It's National Court Reporting and Captioning Week, but across the nation, there are fewer court reporters to celebrate it.
However, the association is facing an uphill struggle as educational institutions rapidly eliminate court-reporting programs because of lack of interest, and courts around the country delay important proceedings because of their inability to find a court reporter.
York County: York County chief court reporter Christine Myers is well aware of the looming dearth of court reporters in the legal system, but she says that York County, which currently employs 19 full-time court reporters, has not been affected at this point.
"We have a couple of really good freelancers that we can call upon to help out when there are vacations, a death in the family, etc," she said.
However, she predicts changes in the next few years as two or three official court reporters are expected to retire along with several court reporters she knows in the freelance world. Meanwhile, the county's 14 judges will continue to be very busy on the bench.
"There will be plenty of jobs in this area, but there is also a growing need across Pennsylvania and into Maryland," she said.
Effects: A report commissioned by the National Court Reporters Association in 2014 predicted that an estimated 5,500 new court reporter jobs would be available by 2018 in the United States and that demand for court reporters would likely exceed the supply. Myers said that the position of court reporter was recently listed in Forbes Magazine's list of top 20 jobs to get.
According to the NCRA, criminal proceedings are already being delayed in certain states because of the court-reporting shortage. The NCRA reports that the future of the profession looks even more dire as enrollment and graduation rates continue their free fall and court reporting schools close as a result.
Further exacerbating the situation is the fact that the population of court reporters is aging, as 70 percent of court reporters are now 46 years of age or older.
Opportunities: After graduation, the prospective court reporter has a few options, Myers said.
Some might choose the official route by applying at a courthouse, and after they are hired, they will be assigned to a courtroom. Official court reporters usually start at $40,000 to $50,000 per year, she said, and have the advantage of set hours, job stability and medical benefits.
However, many court reporters choose freelancing, as it offers a more flexible schedule, more travel and the prospect of earning as much money as they are willing to work for, she said. The downside is that there are no benefits, but freelancing is ideal for individuals who wish to spend more time with their families.
According to Myers, it's possible to work two days a week and earn a healthy income, while she knows some court reporters who are ambitious enough to bring in six-figure salaries.