Legal Videographer

Court reporting is vital to legal proceedings as it creates a record of what happened and what each person said. Court reporters, also called stenographers, capture spoken word through writing. In some proceedings, legal videographers complement the work of stenographers by capturing the event on video. Keep reading to learn more about a legal videographer.

What Does a Legal Videographer Do?

Court reporting plays an important role in the judicial process because it serves as an accurate record of courtroom proceedings. These records become essential when an appellate court reviews a case to determine whether any wrongdoing took place during trial. Commonly, stenographers generate these reports by providing a written account of exactly what each party said. Advances in technology have given way to a different type of court reporting — legal videography.

A legal videographer, or legal video specialist, documents court proceedings through video. Unlike written transcripts, videos of the event can capture facial expressions and the personality of the people involved. This creates a more complete record for judges, litigants, and attorneys. After the proceedings, the videographers edit the recording with voice-overs in order to identify witnesses. In some instances, the videographer syncs the transcript and recording making it easier to reference specific parts of the proceedings.

Legal videographers also film depositions and immovable evidence at crime scenes. They may also record the signing of legal documents such as wills and real estate transfers to avoid disputes in the future.

Professional Requirements to Become a Legal Videographer

There is not a specific educational requirement to become a legal videographer beyond a high school diploma or equivalent. However, taking courses in videography, forensics, and criminal justice gives you a competitive edge. Various trade schools offer programs that focus on videography. These programs teach the basics of videography including the editing process.

Due to the importance of quality video recording, most employers require certification. Certification demonstrates one’s videography knowledge and skills. Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) is the main certification and it involves three steps. First, aspiring legal videographers must attend a “Videotape in the Legal Environment Seminar,” which takes place twice per year. The three-day seminar covers various aspects of the profession such as the equipment used. It even offers hands-on workshops.

Next, you will take a written test that has 100 multiple choice questions. The test assesses your knowledge on the video recording process, legal procedures, and more. For the final step, you will record a mock deposition. You will receive a grade based on the quality of your recording.

Additional Education and Experience

Individuals can choose to earn an associate or bachelor’s (B.S.) degree in media production. An associate degree entails two years of full-time study and focuses on the broad scope of video production. A bachelor’s requires four years of full-time study and it includes courses in audio and video editing, camera operation, lighting techniques and more. It also provides hands-on training to prepare graduates for entry-level positions in the field.

Additional Licensing Requirements

You do not need a license to work as a legal videographer. As mentioned above, some employers require certification. Most of the associations offering certifications require individuals to complete continuing education courses to renew the certification.

Where Can You Work as a Legal Videographer

Most legal videographers work for court reporting firms. Firms with considerable volume often keep a dedicated videographer on staff while smaller ones use freelance videographers. Employed videographers earn a steady paycheck and work at the direction of their employer. Freelance videographers have more flexibility with their work since they choose which cases they take and how much they charge. On occasion, lawyers or clients will hire a videographer to record signing of contracts. Law enforcement agencies also hire videographers to record evidence or crime scenes.

How do Legal Videographers Get Paid

Legal videographers working for court reporting firms get paid directly from their employer. They may earn an hourly wage, a salary, or receive pay for each event recorded. Freelance workers receive compensation directly from the firm or agency hiring them. They may charge an hourly rate or a flat-rate fee. When charging a flat-rate fee, videographers often estimate the hours it will take to complete the job.

Legal Videographer Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual average salary for legal videographers was $55,120 ($26.50/hr) as of 2017. Videographers in this field generally earn more than videographers in other fields.

The salary range varies widely based on the individual’s education, skill set, certifications, and experience. Geographical location can also play a part in the amount of salary earned.

Employment Outlook for Legal Videographers

The BLS predicts that the employment growth rate for court reporters will increase by about 3% by 2026. However, the rate for legal videographers will grow much faster as the demand for courtroom video recordings increases.

How to Find a Job as a Legal Videographer

The first step in finding a job as a legal videographer involves marketing yourself to people or firms in the field.  Contact a scheduling coordinator at a court reporting firm and submit your resume. Be sure to include any certifications you have.

You should also start networking to find contacts in the field. Use social media or professional networking sites to make connections. Start with people you know and ask for referrals. You can also join trade organizations in the field to meet people with the same interests. Attend professional events and trade meetings to grow your network.

Essential Information

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent
Degree Field(s) Video products, criminal justice
License/Certification Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS)
sKey Skills Detailed-oriented, familiar with various video and editing equipment, knowledge of legal terminology and procedures, concentration
Number of Jobs (2016) 19,600
Job Outlook
3% growth rate for court reporting overall
Median Salary (2017) $55,120
On the Job Training Short term of on-the-job training
Top Earners Top earners in the field are generally freelance videographers

(*Source: the BLS)