Legal transcription is a growing industry. Technology is developing rapidly, and most legal processes today are recorded in digital audio or video formats for record-keeping purposes. Many attorneys have realized how much legal transcription can benefit their operation, enhance productivity, and save on various resources. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at these benefits and how they can be applied to your legal practice.
First, what is legal transcription?
Legal transcription converts recorded audio or video content of legal proceedings, such as hearings, depositions, client consultations, interviews, and more, into written form. Today, it’s an essential part of the legal process since legal proceedings can produce a surprising amount of recorded content, especially with digital audio and video recording options.
Now let’s look at why getting a legal transcription service provider can benefit your business.
It saves time
One of the two biggest allures of outsourcing a business process is how much time it can save.
Here are the two ways that happen:
First, setting up a transcription department for your legal business will require a few things: hiring skilled candidates, vetting them through thorough background checks, and training them for the required tasks. This assumes that the legal business in question has the resources to create such a department.
Furthermore, background checks are very important, as most legal professionals are periodically exposed to sensitive and highly confidential information (we’ll discuss this later). Background checks require even more time to conduct, even if you outsource it, cutting into precious days or weeks that can be used for more productive tasks. Outsourcing your legal transcription needs negates all those needs, as the personnel are already available and ready to work on your projects.
Second, transcription businesses tend to focus on only one thing, and it’s in the name. That means they can offer their clients fast turnaround times without sacrificing any part of their business process. Their transcriptionists are used to their work, have the necessary tools for the job, and most transcriptionists specialize in different legal fields. This means they don’t have to struggle with legal and technical jargon and can deliver your transcripts fast.
It saves money
I did say one of two things in the last section, so here’s the other one: outsourced legal transcription saves you money. The rates may initially look expensive, especially if you get a transcription provider that requires time commitments and upfront fees. However, you need to weigh this against the costs of hiring, training, and compensating an in-house transcriptionist. Let me tell you, outsourcing saves you more the longer you plot out the data.
This is because you’re not responsible for the transcriptionists’ benefits, salaries, and equipment. You won’t have to worry about giving them sick days or vacation time. You don’t need to consider the cost of hiring a backup in case your transcription team is unable to perform their duties for any reason. All that is placed under the purview of the transcription service provider, allowing you to focus more on your business’s primary operations.
Legal transcription companies make it a point to offer accurate transcription services. Otherwise, nobody would want to work with them. To this end, they hire and retain the best employees, train them with the best equipment and processes, and subject all completed projects to rigorous proofreading and editing before it goes out.
Allow me to digress. Free automated transcription programs like Google’s Speech-to-Text offer about 84% accuracy. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Amazon’s competing services are 81% and 83% accurate, respectively. Some companies offering paid automated transcription services brag about how they can beat Google’s accuracy rates by a few percentage points — which is fair enough, considering Speech-to-Text’s accuracy rates are the industry standard.
However, it’s better to put these things into proper context. Transcribing a 1000-word deposition recording with these programs will yield somewhere in the neighborhood of 190 incorrect words. It’s possible that error rates can increase depending on audio quality, accents, background noise, and other factors. There’s also the issue of context, where similar-sounding words used in different situations can have different meanings.
Now to some, it might seem like 190 wrong words out of a thousand wouldn’t be a big issue. Perhaps the errors were as simple as misusing there, their, and they’re, or where and were, in single documents. It will take some poor admin assistant a few hours to listen to the recording and edit the issues. However, we are talking about legal transcription here, where an incorrect word in an important document can have severe ramifications. Inaccurate transcripts have led to guilty parties walking and innocent people going to jail.
In terms of accuracy, firms using human transcription offer significantly higher accuracy rates than those with automated solutions. The industry standard for human transcription is 95% accuracy, but most providers offer 99%. (Most of the time, it’s actually 100%, and the 1% is just to allow for some headroom.)
Another benefit of having human transcribers is that they can certify their transcripts for court use. You see, courts in the United States only accept certified transcripts in their legal proceedings. This means that the transcriber is willing to stand behind their work, ensuring the results were produced and written as faithfully close to the recording as possible.
The first requirement for being able to certify transcripts is, of course, to be a living, breathing person. The other prerequisites are as follows:
- Must reside in the U.S. and have legal citizenship,
- Must undergo a thorough criminal background check,
- Must be willing and able to certify any transcription, and
- Must be willing to testify under oath if called upon.
The transcripts are digitally searchable
Gone are the days when transcripts were typed out on mechanical typewriters and shipped in envelopes through postal delivery services. Most, if not all, of the operating transcription service providers allow their customers access to an online portal where they can upload their recordings and receive the completed transcripts in digital formats.
This means that all of the transcripts can be searched digitally, which is a literal godsend when you consider the amount of paperwork legal entities have to go through over the course of their regular business operations.
I remember this one scene from a show about lawyers from way back, where the main character was presented with a room full of paperwork that he had to comb through, including interview transcripts and recordings. Funnily enough, this isn’t too far from the reality of legal proceedings. Digital transcripts of audio or video recordings mean you don’t have to sit, watch, and rewind whenever you need to view or reference a particular section.
Transcription providers offer security
I briefly touched upon the issue of security with legal transcription, and we’ll discuss it more here.
Legal recordings can carry sensitive information like personally identifiable information (PPI), financial details, court strategies, etc. These can be used for several unethical and illegal practices, including interference with the legal process and things like social engineering or blackmail. If you’re a lawyer running a legal practice, it’s understandable that you might think that outsourcing your transcription needs is a security risk. However, there are safeguards in place.
The Criminal Justice Information Services Division is an important part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It’s tasked with maintaining and operating several secure services and databases for the various agencies of the Criminal Justice System in the country. They also create strict policies for third-party organizations accessing or sending data to their servers. These thirteen policies cover the following:
- Information Exchange Agreements
- Security Awareness Training
- Incident Response
- Auditing and Accountability
- Access Control
- Identification and Authentication
- Configuration Management
- Media Protection
- Physical Protection
- System and Communications Protection and Information Integrity
- Formal Audits
- Personal Security
- Mobile Devices Oversight
Organizations that meet the policy requirements are granted a CJIS-complaint status. They are subjected to frequent audits and must adhere to any changes in the guidelines, plus keep up with technological developments in their fields. If this sounds costly and time-consuming to you, then you’re right.
But security is invaluable. Transcription service providers can claim they have the best people, the fastest delivery times, the highest accuracy rates, and the best customer service till the cows come home. Still, it wouldn't do anything to get them CJIS compliance status. If security is a primary concern for your legal practice (as it should be), looking for a CJIS-compliant provider that does quality work is in your best interest.
All things considered, getting a legal transcription service provider for your legal practice or business is an excellent proposition. It saves time and money, ensures accuracy, and can offer stringent protection for your files.
To maximize the benefits and protect yourself from the risks, finding a transcription provider that offers high accuracy, affordability, excellent customer service, and CJIS compliance is essential.