Value of Legal Dictation

Posted by on October 19, 2009 in Legal Practice, Time Saving Tips | 1 comment

Value of Legal Dictation

I have had plenty of experience with transcribing documents, especially prior to starting my virtual legal assistant business, when I worked in a number of law offices. Dictation was standard for the majority of lawyers I worked with, as it was accepted that it was a more valuable use of time for the lawyer to quickly speak their instructions than to type their own materials up.

In my very last law office, I noticed a trend toward lawyers who didn’t know how to use dictation machines or who didn’t feel they provided much value. These lawyers often simply sent instructions by email or typed up the body of work they needed done and had their assistant simply format it properly. It was a very busy office and I think the lawyers felt more comfortable as the emails were easy to identify and re-send if their assistant was unavailable and another assistant had to take over the task. Pretty common sadly in a place where there were usually 3 or 4 lawyers to each assistant.

Recently though, I’ve discovered the wonderful combined benefits for digital transcription. I had never worked in an office that used anything other than old-fashioned micro-cassettes for dictation. And up until now, the majority of my clients have communicated with me via email and my online work space, always with written instructions, rather than oral. Digital dictation is an incredible improvement over cassettes! I should have known, since Andrea Cannavina of LegalTypist uses it almost exclusively in her virtual legal assistant business and she knows what she’s talking about!

Thanks to a new client though, I’ve recently begun to work with the digital transcription software from Express Scribe and it is so easy to use! My client just provides me the dictation (via email or upload to my secure workspace) and I’m ready to go. Each email is clearly labeled with pertinent info and it’s very quick for the lawyer – for example, I did an Affidavit for a client yesterday. It took him just over 3 minutes to dictate everything he needed to.  Then I transcribed the body of the document and properly set it up according to required format. The lawyer can say “put a backer on that” and it takes a few seconds, but it would take much longer for him to set up said backer himself, much easier to have me do that and free up his time for more directly client-related responsibilities.

Why is it faster to dictate than to type? Well, for starters the average “speaking” words per minute rate is 120-150 words per minute. For most people, that means they speak much faster than they could type. And of course as I mentioned earlier, you may be able to speak an instruction, but the work involved in performing the task can take much longer. If you dictate “please proofread entire document – all 70 pages” that won’t take long, but actually proofreading may take a fair bit of time. It’s probably a good idea to truly evaluate your typing speed, versus the speed an assistant may have, to determine who should be typing up your documents and correspondence.

An additional benefit of dictating, is that a lawyer can dictate from anywhere, regardless of if they have access to their computer or the internet. You can dictate while commuting to work, from your home office or from your vacation if needed (not recommended though!)

Need more info? Check out this post at The Greatest American Lawyer for a breakdown of some of the benefits of digital dictation for lawyers or The Advantages of Digital Dictation from Law Practice Today. And if you want digital dictation software check out Express Dictate.


Laurie Mapp, Owner
Halo Secretarial Services
Contact us for more information on virtual legal assistance!

1 Comment

  1. Laurie:

    Thanks for the shout out! I especially appreciate your highlighting that dictation (aka speaking) is a much more efficient process than typing; and that instructions can be given during dictation, further compounding the ROI of the process upgrade for those who have never dictated.

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