It appears a healthier economy, high living expenses in California and a trend away from “mom and pop” court reporting firms of the past in favor of larger companies have led to a shortage of court reporters in the Golden State.
“The economy has gotten better,” Lori LeRoy, office manager at Accuracy-Plus Reporting of Roseville, told the Northern California Record. “We didn’t have a downturn in the number of court reporters when the economy broke. It came later.”
Even though the economy crashed in December 2007, there were still plenty of lawsuits in the pipeline to keep court reporters busy handling the cases, LeRoy said, which delayed reaction to the downturn.
“Then when the economy became tough, people settled up lawsuits more quickly,” she said. “They needed the money. Insurance companies were willing to settle for less.”
Now, the tables have turned, and the need for licensed court reporters in California has increased with the reviving economy.
While the profession has seen its ups and downs before, recent government cost-cutting, in which county-run courtrooms eliminated staff court reporters has added to the shortage this time around, LeRoy said.
California's high volume of lawsuits also increases demand for court reporters. According to a Los Angeles Daily News report, California is the “frivolous lawsuit” capital of the country with more than a million filed each year. California is also second only to New York State as the most “litigious” in the country, according to the Tort Reform Foundation. Compounding the issue is the myriad laws approved in California – 827 new laws every year since 2010 – also keep lawyers and courtrooms busy.
Jenna Osborn of Absolute Court Reporters in Monterey said the emergence of larger companies offering discounted court reporting services and lower court reporter salaries hasn’t helped the dwindling supply of personnel.
“The smaller court reporting shop is being replaced by big national firms,” Osborn told the Record. “They often don’t pay as well. People just out of (court reporting) school want to work and the big companies who hire them don’t require as much experience.”
Court reporters can be hired by counties and become county employees, or they can be hired by big non-reporter-owned firms as independent contractors, freelancers who work in many places. High real estate prices of the kind found in San Francisco can also lead to shortages, Osborn said.
“A person might feel they aren’t going to make enough to live there,” she said.
Sherree Blakemore of Royal Reporting Services, Inc. in Sacramento agreed that bigger companies not owned by court reporters can influence prices and lower court reporter salaries.
“Non-reporter owned companies charge less and drive prices down,” she told the Record.