Legal transcriptionists and court reporters make up an important part of our legal system. They function as recorders of events, but also as powerful tools in the arsenal of skilled attorneys. An accurate and skilled transcriptionist can catch tiny details that are crucial to a case, but if they have a slow turnaround time, the attorney may not receive the needed transcripts in time to tease out all those crucial insights. Highly skilled, accurate, and fast transcriptionists or court reporters are a must for any legal professional seeking an edge. 

What Is Legal Transcription?

Transcription is defined as the act of turning audio or audiovisual recordings of spoken words into written documents. Legal transcription is simply doing the same for recordings of legal proceedings or events. A skilled legal transcriptionist will take an audio recording of a deposition, trial, or another legal event, type it into an easily referenceable document, and deliver it to the requesting party.

Where it may take an attorney an hour of watching and rewatching a recorded deposition to find and cross-reference important moments and statements, it takes only a fraction of the time to scan a printed transcript, marking and connecting the same important information.

Transcriptionists Vs. Court Reporters

There is some confusion regarding the difference between legal transcriptionists and court reporters. However, the difference is simple. Court reporters write down the spoken word as it happens, and legal transcriptionists work with recordings of past events. Legal transcriptionists transcribe recorded audio or video into a written document, where court reporters attend live events and write a transcript of legal proceedings as the event takes place, in real time.

Court reporters can keep up with the pace of live speech by using special stenography equipment and training whereas a legal transcriptionist uses a typical computer keyboard and may pause or rewind the recording as needed to keep up.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both legal transcriptionists and professional court reporters. Legal transcriptionists are less costly because they have no special equipment and are not trained in stenography. If an event is already past, you of course cannot go back in time and bring a court reporter with you, making a legal transcriptionist your best option. However, with the extra cost of a court reporter comes several benefits:

  • If a court reporter mishears something, they can ask for clarification (if a recording is fuzzy or unclear, there is little a legal transcriptionist can do)

  • Because a court reporter is at the live event, a talented court reporter can have a rough draft transcript back to you almost immediately after the proceeding. 

  • Court reporters can swear in witnesses and other parties whereas a transcriptionist cannot. 

What About Transcription Software? 

Though a stenography-trained court reporter has more specialized skills, jobs in both court reporting and legal transcription require a high degree of legal knowledge and verbal comprehension. Simple voice-transcribing software does not have the contextual knowledge to understand when a homophone might be used instead of its counterpart. Setting aside the grammatical and verbal intricacies of legal language, voice recognition software has a long way to go, as is clear to anyone who frequently uses their smartphone’s virtual assistant. Software may aid in the process, but for now and into the foreseeable future, there is no replacement for a highly trained career transcriptionist or court reporter. 

What Is the Difference Between Transcription and Dictation?

Dictation is a crucial time-saver for many in the legal field. Rather than writing a document and taking the time to punctuate and review grammar, an attorney can simply speak the contents of the document. This is typically done to a live court reporter, or into an audio recorder. The attorney can then review the contents of the written document from the reporter or listen to the dictated recording.

Transcription takes that dictated recording one step further, accomplishing the same thing as a court reporter but at a lower price. The attorney can send his created audio recording and have it made into a written document by a legal transcriptionist.

The difference between transcription and dictation is simply this: dictation is the creation of a recording by speaking, and transcription is turning that recording into a written document. 

Skills, Training, and Qualifications of Legal Transcriptionists

As mentioned before, legal transcription requires a high degree of skill and training. Beyond a typing speed often in excess of 80 words per minute, transcription training is required by most firms when hiring legal transcriptionists. Though there is no official college degree for legal transcription, education offers applicants an edge in starting a transcription career. Those seeking jobs in transcription can receive a legal transcription certification, or a “career degree,” which gives them skills and training that many firms seek, and some require. Experience in law is required to gain specialized legal vocabulary. This specialization becomes even more crucial in specific subsets of law, like medical law. This irreplaceable on-the-job education can make a career in legal transcription very viable, with a salary that scales to one’s experience up to a certain point. 

NAEGELI’s Legal Transcription Process

NAEGELI Deposition & Trial has a well-developed process that allows for high-accuracy transcripts delivered to you in a timely manner. Our steps are as follows:

  1. We receive your audio or video files, in any standard format of your choosing. 

  2. Using our proprietary blend of technology and skilled transcription effort, we quickly and accurately transcribe your recordings into the written word.

  3. We review your completed document to ensure the highest standard of accuracy.

  4. You receive your high-accuracy transcription, digitally or physically, often with an extremely tight turnaround.

The Benefits of Using NAEGELI for Your Transcription Needs

It is tempting for many legal professionals to think they should simply assign their transcription to staff, be it their secretary or paralegal. They believe this will save the time and cost of finding and paying a transcription firm. They do not consider, however, the cost of their employee’s wages, plus the value of the other tasks their employee could be assigned to. Not all paralegals type in excess of 80 words per minute. This combination of wage cost, time cost, and opportunity cost adds up to an expensive proposition, and that is without considering how costly inaccuracies may be in winning or losing a case.

NAEGELI Deposition & Trial transcription services let you and your staff do what you do best. With reasonable rates and specialized staff, NAEGELI provides a better value than legal professionals can expect of in-house transcription efforts. Trust NAEGELI with your legal transcription needs.

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By Marsha Naegeli