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Chancellor Dr. Grace Alexis Stephens interviewed for Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

This article was featured in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin in which our very own Chancellor, Dr. Grace Alexis Stephens, was interviewed in regards to the growing demand for new court reporters and the employability of those that complete a court reporting program. 

Court reporters look to future as numbers fall 

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin Staff Writer 

The shrinking number of trained court reporters combined with an even smaller pool of candidates ready to replace them has education officials and members of the profession looking toward new ways to pitch the job.

As National Court Reporting and Captioning Week celebrations wrapped up last week, those in the profession were reminded that about 70 percent of their colleagues nationwide are expected to retire in the next 20 years.

MacCormac College’s Chancellor Grace Alexis Stephens said it is important to think less about the traditional definition of a “court reporter” and more on what else can be done with the skills and degree associated with the profession.

“There are tons of opportunities for court reporters beyond just being in a courtroom at this day and age, and some are extremely fascinating, exciting and relevant and go across various industries,” Stephens said.

In 2013, there were an estimated 32,000 court reporters working in the United States, according to a 2013-14 study on court reporting conducted by Ducker Worldwide.

The study estimated that by this year, there would be a need for 33,200 court reporters, but would only have 27,700 people trained to fill the positions.

It estimated Illinois would need 1,990 court reporters by this year, but only have 1,730 people trained and available.

The discrepancy was why Isaiah Roberts chose to become a court reporter, he said. Roberts, 23, has been a court reporter for the last two years. Before then, he earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing at Illinois State University.

“Not only are court reporting jobs in high demand, but also other stenography opportunities such as TV and live broadcast captioning,” he said, adding there’s never been a better time to join the “lucrative and stable career path.”

Stephens sees the ever-changing profession — one of the highest-paying jobs that doesn’t require a college degree — as more of an opportunity than a conundrum.

MacCormac College’s court reporting program, established in 1912, is the oldest in the nation. It graduates anywhere from five to 15 students from its program each year, Stephens said.

As real-time captioning technology is further developed, court reporters are now needed in schools, broadcasting, video and webcasts, Stephens said.

Victoria Rock, CEO and president of Victoria Legal Corporate Services, said advances in technology has made information available more quickly — making court reporters busier than ever.

Rock, a court reporter since 1978, also said a lot of judiciary-focused court reporters have shifted to working from home, remotely captioning meetings and webcasts.

Given the increasing need for those with court reporting skills, Stephens said the industry needs to promote itself more than ever.

“A lot of people have no idea what court reporting is about and what a court reporter does,” she said.

The main reason for the decline in the number of available court reporters is the fact that many will soon retire, Stephens said. The median age of a court reporter is 51 years old, and 70 percent of the court reporter population is at least 46, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Stephens said court reporting programs should try to entice younger applicants, even if the students never end up applying their skills in courtrooms.

“I think if they’re able to get the messaging out to the millennials, I think that they would find not so much court reporting fascinating but they would jump all over the other industries and job opportunities that stem from court reporting,” she added.

Those who do complete the two-year program can be compensated well.

“There is just so much available and people can make money quickly,” Rock said.

In 2017, the median annual court reporter salary was $54,665, but some with more experience can earn up to $250,000.

“You put in a lot of time upfront but the reward is significant,” Stephens said.