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What is a Scopist?

Almost no one has heard the word scopist. Spell checks don’t recognize it, autofills think you want to type science, scoop or socialist, and if you mention the word scopist to someone, they’ll probably say “what’s a scopist?”

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You are reading this, so it is obvious that you are one of the few people who have heard the word. Now for the next step. What does it mean?

Blue question mark of what is a scopist in a white bubble

What is a Scopist?

A scopist is a person who creates final transcripts of trials, depositions and other proceedings which are typed onto a steno machine by a court reporter.

A scopist differs from a transcriptionist in that transcriptionists transcribe a variety of documents for people in various professions. They listen to audio or video recordings and type from scratch what is said. Scopists transcribe only documents typed by court reporters onto steno machines. They read through the written transcripts that the court reporters have created while listening to the audio the court reporters have recorded, in order to ensure that the written words accurately reflect the spoken words.

Internet Scope School

The work that scopists do is called scoping. This work is also sometimes, but not often, called transcribing or editing.  Scopists have to have certain equipment in order to do scoping work, such as computers and special software;  other optional equipment, such as headphones and foot pedals, can make this work easier.

Court reporters create transcripts on their steno machines when they work in court or are hired to attend a legal or non-legal proceeding. Many times they themselves then scope these transcripts they have created, but if they don’t, that is where a scopist comes in.

The court reporter sends the text and audio files to a scopist, who will then read through the text on their computer while listening to the audio. The scopist will fill in and polish up words as well as correctly punctuate and format the transcript to help produce an accurate and quality product.

Woman at laptop reading What is a Scopist

 

Scopists are usually native English speakers but need not be. But they must possess an excellent command of the English language, along with excellent spelling and punctuation skills.

Court reporters use court reporting software to take down the proceedings they attend, and scopists use a lighter version of the same software on their own computers in order to scope the transcripts.

Scopists are self-employed freelancers. They do not work for court reporters; they work for themselves. Scoping is a location-independent job, which means that scopists can work anywhere in the world. Scopists are adults of any age and any education, from GED to Ph.D. And scopists can make very good money.

(By the way, scopist products are pretty rare. In fact, this scoping addict T-shirt on Amazon is the only one I’ve ever seen.)

So Why Have I Never Heard of a Scopist?

Scopists have been hard at work since the 1980’s, so why doesn’t anyone know about them?

  1. Not many scopists exist – There are only approximately 30,000 to 35,000 court reporters in the United States. There is no statistic on the number of scopists in the U.S., but they likely number far fewer than court reporters. Since most people have never heard of this job, no one explores how to do it, although there are actually many ways to become a scopist.
  1. Scopists are behind the scenes – Many people don’t really notice court reporters in courtrooms and other legal proceedings. So it follows along that no one is at all aware of the existence of the people who transcribe their transcripts. Scoping is very much a behind-the-scenes job. Most lawyers don’t even have any idea that a lot of court reporters have someone else transcribing their transcripts.
  1. No one thinks about things like this – So many products and jobs exist in our world which no one ever thinks about. With the massive number of court cases in the U.S. – from local cases which affect very few people to Supreme Court cases which affect everyone – legal transcripts are everywhere. If you’ve ever laid eyes on a transcript of a proceeding taken down by a court reporter, this transcript has likely has been worked on by a scopist. They have a large role in creating products very important to most of us. Without scopists, it would be harder and take longer to produce all of the court transcripts we have, and our legal world – perhaps the whole world – would not be the same.
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This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Hi 🙂
    I am currently looking into becoming a scopist, and I read pretty much anything online that mentions scoping, haha.
    I am very interested in the work, but as I’m not from the U.S., I’m pretty worried about actually getting any court reporter to take a chance on a foreigner… Do you think they would be open to work with someone outside the U.S.?
    Thank you for your content here, it’s very useful to anyone interested in scoping.

    Sandra

    1. Hi Sandra!

      This is an excellent question. I’m sure most court reporters would prefer to use a scopist in the US. However, I’m also sure some are open to having a scopist in another country. When I worked as a scopist, although I’m American I was doing the scoping work in different countries.

      Is English your native language? And what country are you from? I think these are the questions most court reporters would want answered. A lot are very open minded, so they might very well be open to hiring you as a scopist, especially if English is your native language!

      1. Hi Sabina!

        Well, that was kind of what I was expecting, unfortunately. I stumbled on another blog writing about scoping, and someone else, from Europe, actually asked the same question. Here the answer though was ‘yes scoping jobs are not country-specific’.
        So yeah, you can do the job from anywhere in the world, true, but do the court reporters want you if you’re not from the U.S.? See that’s a whole different matter 😀
        I suppose there’s no easy answer to this.
        Unfortunately English is not my native language, I’m from Denmark. Although we learn English very early on in school, and it’s part of the curriculum all throughout our school years, it’s not quite the same, is it? Ah well… Guess I’ll have to figure out if I’m willing to spend money on a scoping course without having any idea whether I can get jobs afterwards.

        1. Everything you’ve written here is perfect English! I’ve always admired Scandanavians because at least some – probably most? – of you know so many languages.

          You wouldn’t need to tell court reporters that English is not your native language. You wouldn’t want to hide anything, but you wouldn’t have to tell them up front as it’s not mandatory for a scopist to be a native English speaker. On the downside, a lot of the work of scopists contains medical terminology as well as a huge variety of technical terminology. So not being a native speaker, you might never have heard some of these not-commonly-used words and it might take you longer to figure out what they are than it would a native speaker, so that could be a bit of a drawback to becoming a scopist. It’s good you’re thinking about this so carefully and asking so many questions. It is a big investment of time and money to do this type of work! I wish you all the best. Feel free to ask more questions if you need. 🙂

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