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Why Lawyers Might Want To Ditch Typing For Dictation

Today’s lawyers are focusing too heavily on written communication at the expense of oral communication, putting at risk mastery of fundamental lawyering skills and impeding efficiency at law firms, according to a group of leading Australian lawyers and tests conducted by BigHand and Nuance Communications.

The view that typing an email or developing documents via typing them into a computer is the most efficient use of a lawyer’s highly-valuable time is a fallacy, according to tests conducted by BigHand and Nuance.

“Tests show that lawyers are typically three times more efficient when verbalizing their ideas rather than typing them,” said Anthony Bleasdale, Director – Asia Pacific at BigHand said. “This is a significant result in an industry where time is money.”

“Law firms need to ensure they are not losing efficiencies in how their lawyers are working, provide the right tools to maximize their efficiency and ensure younger lawyers are developing the oral communication skills they need,” he said.

Theodora Ahilas, Principal and Director, Maurice Blackburn agrees.

“We are actually becoming less efficient, rather than becoming more efficient in our time by becoming slaves to the computer and typing ourselves, rather than actually thinking about what we are doing and having a system and protocol to develop our ideas through dictation,” she said.

“A junior lawyer will say to me ‘but I am much more efficient typing it up than actually dictating it.’

“I don’t think that they realize that dictating can be much more efficient because not only do they have clarity of thought, they get it done much quicker than sitting at the computer and actually typing up the document. The best way to do it is to dictate the document, get it back on the system, correct it and then get it out.

“We time cost our work. It is much more efficient for clients that I spend 15 minutes of that hour dictating it and it gets typed by someone else, rather than spending an hour and a half typing it up and then I’ve used their quota or the amount of time allocated for the particular task,” she said.

“I was certainly a bit surprised at how much quicker I could verbalize something more than typing it. But then typing something is a much more mechanical process and delivering information verbally can be much more fluid,” Kirk Warwick, Senior Associate, Norton Rose Fulbright said.

“There is a huge amount of blue sky for digital transcription technology to fill. I think that this technology will really drive efficiency, and really make the way that we operate much more fluid and really save some time.”

Source: Financial Post

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Positioning the microphone correctly is important. It should be to the side of your mouth, not in front, or your breath may interfere with your sound quality. Once you find a placement that works for you, keep the microphone in the same place each time you use it.

Some microphones have batteries. If yours does, make sure you carry extra batteries with you. If your computer’s speech recognition deteriorates, try changing the batteries.

Microphones provided with most software are low quality. If you dictate a lot, consider getting a better microphone. It can make a huge difference. If you improve accuracy one or two percent it may not seem like much, but if you write several pages a day this adds up. It can mean hours in a year.

If there is a change in your sound environment, consider running the “Audio Setup Wizard.” It doesn’t take long. If you have a problem with recognition, check your surroundings. Is there a window behind you that could reflect sound? Try switching to a sound absorbing background such as drapes or a bookcase.

Finally, remember to turn off your microphone when you finish dictating, or pause when dictating for more than a brief moment. If you don’t, you may end up with garbage on your screen as the program puts background noise into words. To turn off the microphone, click the upright microphone icon on your toolbar. You can also use the commands, “Go to Sleep” and “Wake Up,” to turn your microphone off and on. I recommend a microphone with a mute button. You can mute the microphone when you do other things. Note, however, that some mute buttons create static, which causes the program to insert a word you did not dictate. One microphone I use inserted words when I turned the microphone off and on. I sprayed it with Radioshack’s contact and head cleaner—at the on-off switch and at the tail end with the cord pulled out. For a while, this eliminated this problem but eventually it reoccurred, although it was not as bad as it was before. Further sprays with the contact and head cleaner made no difference.

Some microphones have fragile cords which can get damaged and cause electrical interference. I now use a handheld microphone with a sturdy, replaceable cord. With a handheld microphone, make sure you keep it a constant distance from your mouth when you turn your head.

Some of the programs allow you to use a hand-held recorder. They work like a regular recorder but when you want your words transcribed, you hook it up to your computer, select the recording, and click “Transcribe.” These are generally not as accurate as dictating directly to your computer.

Source: PC Speak

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Dictating to your Computer

Why dictate?

Voice recognition has come a long way in the last few years. You can now dictate your notes, judgments, letters, and other documents to your computer at your normal speaking pace. In fact, dictating too slowly may degrade your accuracy because the program selects words based on their context as well as on your voice waves. (If you say, “dear,” the program will not know whether you mean “deer” or “dear.” If you say “Doug,” the program will not know whether you mean “Doug” or “dug.” If you say, “Dear Doug,” this provides a context for the program to select the correct words. So does, “As I dug my waterline, a deer jumped over it.”

Although you can dictate quickly, you must enunciate each word clearly and ensure you do not you run your words together.

The following two sentences, which I will dictate, demonstrate how the program deals with homonyms by looking at words in context:

  • Two boys went to see the doctor because they ate too much food.
  • They’re going to park their car over there.

Your computer types the words as you speak, and, if you have the right program, it can play your words back to you in audio.

Because of the speed and accuracy of the newest programs when combined with powerful computers, after a couple of weeks training the program (and yourself), you may be able to get more done in less time. It only takes a few minutes to get started if you have a new program and a powerful computer.

I have found that dictating frees my hands to sort through exhibits and other material.

Some time ago, after a long day of typing my notes in court, one of my hands was sore. Although I had been dictating to my computer off and on, I then started dictating to my computer on a regular basis to prevent repetitive stress injuries to my hands and wrists.

Dictating to your computer can turn tedious tasks into more enjoyable ones. For example, I took a fact-laden paragraph from a child protection report and quickly dictated the points into a list that automatically numbered itself in Word. It was then much easier to comprehend. Besides, it was fun to do.


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Law firm streamlines transcription process

Integration of digital dictation and speech recognition improve efficiency and productivity

Modernization was in order when La Cava & Jacobson, P.A., launched itself as an independent practice in June 2010. The 12-attorney medical malpractice and civil defense law firm in Tampa, Florida split from a larger organization and acquired the former parent company’s office along with decades-old tape-based dictation equipment.

“The tapes were old and the machines broke frequently,” says partner James D. Wetzel.” With help from their local vendor, the firm began researching a suite of digital dictation and transcription tools. In 2011, after thorough analysis, La Cava & Jacobson choose a dictation software suite with Philips Pocket Memo digital recorders to replace their obsolete equipment and inefficient workflow.

Seamless workflow integration

La Cava & Jacobson’s attorneys were accustomed to dictation, so substituting tape-based recorders with the Pocket Memo devices was seamless — yet it greatly improved the efficiency of the transcription process.

Prior to the switch, attorneys would dictate letters or reports, and then either hand-deliver cassette tapes to their assistants or search for an available transcriptionist. Now, with the digital capabilities of the Pocket Memo combined with the dictation software, attorneys simply dock their recorders at their PCs. The audio files are automatically and securely uploaded to a centralized system that can be accessed by an authorized assistant or typist. The attorney’s dictation can then be transcribed by the first available assistant, or specified support staff.

Improved efficiency with speech recognition

Their Voice Systems representative was able to show La Cava & Jacobson’s attorneys how to further enhance productivity with the use of speech recognition. Integrating speech recognition software within the dictation software workflow solution further automates the transcription process. Attorneys can use speech recognition to create a draft document and send it through the system for completion. Rather than spending the bulk of their time transcribing from scratch, typist only need to proofread the documents created in the speech recognition and make corrections if needed.

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Have You “Googled” Yourself Lately?

Here’s a great article by my good friend Larry Bodine of The Law Marketing Portal on the importance of performing a “Google” search for your own name, firm name, etc. to see what’s being said about you.  I actually found this article while reviewing another great blawg that I reference frequently, Inter Alia, by Tom Mighell.  Our thanks to Larry for his article, and to Tom for alerting us to it.

Law office technology – law firm management