There are many careers in the field of law which are included in the process of settling court cases and working through litigation issues, one of which is the profession of Legal Transcription. In this career, one is responsible for transitioning court proceedings from audio files into printed documents. There are a series of steps which a Legal Transcriptionist takes in order to do this, which include using high-tech equipment to create official court records, being present during court proceedings, providing transcripts of court events to the appropriate clients, and performing basic clerical duties.
Legal Transcriptionists typically must be able to use technology in order to transcribe audio into a written format. Because of this, most transcriptionists use computers with specialized software to accomplish daily tasks. Professionals in this career may also organize and prepare legal documents which are involved in court cases. It is important to note that, while court reporters and stenographers may appear to be synonymous with legal transcriptionists, these career paths do vary in responsibilities and are considered to be separate jobs.
Career Details for Legal Transcriptionists
Using the skills listed above, Legal Transcriptionists assist in promoting efficiency and clarity in various court cases. As a result of their hard work and dedication to law, professionals in this field have relatively high salaries, ranging from $64,530 to $122,560 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Labor has stated that there has been a $4,500 increase in salary for legal support professionals in recent years, and predicts that there will be a 5% increase in the amount of legal service jobs between 2014 and 2024. Based on this, a career in Legal Transcription is a promising choice, both for salary and future job growth.
Becoming a Legal Transcriptionist
The first step to becoming a Legal Transcriptionist is earning a certification which provides permission to work in this job. This certification is considered to be vital to most employers seeking professionals in this field, and also allows the recipient of the certification to be more competitive in their rank, often times advancing more rapidly than co-workers who lack the certification. Due to recent growth in job opportunities for Legal Transcriptionists, many colleges and universities offer programs which allow students to complete their certification in as little as five months, and even provide opportunities for online programs that are more convenient to students.
Beyond this certification, it is also a good idea to earn a degree in a specialization related to legal studies. Coursework that may help in the process of becoming a Legal Transcriptionist includes a variety of topics from legal document production to legal research. As for the certification programs, topics for earning that accreditation include:
- Comprehension of legal jargon
- Legal document composition
- Doing legal research with the use of libraries and computers
- Preparing pleadings, appellate, and discovery documents
- Using computer programs like Microsoft Word and Excel
- Ethical law practices
- Organization and time management skills
Career Paths for Legal Transcriptionists
After earning a degree or certification in Legal Transcription, there are several career paths from which to choose. Most companies in the legal services industry need Legal transcriptionists, and employers for this career include:
- Universities and schools
- Small businesses
- Law firms
- Government entities
- Finance firms
- Real estate agencies
- Insurance companies
Legal Transcription can be a successful career in and of itself, or can be used as a stepping stone for successful careers in other areas of law, such as paralegals and lawyers. A good example of advancement using this job as a foundation is found in two of the recent Supreme Court Justices who began their careers by becoming Legal Transcriptionists.
Chief Justice Sonya Sotomayor knew from a young age that she wanted to work somewhere in the legal field, and gained work experience in both retail and hospital environments as a teenager. When the time for high school graduation came, she chose to attend Princeton University, and started her career in Legal Transcription shortly after at a summer job with a law firm in New York.
Similarly, Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg began her career in legal studies by working in a Social Security office at the age of 21. This start in Oklahoma earned her experience in the field and, once she decided to progress and follow her career path further down the road, equipped her for further education in legal studies, ultimately guiding her to become a justice at the age of 60.
Job Requirements for Legal Transcriptionists
Whether you want to stick with a lifelong career as a Legal Transcriptionist, or simply use the job as a stepping stone to more advanced legal positions, getting started with your career in this field is a good foundation. In order to help you prepare for job interviews and provide information on what employers of Legal Transcriptionists are looking for, here are a few recurring requested qualities listed in examples of job offers in a 2016 nationwide survey:
- Organizing Court Documents
One of the underlying job requirements for professionals in this field is the simple task of collecting documentation from court proceedings and properly filing them for future reference. Keeping track of this data is essential to this job, since data transcription and management are key tasks and results must be provided to clients in an orderly manner.
- Computer Proficiency
Several job listings requested candidates with skills in Microsoft Word and Excel, as well as the ability to type at the rate of 60 words per minute or more, depending on the specific needs of the job listing.
- Education/Work Experience
Employers consistently sought prospective employees with work experience in this field, ranging from one to three years. It is understood that an education or certification in Legal Transcription would suffice for this, as gaining knowledge in the field of law is the principle quality which employers seek in applicants.