Linda has been scoping for over 35 years and has taught scoping online for almost 20 years.
She has been married for over 30 years to a retired deputy sheriff, has two daughters and two sons, one grandson, one granddaughter, three dogs, and a vociferous parrot in a pear…’er, pine tree. She lives in the beautiful state of Montana and never intends to leave. She knows how blessed she is in life and in her career and loves sharing that with others.
And, that’s why she is here today to tell you all about scoping.
If you are looking for a new job or even just a side hustle, this may be something that you want to look into.
She also has a free course that will introduce you to scoping so that you can think further about whether you want to pursue it. You can find the free course by clicking here.
Check out the interview below for more information on how to become a scopist.
What is a scopist? I’ve never heard of that?
The word “scopist” isn’t even in the dictionary!
Scoping is actually editing legal documents for court reporters. Editing is quite different from proofreading in that you’re actually working in the unfinished draft of the transcript as opposed to on the almost-finished product. It is supposed that the word “scopist” comes from the diode scope that was on old computers. If it’s like the first one I used back when I rode a dinosaur to work, the screen was kind of yellowish, the words were quite small, and it was guaranteed to make one go blind in short order. I think it was created by optometrists!
Back in those days, the computers used to translate steno notes into English ran about $100-150K. No kidding! Needless to say, scopists worked in-house for court reporting firms. Who else could afford those monstrosities? They were huge old noisy things, but they were a massive improvement on having to type up transcripts on several-part carbon paper. Ask me! When you have to fix one error six times on carbon copies, your husband comes home from work and thinks you’ve been cleaning the chimney!
That doesn’t sound like much fun. Is it still like that?
Fast forward to the present day: I now work from home on a computer that cost less than $500 and holds a stupendous amount of information — and it’s connected to a high-speed Internet connection that allows me to work for any court reporter anywhere in the world.
I can even take it out in my camper and work from Timbuktu if I want to. We’ve come a long way, baby!
Although scoping has been around for over 30 years, for some reason, no one’s ever heard of it. It’s an awesome work-from-home business that helps keep the wheels of justice turning in this country. I personally enjoy knowing that I play a small part in that.
And with today’s technology, I can receive chunks of text from a court reporter on the West Coast and edit right behind her here in Montana. The attorneys get the transcript the same day as the proceedings…and pay us a lot of money for it. Everybody wins!
Those jobs are at the very top end of the skills/speed/money scale, and they don’t typically come along often. The everyday work is our bread and butter: the criminal cases, the lawsuits, the divorces, the car wrecks, the wrongful terminations. It’s a rare day when I don’t learn something.
That’s one of the best parts of being a scopist; there’s always something new.
It keeps me young!
Let’s get a little technical. What does a scopist do?
When we get a file from a reporter client, it is already translated into English. There may be some steno (machine shorthand) for us to decipher (like solving a little crossword puzzle), and we research spellings, punctuate, paragraph, sometimes check exhibits, with the end goal being a readable/understandable transcript that our client can put into the attorneys’ hands by the time they need it.
In other words, if you’re a wordophile, this is the perfect job!
What does a scopist need to know?
Internet Scoping School – ISS – teaches you everything you need to know and know how to do to be a successful scopist.
We offer lots of word usage/punctuation training; a thorough section on learning how to read the steno notes; how to put a transcript together correctly; how to recognize and find proper spellings for medical terminology; how to efficiently run the specialized court reporter software that you and your clients use; how to market yourself as a professional and get clients.
You learn not just a new career but how to be successful at it.
What is a typical salary for a scopist?
There are several factors that go into a scopist’s wages:
How experienced/fast the scopist is;
How well the reporter writes;
How difficult the subject matter is;
Whether speakers talk over each other, whisper into their belly button, are coughing up a lung, slurring their words, or talk faster than speeding new Tesla.
If you’re an average scopist, working with an average reporter, you should be able to make 30-45K/year working pretty much full-time.
On the low end, even listening to full audio, a scopist should still be able to make $20/hr. If you are a better-than average scopist, working with an excellent reporter, you can make $35-45/hr.
And if you get into the high-pressure rush market, you can earn $60K/year or more. I’ve actually made about $500/day on some get-me-the-transcript-as-soon-as possible-dang-it trials. Let me warn you that that is not typical, but is it possible? Yes, ma’am, it is.
What is your favorite thing about being a scopist?
Hmm. Well, you’re talking about a career that I’ve been doing for almost 37 years and still love. But, I guess I like the work itself. I’ve always been good at English and correspondingly horrid at math. It fits with my natural aptitude…other than being a klutz, but that doesn’t pay anything.
I also love working from home and being my own boss. If I get sleepy about 1:30, I can take a nap. My supervisor doesn’t mind! I can make arrangements to take time off when I want to. When my kids were little, I was always at home if they needed me.
Now, I’m here with my dogs all day who require more supervision than my kids did…but I like them better than some people I know. It’s all good.
What is your least favorite thing about being a scopist?
Well, it’s a good problem to have, but sometimes I get pages from all of my reporters at once, and it’s hard to get them all done on time. But if it gets really insane, I always have backups from our graduate group that I can ask to help me out. And I sometimes get pretty impatient with interruptions when I’m trying to work, especially telemarketers who won’t take no the first time…and my mother.
And working from home can be kind of isolating, but ISS has active public and private Facebook groups, and ISS students/grads are really smart, cool people. So we visit and laugh and support each other.
Come to think of it, I guess I pretty much love my career and think it’s perfect for me.
So I’m going to go back to editing, sipping my iced tea, with a big smile on my face. But don’t worry — even if I can’t complain about my job, I can always find something else to complain about!
Are you interested in learning how to become a scopist?