To anyone in the know these two services are very different, but to outsiders they are often confused.
While they are basically the same thing, the when and how is totally different. Both have to furnish accurate, verbatim transcriptions of whatever took place in the courtroom, as well as related interviews and so on. This is where the similarities end.
A court reporter sits in the courtroom during a trial and types a transcript of the proceedings as they happen. This requires a high speed of typing, excellent understanding and comprehension and knowledge of the jargon used in these proceedings. The problem with this is that if the court reporter mis-hears or cannot understand something, they cannot ask for it to be repeated. They have no option to listen again, and have to continue with a part missing. In many cases and most countries, a court reporter is obligatory for legal cases. However, proceedings are also recorded, and this is where a transcription service comes in.
These recordings are then given to a transcription service such as Singapore Transcription to be transcribed. This transcriber has the luxury of listening again, (and again), to a difficult part to see if they can make out what was said. This makes transcriptions the preferred method of going back over the proceedings for most lawyers, as it is more accurate due to the limits of a live transcription.
The court reporter’s transcription is used during the trial if a lawyer wants to be sure exactly what was said. It is a quick and instant check. A transcription by a reputable service is used after the day in court to better analyse and check facts and go over testimony.
Both a court reporter and a transcriptionist will have undergone training. A court reporter also has exams and tests to pass to prove they are competent enough, so although their account may be less accurate, they are actually better qualified. Remember, the accuracy is not due to any failing on their part, but rather caused by doing the transcription live as the words are being said.
A legal transcriptionist will have a high level of competency too, but by listening to parts again they have a better chance of being more accurate.