How to Work in Legal Transcription
In some cases, a high school diploma and some experience in an office or legal setting might be sufficient for one to earn an entry-level position in legal transcription. However, taking at least a few courses in legal transcription, legal terminology and law can increase one's chance of employment. Some employers require completion of a 1- or 2-year program in legal transcription. Those working in corporate or insurance legal transcription might have to learn corporate policies and procedures, while those in law firms focus more on legal documentation and law procedures.
There are two different program types you can consider: certificate or diploma programs, which take about a year to complete, and associate's degrees. No matter which path you choose, a background in typing is often preferred. Let's look a little more closely at these options.
Certificate or Diploma Programs
Some community and technical colleges offer a 1-year diploma or certificate program for legal transcriptionists. In these programs, students develop computer, communications and business skills. Aspiring legal transcriptionists can also choose to enter a diploma or certificate program designed for legal assistants. Some of these programs offer courses in legal transcription, law and legal terminology. In addition to legal transcription courses, the curriculum typically addresses such topics as:
- Legal procedures
- Criminal law
- Legal research
- Legal terminology
Associate's Degree Programs
An associate's degree for legal office administrators or legal secretaries can prepare students to become legal transcriptionists. These programs generally include introductory and advanced courses in legal transcription. Some course topics in these programs might include:
- Transcription techniques
- Legal word processing
- Business law
- Business communications
- Legal office procedure
- Legal records management
Salary and Continuing Education
The employment for court reports from 2014-2024 is expected to grow 2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of 2015, these legal professionals were making a median annual wage of $49,500.
While there are no required licenses or certifications for legal transcriptionists, some working in this field might choose to obtain voluntary certification. The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) offers the Certified Electronic Court Transcriber (CET) credential for court reporters and legal transcriptionists working in courtrooms. One can choose the basic CET certification for analog transcription systems or the CET**D credential for those using digital systems. Those who perform legal transcription duties as legal secretaries can also choose to become certified. The National Association for Legal Secretaries (NALS) offers the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) certification. Completion of a legal course, an NALS training course or one years' experience as a legal secretary is needed to take the exam for this certification.
Books about legal transcription and terminology used in legal transcription can be purchased at online and retail booksellers. Some titles include a CD-ROM containing practice exercises. Online courses in legal transcription are offered by a small number of colleges and technical institutes.
Legal transcriptionists do not always need to complete a formal program or obtain certification to get a job, but both will increase one's chances of finding a job. Certificate and diploma programs are available at many different schools and usually take a year to complete, but obtaining an associate's degree is also an option.