Are you a court reporter finding yourself saying things like:  

  • “I can’t find a good scopist.”  
  • “Is there anyone out there who has actually worked with a good scopist?”   
  • “I just scope my own work because there are no good scopists.” 

Scoping International sees comments like this all the time.  Court reporters are desperate to find a good scopist, dare to try one, and are disappointed when they find all sorts of errors in the transcripts.  They feel cheated; they don’t want to pay the sometimes hundreds of dollars it costs to have their file scoped, and throw their hands up in frustration, giving up on ever finding someone who would take care of their transcript like they would.   

On the other side, there are scopists out there earnestly doing their best on a file, nervously uploading it to the court reporter, and agonizing as they wait to find out if this reporter will be a long-term client providing a steady stream of income.  They feel disappointed and confused when they don’t hear back from the reporter or, even worse, when the reporter refuses to pay them because they did a “bad” job. 

Basically, all around, both sides feel disappointed, frustrated, and burned.  Why!?  Why is this happening?  Well, we have some ideas as to why, and we have some suggestions to help court reporters finally find a good scopist! 

Why are both sides finding it difficult to find a good match in the court reporter-scopist relationship? 

Here’s the thing.  Scoping is a, for lack of a better term, unregulated profession.  There is no clear job description out there that provides details as to what exactly a scopist does.  Ideas range from scanning the document without listening to audio and correcting any raw steno or obvious errors by reading the steno notes and doing zero audio to doing a full audio listen, creating an absolutely exact, verbatim record without a missing a single “uh” and proofread to perfection with every comma in place.   Reporter A, the reporter who doesn’t want the scopist listening to audio, might be confused and frustrated that a scopist cluttered up their clean, beautiful transcript with dashes, false starts, and partial words.  Reporter B, the exact verbatim reporter, might feel baffled that someone would claim to call themselves a scopist when they clearly didn’t listen to the file, didn’t fill in testimony, and feel cheated when they have to spend hours listening to the audio again themselves to fill in everything their scopist missed.  It’s not at all surprising that neither court reporter would want to pay for such “poor” work and would definitely never work with that scopist again. 

What so many reporters don’t realize is that there is quite the spectrum of opinions as to what a finished, scoped file looks like.  Their own idea comes from their training, their experience, and their own preferences.  The way a freelance reporter in California writes and edits a file varies vastly from a freelance reporter in New York.  The way an official reporter reports is very different from a freelance reporter.  So there’s that, the differences from one court reporter to the next in how they were trained and what their expectations are. 

Then there are the scopists.  A common scenario a scopist may be found in is as follows:   The scopist has been trained by a reporter to scope files specifically how that individual reporter likes their file to be.  The reporter who did the training and the scopist have no idea that there are hundreds of different ways to edit that file.  (I’m being conservative.  It could be thousands!)  The scopist decides they want to get more work and finds another reporter to work with.  The scopist scopes the file exactly as trained and is shocked when the new client says they are really disappointed in the file and doesn’t want to pay.  

How in the world can a court reporter find a “good” scopist when these scenarios are all too common?  Scoping International wants to help fix this.

What is a “good” scopist?

In its simplest terms, a “good” scopist is one who scopes the file how the reporter would scope it.

The scopist has the same idea of how verbatim the transcript should be, punctuates as the court reporter would, turns in the file with time for it to be proofed and checked over by the court reporter.  The reporter has full faith that the file is in good hands and being taken care of as the reporter would themselves. 

So how can you find a GREAT scopist? 

We want to help prevent court reporters from being victimized by “bad” scopists and take matters into their own hands.  We want to give you, the court reporter, the tools you need to find your “good” scopist.  And here they are: 

  1. Create an SOP.  If you implement one thing from this blog post, let this be it.  An SOP is a standard operating procedure.  It’s used in business to clarify the process of any job, big or small, to streamline and create consistency.  This way, whoever is doing the job, does it the same way.  So the next time you scope one of your files, take a little extra time to write down the steps you do.  Be very detailed!  The more details you can describe, the closer you will be to finding your ideal partner in turning out transcripts.  We know it will take time to do this, but just remember you are investing time now to save time later.  Just think of the things you will be able to do when you no longer have to come home and scope a file after being on the record all day!  Bliss!  Heaven!   
  1. When you get in contact with a potential scopist, whether through another court reporter, Facebook, or an app like Stenovate, have an idea of how many pages a week you would like to send to a scopist.  A range is fine.  We get that there is a lot of unpredictability in pages. 
  1. Fill out a preference sheet.  Really, most scopists do want to edit your file according to your preferences, but it takes a lot of time to figure out what those preferences are as we go along.  If you are clear and upfront, a lot of misunderstandings will be avoided and you will be closer to getting your transcript edited exactly how you would do it yourself.   
  1. When communicating with a potential scopist for the first time, send them your SOP and your preference sheet.   Before sending them a job, make sure you are on the same page about what their rates and turnaround times are.   Neither of you want any surprises. 
  1. Our final tip is to give the relationship a chance and give the scopist lots of feedback.  Again, we understand that this is an upfront investment in time, and you’re already drowning in pages and work.  But in our experience, it takes about six or seven transcripts before the reporter and scopist really start to get in sync.  So don’t write the scopist off after one job.  Send them your notes on the job, anything they did that you want them to do differently.  Remember, maybe what they did isn’t “bad” according to another court reporter and how they were taught.  It’s just “different.”  Having that in mind will help you to be able to deliver clear and constructive feedback.   But you should see them immediately applying your feedback on the next transcript.  

As we said, we believe most scopists out there genuinely want to do a really good job.  This job tends to attract the conscientious, perfectionist type.  Almost every scopist the faculty encounters quietly agonizes over their jobs, really wanting to do excellent work.  That being said, we won’t argue that, as in every profession, there are people who are cavalier and are looking for shortcuts and have no hesitation in turning in shoddy work, getting paid, and moving on to their next victim.   If you don’t see the scopist applying your feedback on the next transcript you give them, by all means, let them know it’s not working out, and move on to your next candidate.  We do believe you will be able to find one quickly by applying our tips and investing a little time upfront in solid and clear communication. 

Comment below what your experience is with scopists. And if you are still looking for a well-rounded scopist who understands how to work with reporter’s preferences email us at and the team at Scoping International will connect you. 

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