Freelance Court Reporters salary
I am delighted to introduce today’s fascinating guest post from Cheryll Kerr, a freelance court reporter from America who has taken depositions far and wide – from Europe to the Middle East, as well as in the States. This high-powered job requires incredible skills – I’ve seen them in action and I was amazed.
How did you get interested in court reporting?
I didn’t start out planning to be a court reporter. I was a ballet dancer working at a law firm in San Francisco, CA doing temp work that fitted in with my class, rehearsing and performing schedule. I sat in my cubicle doing accounts receivable work, when one day in the early ‘90s I heard an ad for a reporting school that happened to be down the street from where I worked. There are very few court reporting schools in the USA, and I now see it as sort of fate stepped in and led to me going to night school to get my reporting qualifications. At the time, I thought it would be the perfect flexible job to allow me to dance when I liked and work in between. It turned into a lifestyle that I love, that allows me to work about 4-8 days a month and lets me keep busy with my other interests in between.
How do you keep your concentration?
It’s a skill, like anything else. I think I was very lucky to stumble upon an industry that’s based upon the instinctual skills I used as a dancer. You hear the music, and you respond. You hear the voices, and you respond. To me, it’s second nature. It can be tough to pay attention when the rigors of the physical exertion set in and your neck, back, and/or hands are burning from repetitive stress injury, arthritis, or simply sore muscles from a previous day’s work. At that point, experience and training kick in, and you do what you have to do.
What’s the workload like for a court reporter?
That really varies depending upon what part of the industry you work in. There are reporters who work in courthouses on trials that work day in and day out, eight hours a day and then at night on transcript production as well. I chose to become a freelance reporter because I wanted to set my own schedule, which translates into taking four to eight jobs a month for me. The economy has hit a downturn across the United States, which means where I used to be offered perhaps 15 days of work a month, now it’s closer to what I like to do, four to eight days.
I remember the days when I would get up at 6:00 a.m. to drive into Manhattan and wouldn’t arrive back home until well after 8:00 at night, and then turn around that day’s work before I turned in at midnight and would wake up the next morning to do the same thing. Those were the days of the back to back asbestos litigation depositions, which made being a freelance reporter very lucrative. I was younger then, and hungry for the work. After 15 years of it, I prefer now to take depositions closer to home and be able to cook dinner and enjoy a nice bottle of wine with my loved one and sleep in the next day. Time will do that to you. I heard some years back from another reporter who gave up reporting to work for an agency that court reporters tend to burn out after five years or hit a plateau. I think I might be unique in that it took me about 10 to hit a period where I needed a change or a very long vacation. Luckily, working as a freelance reporter gives you the flexibility to slow down a little when you need to.