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Court reporter shortage has led to 'buyer beware' in marketplace

In order to address the shortage of skilled court reporters, Neesons Court Reporting has created its own intensive training program for new staff, says the company’s founder and president Kim Neeson.

Neeson tells that there is only one accredited school in Canada — the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology — which offers a captioning and court reporting program.

Toronto’s George Brown College used to offer a course, but when the Ontario government announced it was going to replace court reporters with digital recorders in the 1990s, prospective students questioned the viability of a career in court reporting.

“In the end, the government’s initiative was fought by both court reporting associations as well as many law associations, but George Brown’s course suffered as a result. The industry never fully recovered,” she says.

“Here we are in 2018, and experienced, accredited reporters are of a certain vintage. If we don’t have any new blood coming into the profession, where does that leave us?” 

With a skill-set shortage in the marketplace, people are hiring inexperienced court reporters or transcribers. While it may seem sufficient to have someone transcribe a digital recording, Neeson says it depends on what kind of training a firm is providing for their transcribers.  

“There’s a great variance in terms of the level of comprehension, grammar and punctuation skills. Someone lacking experience may not understand the medical and legal terminology,” she says.

“It’s not just words on a piece of paper.” 

Without a school or certifying body in Ontario, there is a bit of buyer beware, Neeson says.

“People are basically paying the same price for a transcript no matter where they go, subject to small variances.”

Neesons Court Reporting provides cutting-edge reporting at all levels of court, hearings, depositions, examinations for discovery and arbitrations. In order to keep the quality of service high, she says the company conducts intake testing for new hires.

“We administer multiple exercises to test reading comprehension, keyboarding skills, punctuation and grammar, etc. Once a person passes the intake assessment, they are given a college student-like position,” Neeson says. “We have someone who teaches them the skills they need to excel. We don’t just launch them out into the world right away — there’s a process where they train, shadow, and work with other people.

“This is an initiative Neesons has taken on our own given the importance of maintaining an accurate, verbatim record,” she adds.

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