The quality of a digital court reporter’s work output strongly depends on the quality of the equipment they use. Indecipherable audio is useless and can jeopardize the integrity of the record, so it is critical that you have the tools to get the job done right. The good news is that you don’t have to break the bank to get your hands on these essential products.
The Court Reporting Academy recommends these essential supplies to our students. You can find them directly on the retailer’s website, through Amazon, or at stores like Walmart, Staples, and Office Depot.
Most people have a computer that can easily handle online depositions. However, legal proceedings that have multiple parties involved and onsite events can max out a low-grade system. It is essential that your computer can simultaneously handle running a video platform with several participants, recording software, and high-speed internet. You may also need to have a team chat program running in the background.
When evaluating if your laptop or desktop computer can handle the load, make sure it has these features:
- Hard Drive: Minimum 256 GB solid state drive (SSD). If possible, upgrade to a drive that offers 512 GB or 1 TB of storage.
- Memory: Minimum of 8 GB of RAM although you will get better performance with 16 GB of RAM.
- Processor: Minimum of an Intel Pentium i5, but an Intel Core i7 is better.
2. Dual Monitor or Large Screen
Many reporters find it easier to run two computers during a proceeding to handle the task load. However, if the computer’s specs can support all the software that you are running, then you may want to simply add a second monitor to your setup. This allows you to run multiple programs side-by-side. A larger screen size will give you more room to open additional software.
3. High-Speed Internet
Most people have Wi-Fi streaming to their computers these days, but wireless connectivity can get spotty. If possible, then it is best to hardwire your computer to the router via an ethernet cable to prevent glitchy connections. Wired networks are also generally much faster, sometimes offering up to 10 times more speed that remains consistent.
4. USB Hub
Most devices connect to USB ports, but many computers only have two or three slots. Your equipment can quickly eat up precious space, and you will need additional ports in order to mic up each participant. A USB hub with at least six ports solves all of these problems. It will also come in handy if you need to quickly transfer files between computers or your newer computer only has USB-C ports, which may not be compatible with older devices. A powered hub can also serve the dual purpose of charging power-hungry devices like smartphones and tablets. Six-port USB hubs typically start around $35.
5. Backup Recorder
A court reporter’s primary responsibility is to preserve the integrity of the record. It is critical that you have redundant systems in place just in case your original source fails. A secondary recording also often serves as a handy reference while creating the transcript. A backup audio recorder is a small device that is battery operated, so you will not have to worry about power outages. It can also connect to your smartphone via an adaptor if you need to quickly switch over to cellular data.
Our favorite backup recorder is the Tascam DR-05X Stereo Handheld Digital Recorder and USB Audio Interface. The price on Amazon ranges from $119 to $149.
Most computers come with a built-in microphone, but these can fluctuate in quality and consistency. Quality microphones are essential for capturing every word spoken and for you being heard when needing to interject while others are speaking. Ideally, you want to have one mic for each participant. Yeti mics are popular in the industry, but we have found the onn. USB Podcast Microphone with Cardioid Recording Pattern (Model #100009002) performs just as well and it is available for just $25. Another option is this $28 Jounivo Microphone (Model #JV902), which is equipped with volume control, a mute button and cardioid pattern.
Capturing a clean record requires speakers with crystal clear audio for speaking. Any interference, such as pops, crackles, or unnecessary bass boost will muddle the recording, making it more difficult to transcribe. If the built-in speakers on your computer need upgrading, the $14 Logitech S150 USB Speakers with Digital Sound (Model #980001004) is a solid choice. Using stand-alone speakers also provides more flexibility in how you setup your desk, allowing you to position the microphone and speakers near each other for the best audio quality.
8. Headset with Microphone
To ensure that your recording software is accurately capturing the proceeding, you will need a way to listen to the slightly delayed recording without interfering with the real-time recording. This is known as confidence monitoring. To perform this part of the job, you will need a pair of headphones with a noise-canceling microphone. Gaming-style USB headsets are a good choice. We like the Logitech H390 Wired Headset, which are available for about $22. If you prefer something smaller, then the $12 Skullcandy Ink’d+ In-Ear Earbuds also work well.
9. Recording Software
Digital court reporters capture testimony using AI-enabled software that allows you to record each participant and take notes. Some agencies use their own proprietary programs that are supplied to their reporters. Other agencies allow reporters to use the software that they prefer. Students enrolled in The Court Reporting Academy are trained on Reporter Studio PRO. This true multichannel recording system supports up to 12 separate mic channels, it is optimized for remote video conferencing and in-person proceedings, and it is equipped with reporter annotation features. Unlike most options on the market that must be purchased upfront for thousands of dollars, RS PRO is available on a no-obligation subscription basis for an affordable $75 per month.
10. Ergonomic Chair
Digital court reporters spend their days sitting at their desk, which means you will need a comfortable chair that supports your body in a healthy way. Office chairs can be expensive, but you can find some great deals on Amazon. An ergonomic chair provides proper support for your back, hips, and posture. Height adjustment is important since your feet should be able to reach the floor. You may also want to consider a chair that includes a headrest, armrests, and lumbar support.