Court Reporter shortage in the Permian Basin

MIDLAND -- The Permian Basin needs more court reporters to keep up with the work load from attorneys and courts, and for the future of the field, according to several experts.

A court reporter’s job entails transcribing depositions or court proceedings, among other things.

Breck Record taps away at his stenography machine, like he’s done for the past 34 years. Record is an official court reporter for the 143rd District Court in Monahans, Pecos and Mentone.

“It’s a great profession, every day is different. You never know what you’re going to hear,” he said.

But Record said more court reporters are needed to keep up with the demand.

“Here in this area, the Permian Basin, we could use a couple of more court reporters to just fill in the gaps for court and specially, deposition work. Because, we’ve discovered there’s a shortage here in this area. But it’s not just here, it’s all over the state of Texas that need court reporters sooner than later,” he said.

Susan Lilly, President of Permian Court Reporters Inc., a company that offers freelance reporters for dispositions and sworn statements, said it’s not just the courts that are feeling the need.

“It was a big impact to our local courts when I wasn’t able to provide a court reporter. Like if they called in sick or had vacation time, we would go cover their court for them. Another thing is, there’s too many depositions attorneys are trying to take on a certain day and I simply don’t have the man power,” she said.

Lilly said many times, she has to schedule with an attorney’s office in advance or sometimes put them on a list for a cancellation.

Record said courtrooms can potentially see a difference consequences, depending on the location and system.

“If there’s not a court reporter available, some depositions will have to be rescheduled. The court hearing would have to be rescheduled, depending on the market that you’re in,” he said.

The court reporters can’t point to a specific reason for the shortage, but agree that lack of awareness for the career is a factor.

“I would say in the last few years, the shortage has gotten worse, just because, like I said before, the people my age or older are starting to retire. So we’ve had more people retire but we haven’t had the same people enter the profession,” he said.

Record and Lilly said their careers as court reporters are rewarding, and encourage others to train for the position.

“You get to be with different people, hear different stories. I believe whole-heartedly the fact is a whole lot more entertaining than fiction a lot of times. So there’s a lot of things that happen that you really won’t believe they’re true, but they are. And you get to meet a lot of really neat people,” Lilly said.

In order to become a court reporter, Lilly said a person must go to a court reporting school that will usually take a minimum of two years to complete.

After attending the school, a person must take the state certification test.

Lilly added that West Texans interested in learning more, can contact her through the number found on the Permian Court Reporters website.