From e-discovery to virtual law offices, changes in the way cases are litigated to how attorneys work are being impacted by new technology. For some law firms and attorneys, however, old habits die hard. For example, few attorneys are willing to replace the dictation device and transcription workflow they have used for years for a new, more productive dictation method.
The good news is they do not have to drastically change their already-efficient dictation processes even when upgrading to some of the new voice technology tools available today. The first step, however, law firms should take when implementing new technologies and processes is to identify inefficient workflows. This will help identify areas where automating or outsourcing tasks to reallocate time for higher-value casework and revenue-generating activities will be most beneficial. Another crucial technology adoption factor is that firms should remain flexible with the technology options to suit attorney preferences. In addition, with more legal professionals traveling and working off-site, mobility and secure information exchange should be considered.
Focus on cost, time, and revenue inefficiencies to make improvements.
Before new voice technology can be implemented, the law firm must identify inefficient processes involving dictation, transcription, and document creation. A good place to start is by reviewing every related task that is performed manually and then exploring alternatives.
Transcription, for example, may currently be performed by internal legal assistants or paralegals, which may not be the best utilization of their skills or training. The median salary of a paralegal or legal assistant in the United States was $46,990 in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Having just one of these professionals spend 10 hours a week on transcription translates to $11,746.80 a year in wages when these tasks could be accomplished more cost-effectively, and faster in some cases, by outsourcing to a professional service.
Based on research conducted by Speech Processing Solutions, dictating one page of text takes approximately two minutes and typing the same page takes an average of 14 minutes. If a law firm is typing 20, ten-page reports per week, for example, dictating could save 40 hours per week, and 1,920 hours per year. Considering the cost of a professional’s time or the costs of an assistant, dictating can help reduce overhead costs by up to 93 percent.
In particular, a professional transcription service that leverages cloud-based technology so dictations can be shared and final documents accessed from any web browser, such as Philips SpeechScribe, should be considered. Services that do not require a long-term contract or a minimum number of dictations would also benefit firms who do not require a service year-round, but rather during busy times of the year, for certain document-heavy cases, or when staff are on vacation. Billing is also much simpler with a service as the firm can present its invoice to the client along with the firm’s own billable hours.
Flexibility ensures adoption.
Some attorneys may want to continue dictating with a microphone connected to their computer, while others may prefer handheld recorders. Others may want a smartphone app that allows them to do everything. Some voice-technology solutions require attorneys to use only a mobile app for recording and sharing dictations, and forcing attorneys to significantly change their workflow and preferred device can be a recipe for technology-adoption failure.
A better alternative is to look for a partner that offers a variety of voice technology products including microphones, digital handheld recorders and mobile apps for all the major smartphone platforms. Also ideal is when the enterprise software used to manage recordings and transcribe dictations is from the vendor that also offers the hardware. For mobile attorneys, secure, cloud-based servers that are also offered by same voice technology vendor as the hardware and software completes a fully integrated approach that many tech-savvy law firms are embracing. Not only does an integrated strategy make adoption simpler for attorneys and their support staff, the firm’s operations or information technology staff can expect fewer interoperability issues and only need one point of contact for implementation, technical questions and service requests.
Greater results with fewer resources.
With flexible voice technology and workflow options, attorneys can complete dictations wherever they are, using the recording method they prefer. This translates to rapid adoption and faster turnaround time on documents, whether the dictation is transcribed internally or by a professional, off-site transcriptionist.
In addition, when paralegals and assistants spend less time transcribing and more time on casework, clients can be served more promptly and the firm can concentrate on new client generation or other cases. The result is more casework completed in less time and more satisfied clients.
Speech recognition software, which can automatically transcribe dictation as it is spoken or using recorded files, is also an option for document creation. In this regard, flexibility is again crucial because not all attorneys will want to use speech recognition software or a transcription service, but would rather have their assistants transcribe their dictation.
When the right voice technology is chosen and implemented, attorneys and other professionals at the firm can work securely, efficiently and more productively, regardless of where they are located or how they prefer to dictate. In the end, the entire firm benefits from faster document turnaround times and better client service.