Live Court Reporters—Still The Preferred Technology!


kerncourtreportingWe live in a digital age where technology is progressing so rapidly that the sky is truly the limit as to what we can accomplish.  Recently on the local news, a story ran about research out of the University of Minnesota that allows our brains to control unmanned aerial vehicles.  Unbelievable!    It’s crazy to imagine how tomorrow’s technology will change our world.

Everyone is familiar with how Siri  and Google Voice have emerged as technology that translates voice-to-text messages with impressive accuracy.   But be assured of this:   When it comes to important matters–things that involve a great deal of money, time and effort…or maybe even someone’s freedom , so I’m talking complex litigation, criminal cases and the like—voice recognition and digital recording technology is just not good enough.  Why?  Because when it comes to matters of life, death and big dollars, there is no room for error, let alone epic failure.   We all admit that when technology works, it’s a great thing.   But when it does not, the result is dropped connections, words that are not picked up by microphones, words that are picked up that weren’t meant to be, and even with the best translation systems, the text is riddled with mistranslatations.    Research has found that not only does digital recording technology cost more than a live court reporter, it’s also more time-consuming and therefore the transcript turnaround time takes longer.    And let’s face it, no one is into waiting longer for anything anymore, let alone lawyers waiting for their transcripts.

Information was recently gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and several other organizations and compiled into an infographic by Kern Legal Services that demonstrates that, when it comes to technology replacing a live court reporter, the time has not yet come.

Minneapolis-based Paradigm Court Reporting & Caption President Jan Ballman recently attended a National Court Reporters Association Board of Directors meeting where thought leaders across the nation gathered to compile a five-year vision statement.  This session included a SWOT analysis—Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats—that the profession of court reporting could reasonably anticipate encountering in the next five years as well as strategies to ensure that Court Reporters remain not just the preeminent but the preferred methodology for capturing, protecting and delivering the record.    While strides in digital recording equipment and voice recognition technology have long been studied, charted and acknowledged by NCRA for decades, the consensus of the Board of Directors and thought leaders in the room were aligned with the Kern data.

The human component is the true piece that distinguishes court reporters from software.    Software is not a guardian of the record that can control a room to ensure all parties are remarks are audible and captured.   Software cannot capture nods and shakes of the head or important gestures.   Software cannot tell when software is failing.

In a world where budget cuts are driving a lot of buying decisions, it is refreshing to see data that demonstrates that there are still a lot of things that humans can do better than even the latest and greatest technology.