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Plaza College symposium explores merits of its largest court reporter program in the country

Jul. 25, 2023 By Bill Parry

Plaza College in Forest Hills hosted its 7th annual Court Reporter Symposium on July 20 featuring state and federal court officials representing four New York counties and the Federal Eastern District.

Also in attendance were leaders from three major industry unions for panel discussions about the industry and the massive 5,500 worker shortage that is affecting the state’s justice system.

Participants discussed how the shortage affects New York’s legal systems, and how to attract more individuals to pursue the often six-figured career track, at Plaza College, the largest court reporter program in the nation.

“We’re down about 100 reporters in the five boroughs since just before the pandemic,” said Eric Allen, President of the Associate of Surrogate’s and Supreme Court Reporters. “I say to anyone listening out there, whether you’re looking for your career path or if you’re a parent and you want to start talking to your high school-aged student, call Plaza College and come and visit the program. Their staff is second to none, ridiculously dedicated. I’ve been doing this for almost 35 years, and I couldn’t be happier with the career choice.”

Often portrayed in crime and court dramas, court reporters are the real-life official documentarians whose job it is to transcribe most court proceedings, as well as conduct captioning for congressional and legislative sessions, within college classroom settings and for major live events such as the Super Bowl, Oscars and Grammys.

“It is the best job out there,” said Karen Santucci, chair of the Court Reporting Department at Plaza College. “It’s an exciting job, with something new happening every day, and court reporters are in high demand. We get calls all the time from all the district attorneys’ offices and freelance agencies – they need court reporters desperately. Our students get placed as soon as they finish.”

She noted that students can graduate from the Court Reporting school in two to three years, depending on their schedule, where they learn to transcribe legal proceedings at 225 words per minute. Anthony Frisolone, a 30-year veteran and senior court reporter in the Federal Eastern District of New York, spoke to how the field is ever-changing as new technology has helped speed the process of making transcripts available for lawyers and the equipment court reporters use today is much lighter and easier to use and transport.

“Technology has lent itself to speeding up the pace of litigation,” Frisolone said. “By harnessing technology. We serve the legal community, we support the bench, the bar, the public at large by delivering things at a much quicker rate.”

Court reporter Denee Vadell, known to her 20,000 online followers as the “Steno
Fluencer” said, “I stumbled into this field. I honestly didn’t know too much about it. My friend passed the bar and became an attorney, and she thought I would like it and enjoy it.”

After learning to become a captioner, a similar skillset to court reporter, Vadell transitioned to court “because I wanted stability.”

Vadell added, “At the Bronx courthouse, criminal court especially, we’re like a family. The court officers, the clerks, court reporters, the judges, we all hang out, we have fun together and everybody makes you feel like you’re at home.”

Plaza College is hosting the next session of the National Court Reporters Association’s free A to Z Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand class – an at-home course that allows prospective stenographers to try out the program without cost or commitment. The next session begins on August 7th, 2023. Seats are limited. To find out how to register for the free A to Z class, please email [email protected].

Allen encouraged the participants to consider a career in court reporting.

“If you’re looking for a change, maybe you want a different kind of challenge at this stage in your life, maybe you tried something and it didn’t work for you, you’re looking for something that’s going to be lucrative but also meaningful,” he said. “It will change your life and you’ll change the lives of people all around you because society is dependent on court reporters.”

For more information on the program, visit plazacollege.edu.

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