Tape Recordings vs. Court Reporters

by AWR | Jul 17, 2019 3:34:28 PM | Court Reporting

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There has been some debate between the value of tape recordings and court reporters in the courtroom. The bottom line is that court reporters are more accurate. That may seem counterintuitive, because digital recorders would ideally capture everything. Therein lies the problem. For attorneys at a deposition hearing, capturing the sound of someone putting their glass down or a stray cough is not a high priority. In fact, such incidents can hinder the process of understanding what is being said during a deposition. Even as digital recordings become increasingly popular, there will always be a need for stenographers.

Why else might a law firm prefer a court reporter over a tape recording? Let’s take a look.

Court Reporters Can Testify


If you need someone to testify concerning the integrity of a court record, you can rely on a court reporter to do just that. A digital recording, however, cannot. In some cases, the recording may not be perfect—and in such cases, the language used may be open to interpretation.

Confidentiality Problems

Off-the-record conversations between attorneys and their clients may be picked up by a digital recorder. This creates confidentiality problems. Courtroom stenographers are trained to capture only what is on the record and thus provide a legal transcription of the events.

Searchability & Record Keeping


Advanced technology exists to search audio recordings. A typical law firm, however, probably isn’t interested in purchasing it for the sole purpose of being able to recall depositions. Stenographer’s transcriptions, on the other hand, are searchable, can be cross-referenced, and produce more accessible data. Attorneys in the middle of a court case and the judges who are presiding over the case will appreciate the ability to recall deposition testimony quickly and easily without having to scour through an entire audio file.

Humans Stenographers are Simply Better

The majority of attorneys use stenographers as opposed to digital recorders. That wasn’t always the case, however. For a brief moment, attorneys were lured to digital recording by reduced costs and perfect transcription. That is, until they realized that digital recordings provided neither.

In fact, digital recording made their jobs harder. In order to produce searchable data, they had to do the transcribing themselves. In some cases, this proved difficult, because the quality of the recording wasn’t very good. Even when it was a perfect recording, it created an extra step which cost them money. They had not reduced their costs but merely multiplied them.

Today, the majority of law firms continue to use court stenographers because they provide better and more accurate transcriptions that are easier to scan into computers and treat as raw data.

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