Here is why you should upgrade to a digital solution. “Please take a memo.” Ever since that phrase was first uttered, dictation has been an indelible part of the legal landscape. Of course, changes to technology over the years have made the process faster and easier.
Until a couple of years ago the most common dictation technology was the analogue tape recorder. However, over the past few years law firms have increasingly been exploring the ability of digital and mobile technologies to further streamline dictation workflow and enhance productivity.
As technology has evolved, the dictation process has been enhanced significantly. However, deciding whether digital dictation and document creation is right for any individual legal firm requires an understanding of how the technology works and the advantages it offers.
How digital dictation works
Analogue dictation does provide a certain degree of mobility. Handheld recorders allow attorneys to complete dictation from their office, in court, or off-site at depositions and conferences. The challenge is then getting the actual cassettes to an assistant or transcriptionist. In the office, attorneys can hand the tape over but from remote locations this becomes more difficult as the recording cannot immediately be sent for transcribing, and so urgent jobs cannot be completed as efficiently. Once the tape is received, transcriptionists must listen to the dictation – starting and stopping, or fast-forwarding and rewinding to decipher every word.
Digital technology, on the other hand, offers a broader degree of mobility and flexibility, in part by working on a wider array of hardware devices. While attorneys can use small, ergonomic digital recorders that are similar to analogue recorders, they also can dictate on their iPhones®, iPads®, BlackBerry®, Android® devices and more and from there send it directly to their assistant. No matter if they are in the office, at a client, in the courthouse or on the move.
The dictation is not stored on a tape, but in digital format on a small SD (or media) card — much like those used in digital cameras. An attorney can remove the card and hand it to a transcriptionist, just as with a cassette. But even more importantly, he or she can simply plug the recorder into a PC or docking station without removing the card. The voice file automatically is downloaded to an assistant or designated transcriptionist, who transcribes the recording and returns the document via e-mail or hard copy for review or modification.
Mobile technology has become more and more important for lawyers who work outside the office but still need to get voice files to their secretaries quickly. These applications allow attorneys to “record and send,” and primarily are used for short dictations, directions, voice mails and personal reminders. Digital files allow attorneys to more easily locate a position within a document to insert or delete information, rather than being restricted to adding comments at the end of a tape.
Inserting additional comments into a digital file does not overwrite the dictation. Some attorneys may wish to complete shorter dictation themselves – typing brief documents directly into a laptop or smartphone, for instance, and e-mailing the file to an assistant for processing. Digital technology allows them to conveniently record and transfer longer files.
Automatic downloads over secured Internet connections also remove the potential for files to be lost, damaged or destroyed in transit. Full integration into a firm’s dictation solution, encryption and security are assured.
Furthermore, digital downloads help speed workflow by eliminating any delay between the time dictation is complete and the time transcription can begin. Transcriptionists can easily see jobs marked as “priority,” and transcribe them first. Faster workflow frees up time for other mission-critical tasks. Alternatively, it may also allow firms to reduce the size of their transcription pool, or to use outsourced transcription services anywhere in the world.
Digital dictation benefits
Here are a few of the advantages digital dictation offers to legal firms:
- There is no need for attorneys to carry blank tapes, or scramble to deliver dictated tapes to support staff. Digital recorders, tablet computers and smart phone applications give attorneys the ability to dictate on-the-go and download files for transcription at their convenience.
- Digital technology ensures that an attorney’s tablet computer or smart phone device can be used for dictation, eliminating the need to carry a separate piece of equipment.
- Digital technology introduces workflow management options not possible with tapes. Users can more easily locate files, without the need to rewind or fast-forward. Comments can be inserted without overwriting existing dictation. Files easily can be prioritized and special instructions or keywords can be added.
- Digital technology facilitates quick and secure file downloads from a recorder, tablet computer or smartphone to a desktop computer, to the firm’s network, or to the Internet. This eliminates the risk of damaged, erased or lost tapes.
- Dictation can be uploaded directly onto transcriptionists’ computers. They are automatically notified that a new job has arrived for transcription, and can see the priority and status of all pending jobs. An on-screen “player” allows transcriptionists to use the PC as a transcription tool. They no longer have to alternate between analogue equipment and their workstations, but instead can move easily between tasks with fewer workflow interruptions.
- Files are identified by author name, date, client name or other data, making them easy to identify and track.
- Clearer sound quality improves productivity and turnaround time, while increasing the accuracy of the transcription.
- Some digital recorders offer barcode scanners and voice command functionality. These features allow the attorney to automatically incorporate demographic information like client ID or the document work type into the file. In addition to improving accuracy and enhancing security, these features also make it easier to identify and retrieve files.
- Digital technology allows users to append supporting documents to the original dictation. For example, an attorney can attach specific e-mails or correspondence.
- Encryption allows law firms and individual users to restrict access to files, so dictation is secure no matter where it is recorded or transmitted.
A word about voice recognition
One of the features available with digital dictation and document creation technology is voice recognition. Voice recognition presents many additional advantages, but it is important for attorneys to understand precisely what the technology does—and does not—offer before deciding whether to incorporate it into a dictation system.
First, attorneys must recognize the differences between voice processing and voice recognition. Most systems today use voice processing: A file is recorded and a transcriptionist listens to it, transcribes it and processes it.
Voice recognition, on the other hand, converts the spoken word directly into written text. Transcriptionists do not need to key in every word; instead, they serve as “editors.” They review the transcription while listening to the dictation to catch inadvertent errors. Voice recognition can be added to digital systems for an additional cost, but can represent a significant time savings.
While digital technology does not require the use of voice recognition, newer digital technology allows it to be added easily. In fact, some digital systems use the industry-standard. DSS voice file format, which automatically renders digital dictation files “voice-recognition-ready” so users can add this functionality at any time.
Innovation: Now and future
In short, digital dictation is now the clear choice for a growing number of law firms – not only because of the enhanced sound quality, but also because of the efficiencies gained in personal productivity and business operations. Digital technology lets law firms optimize efficiency today, while setting a strategic course toward future innovations as well.
Please contact us to arrange a no-obligation demonstration or for more information on how the Philips range of professional digital recording and transcription devices can benefit you and your company