Embracing voice technology in the legal industry is slowly becoming a trend. Implementing technological innovation as a means of creating more efficiency continues to be a top trend for law firms. According to Altman Weil’s 2014 Law Firms in Transition Survey, when asked about the most likely change agent in the legal market over the next ten years, 32% of law firm leaders chose technological innovation. As a lawyer looking for ways to keep my law firm successful, it’s important I constantly explore new methods to help my firm work more efficiently while still delivering superior service to my clients.
One of the ways I have found to strike that balance is to continue the legal tradition of using dictation and transcription to create documents. Even though I grew up with computers, as did my staff, I have found that using modern digital voice technology to create letters, memos and other documents is still much faster than typing. In addition, by leveraging a secure cloud-based service to store and transcribe my dictations has also helped the recordings be transcribed faster and more conveniently.
Outsourcing the transcription to professional legal transcribers is cost-effective, and it allows our clerks and law students to maximize their legal skills and expertise for our clients, instead of typing. The result has been improved productivity and efficiency, which has greatly outweighed any costs associated with the cloud-based storage or transcription services.
My firm, based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada specializes in criminal defense, digital privacy, search and seizure, and Canadian immigration and security law. Since founding the firm, embracing new technology to streamline workflows wherever possible has been a top priority. Our decision to adopt voice technology was no different. You might be thinking dictation and transcription is not exactly a new technological process. You would be half-right.
Dictation and transcription have been integral to law firms for decades, and that is because people have always spoken much faster than they can type. For example, dictating one page of text takes approximately two minutes while typing the same page takes an average of 14 minutes—and as all lawyers know: time is money.
The dictation and transcription technology of today is also far superior to the bulky analog tape recorders used by earlier generations of lawyers. Dictation microphones integrated with speech recognition software, handheld digital recorders or dictation recorder apps on smartphones are now available. Recordings can also now be shared with professional legal transcriptionists anywhere in the world and at any time, using methods much more secure and convenient than email.
Finding the Best Dictation Fit
The challenge facing lawyers is selecting the dictation-driven workflow that is the best fit for how they practice. Lawyers who travel frequently and have downtime in airports and hotel rooms may prefer a dictation recorder app, while those who are in the office more often may lean toward a dictation microphone integrated with speech recognition software.
I chose to use a handheld digital recorder. After my dictations are complete, I connect the recorder to my laptop or dock it into the docking station, download the files and securely send them to the cloud-based storage and transcription service. Formerly, I would assign those transcription tasks to a law student, clerk or administrative assistant. Depending on document length, and because students and clerks are not trained transcriptionists, the document creation would take as long as several hours. Transcription also postponed students’ and clerks’ other crucial duties that better utilized their legal knowledge and experience.
Considering the cost of my time and my assistants’ time, and that my staff did not particularly enjoy transcription, I decided to transition those duties to third-party, but reliable transcriptionists.
Shifting to the Cloud
Through my voice technology vendor, I learned about the cloud-based service that seemed to fit my firm’s document creation needs. To test the service, I sent two dictated memos to the transcription service. When the memos came back perfectly transcribed, I decided to send the service more recordings.
Pricing for transcription is less than $2 (CAD) per minute of dictation within a standard 24-hour turnaround period, which is quite affordable considering the average full page of text requires only three to five minutes to dictate. Despite a longer overall turnaround time, we’ve still found efficiencies across the board with this process. Rush transcriptions, delivered in as soon as five hours, can be completed for a small upgrade fee. We have found that nearly all of the documents are returned without any errors, even for the complex terminology used in our industry.
Since switching to transcription, our overall cost savings are difficult to quantify, but I have seen noticeable improvements in my clerks and students in areas such as quality of work, diligence and productivity. Those factors definitely contribute positively to our bottom line and client retention. For a solo practice like mine, that makes a big difference. I imagine that having the flexibility and efficiency of multiple dictation recording options and the ability to securely send dictations to the cloud from anywhere could make a big difference at large firms, too.