4 minute read

What is Stenography?: An Overview of Stenography's Litigation History

Shorthand writing systems have been known for hundreds of years, created to record the spoken word verbatim and use the transcript in a formal setting. Even with the advent of modern speech-to-text and AI technology, stenography continues to be a trusted tool for court reporting, relied upon by lawyers and judges.

Court stenographers play an essential role in a courtroom, including remote hearings, depositions, and virtual trials. Keep reading to learn more about shorthand writing, the purpose of stenography in the modern court process, the role of the court stenographers, and how Steno helps court reporters conduct their duties in the remote court space.

Stenography Comes Into Existence

Stenography has been known since the times of the ancient Greeks, who gave this writing method its name; consisting of two Greek words, "steno" stands for "narrow," and the suffix "graphy" stands for "writing."

Until the 19th century, "narrow writing" referred to shorthand writing systems done by hand, in which stenographers used symbols to represent letters, words, or phrases.

This system made converting dictation or recorded speech into handwritten copy a faster and easier process. Its convenience led courts to adapt this process before the invention of the shorthand machine.

Stenographs Are Invented

Today, stenographers no longer rely on handwriting. Instead, they use stenotype machines, known as stenographs, first invented by Miles Bartholomew back in 1877.

Although modern stenographs are more advanced than their first versions, they use the same principle of typing syllables instead of letters, decreasing the number of strokes on the keyboard and increasing the speed of typing by several times.

How Stenographs Changed Court Reporting

The invention of stenographs has greatly improved the accuracy of court reporting. Thanks to stenographs, court reporters can type an accurate transcript of court proceedings with or above the speed of normal speech.

This progress helps stenography remain a popular court reporting practice for hearings, depositions, and other proceedings.

The Role of a Court Stenographer

The participation of a skilled court stenographer, also called a court reporter, is crucial for any court proceedings. Today, court stenographers still bring unmatched accuracy to the table in preparing exact transcripts of the court cases.

Although modern technology supports digital speech recording, inaudible court recordings are not uncommon. Missing vital words or phrases in a testimony due to microphone or recording errors can massively impact a case. Live court reporters help ensure all details of a court proceeding are captured in the transcript by following discussions in real time and asking for statement clarification or repetition if words are missed.

How Court Reporters Use Stenographs

Modern stenographs have evolved beyond Bartholomew's original stenotype design and resemble computers equipped with LCD screens, microprocessors, and multiple voice recognition features. However, the principle of operating a stenograph is still based on using syllables instead of letters to speed up report typing times.

Thus a court reporters types syllables with a stenotype keyboard by pressing multiple keys at once, which is called "a cord." This method allows stenographs to have only 22 keys rather than 70-105 keys as found on a standard desktop keyboard.

By combining the keys on the stenotype keyboard, stenographers can create hundreds of phonetic syllable combinations with fewer strokes and at an unmatched typing speed.

Stenographer Training and Requirements

Court stenographers are highly skilled experts specialized in producing accurate court reporting. To obtain these skills, court reporters typically spend two to five years completing a stenography certification program. These programs teach court reporters how to meticulously type and easily navigate the stenograph.

In addition to perfecting their shorthand typing, court stenographers must be trained in legal vocabulary and legal proceedings since certain legal terms frequently used in a courtroom are represented by specific conventions to save time and speed up stenograph typing rates.

Some stenographers also pass additional certification courses to work in a legal setting and handle legal documentation.

How Steno Connect Helps Stenographers in Remote Litigation

The rise of remote litigation is causing stenographers to search for effective ways to better optimize their stenographic skills within modern courtroom settings. Through Steno Connect, court reporters are able to provide reliable remote deposition transcripts to legal professionals.

Court reporters are offered special, personalized training on the platform’s virtual capabilities such as video layout customization, exhibit handling and annotation features, and automatic exhibit saving and marking functionality.

Attorneys and legal professionals working with Steno’s technology. Steno Connect was specially built to support remote bench trials and remote depositions, with features that improve the litigation process for all parties.

Unlike working with other videoconferencing applications, Steno also offers personalized live tech support during virtual proceedings to ensure both court reporters and lawyers have the peace of mind to adequately perform their roles during a case.

After taking the record, court reporters can also update and store transcript copies within Steno’s convenient dashboard. Within the digital firm dashboard, attorneys can search, view, and download all transcripts provided by their booked court reporters, as well as additional case exhibits and documents. This digital access encourages transparency and organization between the two parties.

Interested in seeing Steno’s technology in action? Book a demo with our team to see how the Steno videoconferencing platform is built to improve how law firms access best-in-class court reporting services for remote depositions.

If you are interested in working with us as a court reporter, please email concierge@steno.com.

Our contributors are subject matter experts in court reporting, legal technology, and litigation finance.


The court reporting you need. The service you deserve.

When running a law firm, you have a lot on your mind: your cases, your clients, your cash flow. You need to meet your deadlines, work up your cases, and generate new business. So the last thing on your mind should be worrying about the details of depositions. Don’t let financing or technical hurdles stand in your way.