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?
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.
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.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.