Outdoorsman enjoys life in the courtroom

“It was one of those situations where I had to figure out what I didn’t want to do before I could figure out what I did want to do,” McGuire said, “and I had to figure it out by experience.”

After high school he worked various jobs such as window washing and working at a rifle range. But it wasn’t until he observed the lifestyles of two good friends that McGuire found something he really thought he might enjoy.

“Two of my friends in Texas were court reporters,” McGuire said. “They both had good jobs while still being able to enjoy their pastimes, so I knew it was worth looking into.”

McGuire began classes at Del Mar Junior College in Corpus Christi, Texas, and studied there for two and a half years before transferring to Richardson Court Reporting School in Dallas.

For the next two years, McGuire learned to read and write stenography, which is the shorthand “language” of court reporters.

 “Really, going to school and learning to be familiar with stenography is like learning a different language,” McGuire said. “People are speaking English, but it has to be written and read in a completely different way.”

Naturally, taking classes to learn a new language can be very stressful and the classes McGuire took for court reporting were no exception.

“I didn’t really know what I was getting into at first, and the experience got to be very frustrating at times” McGuire said. “There were certain requirements that had to be met and it could take several months sometimes to meet them. It was frustrating enough that I didn’t know if I still wanted to be a court reporter.”

To be able to graduate from court reporting school, McGuire had to meet minimum requirements of typing 225 words per minute (wpm) during a question and answer session, 200 wpm during jury charges and 180 wpm during any other proceeding.

Meeting these expectations was hard, but McGuire stuck it out and said that practice and balance were the keys to making it through school.

“For practice, the instructors would tell us to take our stenograph machines home, set them up in front of the TV and transcribe whatever was on,” McGuire said. “But they also said to let it go on Fridays and pick back up on Mondays so we wouldn’t get tired and burnt out.”

During school, McGuire not only took classes for stenography but he also took classes on legal and medical terminology and English and grammar classes.

“Not everyone who goes to court reporting school becomes an official court reporter,” McGuire said. “Some people do freelance work, so you have to be prepared for whatever form of writing you might be transcribing.”

After graduating from school, McGuire became one of such people. He did freelance court reporting work through an established firm for the next 14 years.

“Freelancing had its advantages,” McGuire said. “My schedule was flexible and I met some very interesting people while taking depositions at prisons. I also took the depositions of Floyd Reece, the general manager for the Tennessee Titans, and Marques Haynes, a former Harlem Globetrotter.”

But freelance work isn’t always glamorous, which McGuire began to find out. He couldn’t always count on work, which was a problem since he had his wife, Lori, and their two children to look out for.

“About seven years ago I was offered the opportunity to be the official court reporter for the 34th Judicial Circuit in Franklin County,” McGuire said. “It was a great move because the work is stable; I can always count on a check being there. And even though I come to the same place every day, the job is still exciting because every case is different.”

McGuire has found his niche in the court reporting world but the stability doesn’t mean that he has fewer responsibilities.

“We are the guardians of the record,” McGuire said. “When cases come up for appeal, people depend on court reporters to accurately transcribe the court proceedings.

And I am responsible for handling and storing the exhibits offered at trial. This can be tedious when it’s a big trial with many different exhibits.”

Court reporters are also required to keep their certifications up through continuing education and court reporters in Alabama must be members of the Alabama Court Reporters’ Association in order to be certified.

But probably the biggest downside to court reporting, whether freelancing or having a steady job as an official court reporter, is that it’s time consuming.

“I average around 70 hours per week when there are a lot of cases and I’m busy,” McGuire said. “But even when I’m not extremely busy, I still average more than 40 hours per week.”

Even though the job requires a lot of time and responsibility, McGuire is still able to do the things he enjoys like hunting, fishing and scuba diving, which prompted McGuire to have been a member of the Morgan County Rescue Squad for the past three years.

“This job is definitely for single people with a lot of time on their hands,” McGuire said with a laugh. “Being a court reporter is challenging and demanding, but in the end it is very rewarding, too, and it’s something I have enjoyed.”

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