Whether or not to stay in court reporting school can pose a serious dilemma. Perhaps you are wrestling with this very decision. I know that many students, feeling the pressure of mounting debt, are tempted to jump into the working world sooner than they really should. If this is something you are considering, I would urge you, if at all possible, to stay in school and graduate from your program before you take on any assignments. The longer you stay in school and adhere to a disciplined practice regimen, the better your chances for success. Continuing your studies will be money well spent in the end.
Starting out as a working reporter is very difficult. There is a steep learning curve. Getting down every word will tax your stamina and concentration. There will be days when you will be expected to work without a break; when you will have witnesses who mumble all day; and when the testimony contains more acronyms than words. As if all these things weren’t enough, there are other on-the-job duties that you will be responsible for. It’s a lot of pressure for a young reporter. To complicate things, some of the people you will encounter may not be pleasant, as the nature of litigation is confrontational and emotions can run high. The bottom line is that the lawyers will be expecting a verbatim record, and it is your job to produce it.
If you leave school and go to work too early, you are putting the one professional thing you own at risk: your reputation. Your good name has value, and you must do all you can to protect it. Every transcript you prepare reflects on you. It would be a shame to have a tarnished reputation before you even get your career off the ground.
If you wait to finish your education, you will have more practice under your belt and more resources at your disposal to improve your skills. It is much easier to push for speed when you are already in the studying mode. If you are working, you will be busy editing your transcripts, and finding time to spend on speed-building will be more difficult. It is counterproductive to report when you are struggling to keep up and dropping too much; and when your writing is messy and full of holes, not only will you run the risk of not being able to read back when called upon, but you will be spending an excessive amount of time editing. Furthermore, and most importantly, always relying on audio rather than your skills to get the job done is a huge hindrance and not the way to advance your career. This cannot be emphasized enough.
Producing a verbatim transcript is an important responsibility. Real people, businesses, and concerns are affected. Your transcript will be examined and dissected by attorneys on all sides, their clients, and possibly experts. Do yourself a favor and don’t work until you have graduated and interned with a reputable professional. Although some states do not require certification to work, the ideal scenario would be to have a certification under your belt before you report. This will cement your professional position, boost your confidence, and make you more desirable to an employer.
The benefits of staying in school far outweigh the “benefits” of leaving early. To quote Aristotle, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”