I can’t tell you how many confusing looks I get when I answer that inevitable “So what do you do?”
Since scopistry is not a widely known profession, I wanted to write an article explaining what it is we actually do and why it’s necessary.
In a court system that’s riddled with fine print and loopholes, it’s vital to have accurate word-for-word accounts of what was said. Transcripts help lawyers prepare their cases and also serve as a public record after the fact. Mistakes can be costly and can lead to confusion and other consequences.
It wasn’t that long ago that a typo freed a convict seven years early.
Why Scopists Exist and What They Do
A scopist is an independent contractor who works with court reporters on a job-to-job basis. A scopist’s main job is to help ensure official transcript accuracy. While some court reporters choose to scope their own work, many hire a scopist so they can take more reporting jobs.
When court reporters are on the job (depositions, courtrooms, etc.), they capture a live transcription of the spoken word using a stenograph, those funny little “typewriters” you see in all the movies.
Below is an example of the keyboard they use:
Due to the nature of multiple speakers and fast, overlapping speech, even the best reporters can’t get it perfect 100% of the time, so they hire a scopist to help them ensure the record is verbatim.
Once a scopist is sent a transcript and corresponding audio, it’s their job to research spellings and fix any mistakes, ultimately helping court reporters efficiently produce error-free transcripts.
A scopist is the first person to receive the transcript from the court reporter. However, scopists, just like reporters, aren’t perfect 100% of the time either.
Once a scopist has finished scoping, a proofreader is used to catch any errors that a scopist may have missed.
Most court reporters hire a proofreader for this next step, but some reporters choose to proof the job themselves. Either way, the reporter is the last to look at the transcript since their name is on the transcript, not the scopist’s or proofreader’s.
To ensure the record is as close to perfect as possible, it’s necessary to have at least four to six eyes on every transcript, every time.
What you can expect to make
Since most scopists are freelancers, this will vary from person to person.
On average, a full-time scopist can expect to make around $40,000, but this will again vary greatly depending on their workload, clientele, and experience, etc. Many experienced scopists report 60-70k, but 40k is the average.
Realistically speaking, most scopists make around $1,000-$1,500 a month when first starting their career.
Scoping might interest you if you’re:
- Looking for a part-time or full-time job you can do from the comfort of your home
- A court reporting student looking for a job that fits in with your hectic schedule
- Someone who enjoys watching legal shows and listening to interesting cases
- A transcriptionist or proofreader looking to transition or supplement your income
- A perfectionist who loves the English language
Equipment needed to get started:
- CAT (computer-aided transcription) software, such as Eclipse or CaseCatalyst
- Online scoping training
- Internet connection
- Good set of headphones
- Reliable laptop or computer
Interested in becoming a scopist?
While there is plenty more to cover about this profession, I hope this helped give you a quick overview.
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