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The economy has hit lawyers and paralegals hard, but one legal area is poised for growth: court reporters. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of court reporters will grow by 18 percent over the next eight years, due in part to increasing demand for closed captioning services. The expected increase would reverse a decade-long decline in the number of court reporters in the United States, said Jim Cudahy, senior director of communications at the National Court Reporters Association. “Over the past decade, we’ve seen the number of court reporters reduced somewhat,” he said. “There’s been attrition within the profession and a smaller number of court reporters used in the courtroom setting. However, the need for court reporters for depositions in the private setting has remained steady.” The association estimates that there are about 38,000 certified court reporters in the country, about 20 percent of whom work in courtrooms. A much larger number — about 66 percent — are freelancers who primarily transcribe depositions. The remainder provide transcription services for closed captioned television shows or other services for the deaf, or do a combination of depositions and closed captioning work, Cudahy said. Advances in technology have contributed to the declining number of court reporters, but new technology that converts speech into text has also created new opportunities, Cudahy said. Demand for real-time transcription services is expected to increase with new federal legislation that requires television shows to include closed captioning when shown on the Internet. Congress approved the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act in September. President Obama signed the bill into law on Friday. “When you envision the amount of live-broadcast events that will be streamed to the Internet so that people can watch them on their computers, smart phones and iPads, and then the corresponding need for real-time court reporters to provide captioning services, this is a significant event for the court reporting profession,” said association President Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag. Court reporters are required to type 225 words per minute or faster. They must complete official training, which generally takes two to four years. Some states require them to be certified by either the court reporters association or the National Verbatim Reporters Association. The profession — about 85 percent female — is aging. “The profession is graying a bit,” Cudahy said. “There is a much higher percentage of court reporters in their 40s and 50s, which means there is a lot of opportunity for younger people to enter the profession.”

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