Frequently Asked Questions
An official stenographer is a public officer who collects and transcribes witness statements live or during out-of-court interrogations. As a person on the front lines, stenographers are essential to the administrative health of the justice system. They are highly autonomous, independent, and neutral. They have an exclusive power: the ability to certify that a transcription faithfully and exactly reproduces testimony that has been rendered orally. They also must ensure that an interrogation taking place outside of court proceeds with respect, decorum, and proper order.
As a guarantor of the impartiality of the transcription of orally-rendered evidence, an official stenographer ensures the protection of those in the justice system. Because of their importance in the administration of justice and the need for them to be neutral, stenographers may not be lawyers nor bailiffs. The work of official stenographers is governed by the Regulation respecting the training, skill and knowledge evaluation, accreditation and discipline of stenographers (RLRQ, c B-1, r13).
A Mobile Profession
Official stenographers who accept contracts outside of their cities may be called to work in various regions of Quebec, and even elsewhere in Canada, at their clients’ request.
A Diverse Profession
Official stenographers are primarily hired by lawyers and people subject to the judicial system in order to take witness depositions during out-of-court interrogations, trials, arbitration, investigative commissions, etc. Lawyers and people subject to justice also hire them to transcribe recordings. Official stenographers are not assigned to a single lawyer; they can be called upon to provide their services to many lawyers and people subject to justice.
Although there is a tendency to think of official stenographers in their legal role only, that’s just one part of a much bigger picture. These days, more and more stenographers are being called upon to bring their many skills to non-legal fields, including education, administration and public service. Education, for example, offers many interesting possibilities, such as simultaneous transcription for disabled students or lecture attendees.
An Independent Profession
An official stenographer is a self-employed worker, which means they are charge of how much time they dedicate to their professional practice.
They can also choose to go into business in a firm with other stenographers.
A Human Profession
An official stenographer is required to be in contact with people from all sorts of backgrounds, depending on the contracts entrusted to them. They must exhibit good logical reasoning, stress management, and an ability to concentrate on what is happening around them. Professional discretion, neutrality, and impartiality are important qualities in a career where the human factor is always present.
A Timely Profession
An official stenographer has the opportunity be a part of the facts, events, and projects at the heart of current events. Whether simultaneously transcribing the news for the hard-of-hearing or recording a legal witness statement on their stenotype, official stenographers play an important role in current politics, events, law, culture, etc.
Official stenographers are essential for Quebec’s justice system to function well. And the professional possibilities for stenographers are not limited to the legal world! Thanks to the skills you learn during legal stenography training, you can find work in the fields of education, public service, and many more. Each stenographer is, in fact, an independent worker. That means that they can choose their own work space, their own schedule, and their own workload, depending on their creativity and goals.
You have to obtain an Attestation of Collegial Studies (ACS, or Attestation d’études collégiales (AEC) in French) in Legal Stenography from the École de Sténographie Judiciare du Québec (ESJQ). This diploma is granted to students who have successfully completed training. You must also meet the requirements set out by the Regulation respecting the training, skill and knowledge evaluation, accreditation and discipline of stenographers (RRQ, c. B-1, r. 13) by passing the Comité sur la Sténographie’s examinations.
It’s important to be aware of what the training program that leads to a career as an official stenographer requires. It is an investment of time, of money, and of oneself that can result in an exciting and personalized career.
There is currently a shortage of legal stenographers across Quebec. Plus, the professional options go far beyond the justice system. Thanks to the skills you learn during legal stenography training, you can find work in the fields of education, public service, and many more. Each stenographer is, in fact, an independent worker. That means that they can choose their own work space, their own schedule, and their own workload, depending on their creativity and their goals.
There is no « starting salary » for official stenographers because stenographers are self-employed workers. To give you an idea, though, an official stenographer who works full-time can have annual revenue of upwards of $50,000, depending on their business development and the time they commit to their profession. An official stenographer who works part-time will inevitably earn less than one who works full-time.
For example, the Tariff of fees for the recording and transcription of depositions of witnesses, CQLR c S-33, r 1, specifies a rate of $70.00 per hour for stenographic note-taking, as well as a per-page price for producing transcriptions.
It’s important to understand the requirements of the legal stenography training program before committing to this path. Here is a non-exhaustive list:
- Perfect mastery of written English and/or French
- Good coordination
- Good hearing
- Excellent ability to concentrate
- Good stress management
- Excellent logical reasoning
- Good ability to learn
For several years now, Quebec’s justice system has been seriously suffering from a pronounced lack of official stenographers. 30 years ago, there were 300 official stenographers. Today there are only 150. Of those 150, only half choose to work on a permanent, full-time basis. These official stenographers are mostly over 50 years old. Very few are less than 30. And, in several regions of Quebec, there is currently not one single official stenographer.
So, according to the Association professionnelle des sténographes officiels du Québec, there is currently huge potential demand in the Quebec market, which predicts a promising future for new official stenographers.
According to the College Education Regulations, candidates who meet the requirements set out in its Article 4 are eligible for programs granting Attestations of College Studies (AEC) if they have received instruction deemed adequate by the college and if they meet one of the following conditions:
- the person has interrupted his or her full-time studies or pursued full-time postsecondary studies for at least 2 consecutive terms or 1 school year;
- the person is covered by an agreement entered into between the college and an employer or by a government program of studies;
- the person has interrupted his or her full-time studies for one term and pursued full-time postsecondary studies for one term; or
- the person holds a Secondary School Vocational Diploma.
A candidate who does not have a college diploma (DEC) therefore CAN apply to the ESJQ. The school will consider all relevant training and work experience.
The student needs to have the following items:
- Stenotype (about $1500)
- Recording tool
- Case CATalyst software (about $500 for student version)
- Express Scribe transcription software
- Pedal and headphone
- Laptop computer