Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What Is a Word Index from Court Reporters?

A word index is a list of terms used in a legal transcript. It is a form of litigation support to help attorneys find particular testimony in the transcription of deposition or court proceedings. The words are listed in alphabetical order in columns with a page and line number citation for easy reference. They are made using a special software program and the electronic format of transcribed proceedings. Word indexes are usually provided by court reporting services at the back of a certified transcript as a convenience to the reader.

Efficiency Some deposition or court testimony is very lengthy. When a court reporter is present and takes down the testimony, the attorney may later wonder exactly what it was the witness said. They may have a foggy recollection of a few of the words that were used, but do not wish to read an entire transcript to find that one small portion. While computerized versions may involve a simple search in a typical word processing program, the paper transcript is more of a challenge. When the word index is attached to the back of the transcript, it is simple to flip to the back pages and find a word with its reference. If the word is used more than once, the citations appear in numerical order. For example, if the lawyer knows the witness used the words "fuzzy dice" to describe a car's interior and is looking for that section of testimony, they could either look for the words fuzzy or dice to find the correct page and line number.

Court Reference Finding a portion of testimony while in court before a judge can be nerve wracking without the reference of a word index. An attorney may be attempting to make an impromptu argument when the judge asks when and where it occurred. If it happened in a deposition which was produced in transcript form, the attorney can find it quickly and easily. They can even hand the transcript up to the judge, if needed, with the page open and available for examination.

Exclusions Not every word in the dictionary is referenced in a word index. There are certain words that are normally excluded because they are used quite frequently in the English language. Using them as a reference point would be impractical. The word "the" for example, would do nothing but clog up the word list with multiple references on every page of the transcript. Most articles, pronouns and prepositions are excluded.

Special Features Depending on the type of software used for litigation support services, multiple transcripts can be combined to produce one giant word index. This may be helpful in a large case with many witnesses. To find what each one says about "fuzzy dice," for example, would take a long time when searching each transcript individually. To look at a combined index would only take a few moments. Special phrases can also be programmed into the word index software by request. This would likely come from an attorney working on a difficult case. There may be a deposition witness that repeatedly says, "I do not recall." By indexing the phrase, the lawyer may be able to use this as a statistic while making an argument in court later.

Author is a freelance writer. For more information on Court reporting service please visit

by Christine Harrell


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