Technologies in the Workplace: Digital Dictation

Jan 25, 2013

In a busy practice, litigation lawyers will spend lots of their time drafting, redrafting, editing and revising legal documents, in addition to many other forms of correspondence, such as letters and communications to clients or other lawyers. Often times, the busy litigator will not perform the actual typing or drafting of the document, rather, this task will be delegated to a legal secretary, law clerk, or an articling or summer student.

Sometimes a litigator will call his legal secretary into his office, and give general directions of what he would like to see written, whether in a statement of claim or a letter to counsel. Other times, there may be formal dictation, which is recorded by hand before being put to paper or screen. Further still, there are many litigators who have been out in practice for an extensive period of time who may be more inclined to utilize Dictaphones, and then pass their small cassette tapes on to their secretaries for transcribing. However, while this technology has served the legal community very capably for quite some time, as we move further into the 21-st century, and technological advancements occur at a dizzying pace, it is clear that manual stenography and dictation as a method for delegation is old and outdated.

In many instances where Dictaphones are used, it can be difficult to understand the exact words which are being spoken. As well, on some occasions, the tapes may be simply inaudible. Furthermore, with so many Dictaphone tapes being used and reused, it is possible that an important tape could be recorded over. In such a situation, the lawyer and his secretary are both left without any recourse to recover what once was on the tape cassette.

Unsurprisingly, there are commercial technologies available which can help lawyers avoid any of these potential pitfalls and improve the quality of service that they are able to provide to their clients. Digital dictation programs and software is becoming more prevalent within the legal community, no longer strictly consigned to a niche market. Indeed, it is not just the legal community that is embracing this technology much more readily than in the past.

Although voice-to-text, and speech recognition programs and applications have existed for some time, their effectiveness was spotty at best in their infancy and in the various early iterations. As with any technology, newer generations have seen dramatic improvements in design, functionality, effectiveness, clarity, and accuracy. Now, digital dictation software can produce your words as text as rapidly and effectively as a proficient typist, and allow the flexibility for auditory editing.

Digital dictation is also available for products like smart phones and tablet computers. This makes it an invaluable tool for any busy lawyer. Whether you are on the go, idling at a courthouse before a motion, or in between meetings, with digital dictation available to you on your phone or tablet, you can record comprehensive notes or draft documents. As well, it is easily transferable from one device to another, so you can import data from your phone to your office computer with ease.

The availability of this technology is hugely beneficial to the legal industry. Think of the legal process like any other supply chain. Digital dictation makes redundant and thus serve to eliminate several steps in the preparation of any litigation material. For example, without digital dictation, a lawyer will have to create an initial draft, either recording his notes or dictating to a secretary. The secretary will then transcribe the material, and return it to the lawyer for approval. When the lawyer looks at it again, there may be editing necessary, and a new draft to be typed and formatted by the secretary.

However, if we insert digital dictation into the industry, a lawyer would be able to eliminate the redundancy of recording, transcribing, editing, and recording again. Rather, the lawyer will be able to record, transcribe, and edit simultaneously. This will lead to an increase in the lawyer’s efficiency, as well as a reduction in fees for the client, as fewer hours are spent to achieve the same quality of service and results.

By adopting and embracing this technology, your law firm can be seen concurrently as progressive, tech savvy, and highly efficient; traits that any discerning client should seek out when hiring representation.

*This is part of a series brought to you by Korbitec which presents the viewpoints of new associates. This article was written by Josh Silver.