Legal support services are an integral part of litigation today. There are many careers in this space that are vital to the practice of law and can be a great opportunity for technology-savvy professionals looking to get into the legal industry. Here are a few of the hottest legal support careers that are often overlooked:
1. Digital Court Reporter
A fast-growing career in the legal field, digital court reporters use professional-quality recording equipment to capture the spoken record during depositions, examinations under oath, hearings, and trials. With specialized software, they are able to notate speaker changes, events, spellings, and times. Ultimately the recording is sent to a legal transcriptionist, and a certified legal transcript is created. Digital court reporters act as officers of the court keeping the record neutral, maintaining the exhibits, and swearing in the witnesses.
Those seeking to enter this career path can get training online, in a classroom, or on the job and may need to obtain certification from AAERT depending on the company and jurisdiction they work within. Generally, it only takes between 6 and 16 weeks to complete the training required, which is offered online through colleges and universities across the country. Once employed, digital court reporters can expect to make between $30,000 and $60,000 with very flexible schedules and the bonus of meeting new people and constantly learning about the law.
2. Stenographic Court Reporter
These officers of the court utilize a specialized shorthand in combination with a computerized stenograph machine to capture and preserve verbatim testimony in all types of legal proceedings. Steno reporters provide real-time streaming, rough draft copies, and final transcripts to legal participants, working either alone or in tandem with a team of proofreaders and editors, or “scopists.”
The training, offered at various trade schools across the country as well as online, is rigorous and self-driven and can be completed in approximately two years. Career opportunities are abundant in both the court system as a government employee and in the freelance arena as an independent contractor. Salaries range from approximately $45,000 (beginning) to $125,000 (experienced) in court systems nationwide, whereas freelance reporters’ earnings are determined by the volume and type of work they choose to take in their local legal market and can be substantially more than salaried reporters.
3. Legal Transcriptionist
If digital and stenographic court reporters are the keepers of the record, legal transcriptionists are the creators of the record. Transcriptionists process audio recordings from any number of sources, including courthouses, law firms, court reporting agencies, and state attorney offices, and turn them into verbatim certified legal transcripts. Using a variety of playback programs, transcriptionists listen to every word that is being said and turn it into words on the page. To be more efficient, many of them employ text expansion software, a foot pedal, and special templates to generate the transcript.
This job is normally done by independent contractors working from home and offers a very flexible environment. Full-time transcriptionists can expect to earn $55,000 or more. Certification may be required by some agencies, jurisdictions, or federal agencies and is provided by AAERT – Certified Electronic Transcriber – or NVRA – Certified Legal Transcriptionist. Training to be certified can take between two months and a year depending on previous experience and the amount of time dedicated to the program.
4. Legal Videographer
Using professional-grade cameras, microphones and recording equipment ensures that the video produced by this professional can be a valuable tool for testimony review, witness prep, and playback at trial. Videographers appear at depositions, inspections, medical exams, and other legal proceedings where attorneys want body language, tone and movement captured.
Often independent contractors, legal videographers make their own schedule, create their own pricing, and can easily expand their business. Generally, legal videographers have some type of background in video, film, or TV before entering the field, but most of the specific training is done on the job, although online training is available. Those wanting to be certified can do so through the NCRA – Certified Legal Video Specialist – or AGCV – Certified Deposition Video Specialist – and can expect to make between $40,000 and $70,000 a year.
5. Trial Technician
Unlike on TV where evidence just magically appears on a screen nearby when referenced, in real life, there is often a highly skilled trial technician making that magic happen. These technicians organize exhibits, design demonstratives, set up audiovisual equipment, and ultimately facilitate the presentation of the exhibits during a trial using specialized software and presentation equipment. Many times, trial technicians also assist in the development of trial strategy utilizing their understanding of how to push the technology while influencing the viewer – in many cases the judge and jury.
Trial technicians can work for a law firm directly, for a legal support company, or for a company dedicated to trial technology and often have an IT, digital media, or video production background. Those interested in the career can expect to make between $40,000 and $70,000 a year but have the potential to make more if they own their own company or specialize in a niche area of the law. Much of a trial technician’s training comes from on-the-job experience and from the software manufacturers, but technicians can get certified by NCRA or AGCV.
Law school isn’t a requirement to get into the legal profession! If you are interested in the practice of law and want to play a central role in the litigation process, check out if these careers are a fit for you.
About the Author:
Merritt Gilbert is the manager of digital learning operations at BlueLedge where she teaches digital reporting and legal transcription. In addition, Gilbert is very active in the reporting community and is co-chair of the continuing education committee at AAERT. She worked in a court reporting agency for more than 10 years, is an AAERT certified electronic reporter, a Florida professional reporter, graduated from Realtime Voice Academy, and has a BS from Florida State University.
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