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A lot of court reporters turn over a lot of transcripts to scopists. This is a good thing. It gives the court reporters more time to earn more money making more transcripts of testimony at legal proceedings which they can give to more scopists who can then also earn more money by scoping more transcripts. This can be a quite lucrative circle of work.
After court reporters send scopists their work and they transcribe it, that is unfortunately it. Scopists rarely (actually, never) tell court reporters what they think, how they feel, what they like and what they don’t like. And court reporters never ask.
I’ve been on both sides of the transcript, both as a scopist and a court reporter, so I’ve got a good idea of how scopists think and feel. Unless a court reporter does scoping on the side or knows a scopist in their personal life, they may not have any idea. Communication is one of the most important things in the world, so I’ve written up 10 things scopists want court reporters to know.
10 Things Scopists Want Court Reporters to Know
1. We Know Your Job Ain’t Easy. Within the first few hours of scoping our very first transcript, with witnesses mumbling at 300 words per minute, lawyers fighting, people interrupting and talking over each other, coughing, sneezing, shuffling papers and dropping heavy objects on the table, phones ringing, cars honking, and ambulance sirens drowning out all of the above, it becomes obvious that the job of a court reporter can be quite difficult. We went through some serious training to learn how to scope and, as we listen to all of this testimony that you had to sit through and write down, we feel for you.
2. We Like Our Jobs. While our jobs can be hard too, a lot of scoping goes quite smoothly, and we like being scopists. The freedom of working when we want and where we want is a beautiful thing, and we don’t want to lose it. We try to produce the best possible transcripts for you so we’ll both be happy. We really do like what we’re doing and we would like to keep on doing it.
3. We Want to Laser Focus on Actual Scoping. We really need to spend most of our time as scopists scoping. Typing up title and appearance pages, indexing exhibits and hunting through exhibits for spellings and quotes can be not only a huge slowdown in returning transcripts to you, but can also negatively impact the amount we earn as your scopist. For example, if we spend two-thirds of an hour checking spellings and quotes and the other third typing up and double checking the title, appearance and index pages, we will have actually produced only a total of three pages and, at $1.25 per page, in one hour we will have earned $3.75.
4. Hearing is the Most Important Thing in the World. Working on a transcript as a scopist is very different from scoping your own transcripts as a court reporter because as scopists we’re hearing the testimony for the very first time through our computers and headphones rather than hearing it real time in the room where the testimony took place. Sometimes we crank up the audio all the way and listen to it through some pretty high-quality headphones and there are still words we can’t hear. If you can please check your microphone settings on a routine basis, it could help us out a ton and sometimes save the day.
5. We Need to Eat. (And Sometimes Drink). We hope you understand that we need to charge what we do in order to compensate ourselves fairly. Most of us charge approximately the same scopist rates, which were created not only to pay us what we need but to attract quality scopists to the profession. What we charge doesn’t seem like that much to us, but we’ve heard it sometimes seems like a lot to you. We think it’s a fair wage, though, considering the nature of our work and the cost of good wine.
6. We Want to See into the Future. When you need for us to scope a transcript, please tell us as soon as possible, and if you need it expedited, let us know that too. It would also be great if you let us know if a transcript is particularly difficult so we can arrange our schedules to allow extra time to scope it. Knowing what’s going to happen helps us plan when to work and when to play and gives us the ability to do both of these things well.
7. We Might be on the Other Side of the World. We should always let you know what time zone we’re in. But we might forget, so please ask. We not only might be on the other side of the country; we might be in a different country altogether. If you need a transcript back by a specific time of day, please always let us know whether you are talking about your time zone or our time zone. This will help us to make sure to return the completed transcript at the correct time, in the correct zone.
8. We’d Love to Know What You’re Thinking. We hate being unhappy and assume you do too. So if there is an instance where you’re not all that excited about the job we’ve done, please let us know – in a constructive way – so we can do a lot better the next time. We hope you’ll give us a second chance so this next time can be not for someone else but for you.
9. Money Makes the World Go Around. If you feel confident in us and decide you’d like us to scope for you on a regular basis, please let us know. Whether by emailing us, texting, calling or driving your car to our home and knocking on the door, we would love to know that we can count on doing your work. We’ll know we’re likely to have some money coming in, and we can plan our work and play schedules around your transcripts, which will be a good deal for both of us.
10. Compliments Make the World Go Around Too. If you’re not sure that you need us to scope your transcripts on a regular basis but you’re happy with the job we’ve done, let us know! Most scopists have never received a compliment from a court reporter. If you give us one, we will feel awesome for a good long while. And we’ll want to do more great work so we can feel more awesome more often. Hopefully permanently. Permanent awesomeness is a rare and wonderful thing. If we could achieve this, that would be awesome.
(In everything there must be balance, so I’ve also written 10 Things Court Reporters Want Scopists to Know. Enjoy!)
Cover photo by: Artem Bali