Digital Reporters as Guardians of the Record

January 19, 2022

Court reporters have long been the official “guardian of the record” and hold an esteemed position in the legal field. The number of court reporters in the United States has steadily declined over the past two decades, leading to a shortage of court reporters across the country. To deal with this shortage many court reporting firms have begun to schedule digital reporters, the most common alternative when a stenographer is not available.

Attorneys and paralegals are sometimes hesitant to use digital reporters, though, mistakenly believing that digital reporters aren’t held to the same professional standards and ethics as stenographic court reporters or that they won’t produce quality transcripts.

Can digital court reporters be trusted to be”guardians of the record”? As long as you’re using a digital court reporter who’s been professionally trained or certified, and who works for a reputable court reporting firm, the answer is a resounding yes. When you receive the finished product – the official transcript – you will not be able to differentiate between a digital court reporter’s transcript and a stenographic court reporter’s transcript.

As Steve Townsend, writing at, noted, digital court reporters must go through rigorous testing to obtain a certification through their professional organization.

“The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) was founded in 1994 by a small group of audio reporting and transcription professionals. The founders recognized the need to support electronic court reporting by establishing best practices and certification programs. Today, AAERT offers certification for digital court reporters and transcribers nationwide. A certified electronic reporter, or CER, must demonstrate professional knowledge and skills in the use of modern digital recording technologies, court reporting rules and procedures, legal vocabulary and best practices for annotations and exhibit management. CERs must be a notary public in the state where they practice, ensuring that they can swear in witnesses.”

And, contrary to some urban legends, digital court reporting (sometimes known as electronic recording) is allowed in depositions, at least under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in most states. Townsend continued:

Recently, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were amended to allow for the unrestricted use of electronic recording to capture the official record in a deposition. And, by recently, I mean in 1993!

That’s right: Audio recording has been permitted under the FRCP for more than 25 years. While some states, including California, require notice and stipulation to use non-stenographic methods of recording in depositions, many states have no special requirements, and audio recording has been used successfully for decades.

At this point, professional court reporters must adapt to changing circumstances and technologies or face the loss of their livelihood. (Emphasis added.)

The current market turmoil is certainly not the first time that a traditional service has been disrupted by a new method, and it won’t be the last. The robustness and reliability of digital recording technology are self-evident. You record audio and video every day on your phone, your television and your computer. The legitimate concern with the transition to digital reporting of depositions has related to the person behind the recorder. The good news is that we already have a well-developed professional community with certifications and best practices ready to support you.

Make no mistake:  If you have not had a problem scheduling a stenographic court reporter yet, you will. And when that happens, there is a good chance that your court reporting firm will send a digital reporter to cover your deposition.

Should you be concerned when that happens? Not if you are scheduling through a reputable firm that hires professional, trained and certified digital reporters and transcribers. You trusted your court reporting firm before and you can trust it now.

Legal Media Experts is proud to be an industry leader in emerging technologies. Our digital reporters have years of experience, and we continue to implement new technologies to serve you better.

But wait: I need a transcript. How do I get that? How long will it take? And how much will it cost?

Rest easy, we will cover that in the next post.