I got to review this infographic put out by the Speech-to-Text Institute. I had seen it around before, but never had time to study it.
Assuming their numbers are accurate — though I don’t know why we would considering STTI is a digital reporting marketing front — we can already see some issues. From my analysis of available statistics, we have about 28,000 court reporters in 2021. This is just a bit upward from the NCRA estimate of 27,000. STTI claims that in 2018, we had 27,700 reporters, and this is a number taken straight from the Ducker Report.
Why is this a problem? STTI fails to account for ANY increase in recruitment since Ducker. We know that NCRA A to Z, Project Steno, and Open Steno all grew considerably after the 2013 industry forecast. There are other programs like Steno Key that grew considerably in that time. To assume they had no impact tells us all we need to know about STTI’s mission. They do not care about accuracy, they care about telling a story.
STTI also claims we’ll have 23,000 reporters by 2023. The idea that 20% of the field is retiring in the next year and two months is crazy. Just to bring us back to what Ducker actually told us, it told us about 70% of the field would retire over the next 20 years — between 2013 and 2033.
So if we assume that that 70% is retiring evenly over the 20 years, that’s about 3.5% a year. If we assume absolutely no one retired 2013 to 2018 and then suddenly there was a cliff of retirement that would constitute 70% of our field, that would be an average of 4.67% a year. Again, assuming that in any given year 20% of our field is retiring is either stupidity so overwhelming it looks like fraud or fraud so confident it doesn’t care how stupid it looks.
And it is stupid. What if we take the numbers as they are? Digital recruitment is not going well. Between the poor treatment of digital court reporters and our industry’s efforts to let digital court reporters know they’re being played, I suspect the recruitment will only get worse. So what if we had really had a gap of 5,500 reporters in 2018? Well, 5,500 required + 27,700 existing = 32.200 total need. So 5,500/32,200 = about 16.6%. 2018 to 2023, over 16% of depositions or proceedings would have went uncovered, with a growing number of uncovered depositions each year. Those of you that own businesses, are 16% of your depositions going uncovered? Less? That means we are doing better than forecasted. More? That means we are doing worse than forecasted.
Like I always do, I asked Lisa Migliore from Migliore & Associates to weigh in, this time on her uncovered jobs. What did she say?
“I have yet to have a job go uncovered by a stenographic reporter. Sure, there are a handful of days a year where it can be a challenge on a particularly busy day/time to find coverage, but that’s the exception, not the rule. But I have a good relationship with many firms and reporters and don’t engage in practices that make accepting work from my firm unattractive, or worse, ILLEGAL. It’s no surprise to me that firms that are known to contract with parties in interest, are known to dictate low rates to reporters, and are known to engage in unethical practices have a smaller pool of talent from which to draw. I won’t work for these firms, and I imagine there are many others like me that don’t want to take a long, hot shower to scrub the stink off of themselves at the end of a workday either. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that most of the largest firms have become the largest firms by taking unethical and illegal shortcuts to their success, that they value the dollar more than integrity and impartiality in their dealings.”
To be entirely fair, according to Ducker, Kentucky was one of the states with a surplus of stenographers. It’s not surprising that Migliore & Associates is doing well. So I asked a couple of New York firm owners, and they said their percentage of uncovered jobs is under 5%. One firm said only one job has gone uncovered in 30 years. But our shortage in California is forecasted to be worse than the rest of the country, so it seems fair to ask Californian business owners. Out of the people that responded, nobody gave an estimate close to 16% of jobs uncovered, which means to drag the average up to where it’s supposed to be, “big box” companies would have to be letting go of way more than 16% of their jobs. If that’s happening, I think it’s safe to say the problem is the mismanagement of those companies and not our shortage.
Sorry to say, we’ve been duped. These jackals have been telling us the math is stark and irrefutable, and we’ve been eating it up, but the only thing the math actually shows is that our stenographer shortage can and will be defeated if we continue to recruit. The math shows us that we’re the best value workers in the country, because we haven’t asked for a raise in 30 years. The math shows us that if we successfully communicate the fact that attorneys are being defrauded, we do have the numbers to turn this around and build a field far larger than the one we have today. Will we do it? I think so. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Magician’s tricks only work for as long as they go unexplained. And now that everyone has a quick reference guide for the number games going on here, let’s see what happens.