a former high school teacher, and I always struggled with the “just one more hour” practice that I would tell my own family. I do have a question for you, as a court reporter: what is the best way to reach out to a court reporter when trying to find a proofreading job? That is actually what I was searching when I found your blog. I am new at transcript proofreading and find myself a bit paralyzed at approaching a court reporter for work–especially a stranger. Any advice you can give would be so appreciated! Thank you.

  3. Hi, Stacy! I think your question about finding proofreading work is a great one but I understand it can be challenging to get started. I have a couple of tips for you. I’ll tell you how I found my proofreader, which is probably not the typical way a court reporter finds a proofreader. She had sent out a mass email to court reporters about her proofreading business. At that point in time, I was in need of some help and I really liked what I read about her and thought, I’ll give her a try. I did, and it’s many years later and I consider her to be a crucial part of my life! Even though we have never personally met, we have a close friendship and work relationship and I hope it continues for many years. So you can always try that approach and there may be someone like me out there who is in need of your services.

    Since grammar and punctuation are super important in this profession, I would suggest asking to join a couple of Facebook sites. One is Punctuation Rules – Lillian Morson and another I am a member of is Job Board – Court Reporters, Scopists, Proofreaders, Transcriptionists. There are always people on this job board needing proofreading, and many times in a rush, so that could be a good way to get started also. You can post your services, but do make sure you read the rules for the groups as there are certain things that are not accepted. You do need to ask to be a member, but you shouldn’t have any problem being accepted as these are not strictly court reporter sites. I am sure there are many other sites, so do some searching and asking around. Social media is a good place to get some business.

    I don’t know if you have done any transcript proofreading, but I would be happy to share some with you and to let you see how my proofreader makes corrections. I will let you know that it takes time at the beginning to learn the reporter’s style and what they expect, but I also know that I have learned so much from my proofreader and I value her suggestions. I am constantly asking her how to write certain things and what other court reporters that she proofreads for are doing in a certain regard. She is very honest with me, as she needs to be, because I want my transcripts to be great! She makes sure to mark things for me that aren’t clear or don’t seem to make sense, so reading the transcript and actually listening to what’s being said is important also. At the beginning of our working relationship, my correction sheets could be quite long, as she would flag things and also suggest to me the correct way to do things. Now my correction sheets are much smaller. (However, she will put in comments about how she is not going to tell me again to do something a certain way because I won’t listen anyway! We can be so stubborn sometimes!)

    Contact me if you want some samples or help with anything. I’m happy to share whatever you need in order to get you started. Once you build a relationship with court reporters by doing a good job, they will continue to use you and refer you to others! My email address is

    Thanks, Stacy, for your comment, and I hope this helps a little bit!


  4. Great article, Paula! Court reporters are some of the busiest professionals I know. Hence why as a proofreader, my business tagline is “Free up some time. Hire a proofreader!”

  5. I am so ready to start using a scopist, but finding one that actually listens to all the words and gives back a quality product has been hard. 🙁 Any recommendations would be great!

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