When we think of a court proceeding, we think of the people who have the greatest impact – attorneys, judge, and jury, often forgetting the court reporter. Without the reporter, we’ve lost an integral part of the legal process and have no one there to record proceedings for the official record. Without reporters, the legal process could come to a halt. It might sound like a plot to a John Grisham novel but the court reporter shortage and the closing of court reporting schools is a reality across the nation.
Court Reporter Shortage
According to Ducker Worldwide in their Court Reporting Industry Outlook Report, there are 32,000 stenographic court reporters in the U.S. but that number is decreasing. Within the next year, it is estimated that there will be a shortage of 5,000 or more court reporters. This is due to three factors.
- The average age of court reporters is 53 years old compared to 43 years old, the average for all American workers. That means they’re set to retire sooner in this industry than in other industries.
- Lack of interest in the field and the resulting closing of court reporting schools across the nation.
- Increased demand for services outside the legal field.
In economic terms, there is a high demand and low supply of court reporters.
What does the shortage mean for court reporting schools?
For the remaining court reporting schools and the industry as a whole, the court reporter shortage is a signal to attract more students to the programs. There are currently three NCRA approved court reporting schools in Florida, a state which is estimated to have a surplus of reporters. Nearby Alabama and Georgia may be experiencing a shortage of 200 reporters in the coming year and each only has one approved school. That could mean Florida students will be offered jobs in neighboring states and/or students will turn to online programs.
While online programs fill the gap left by the closing of brick and mortar programs, prospective students in Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville who want an in-person program have to travel to attend an NCRA-approved school.
It’s challenging to attract students to a profession that has a decreasing number of educational programs available.
The news isn’t all bad. Plaza College in New York is bringing back its court reporting program due to a high demand and interest. [Source] Students who withdrew are now being called back to complete their program and overall there is renewed interest in court reporting. This is due in part to blogs like this one and social media campaigns by court reporting agencies across the nation to attract new (or renewed) interest in court reporting. Time will tell but I am optimistic about the future of court reporting schools.