What do music composers, biochemists, and lawyers have in common? All three professions rely on transcription—an accurate capture of either musical notes, DNA nucleotides, or spoken words.
The classic definition of transcription refers to both the process and end product of textual representation and/or translation of speech sounds. For the legal profession, the documents created by legal transcriptionists and court reporters are the gold standard.
So, why are professionals needed to convert speech to text, and what makes transcription for lawyers so important? Let’s dive in.
While they may not seem like a natural pairing, law, and poetry share a critical likeness: every written word and character is vitally important. A comma out of place can change the nature of a written contract (or sonnet), so careful review and editing is a crucial step.
Lawyers also need a method to apply that level of specificity and control to information that’s created or collected orally. There are five (progressively more accurate) ways to make up for our human lack of absolute recall. You can revisit oral testimony through:
Professional and realtime transcription are commonly used to capture accurate records of spoken testimony or exchanges. Here’s why:
Once you introduce spoken testimony to the mix, there’s a much larger margin of error in creating accurate records, whether from live events or from audio and video recordings. Oral testimony, discussions, and decisions can lead to errors based on:
Legal transcription typically refers to the process of converting recorded files to text with the use of a standard keyboard and a foot pedal or other mechanism to stop, start, fast-forward, and rewind the recording.
Realtime transcription, on the other hand, uses short-hand methodology through a stenotype machine or a stenomask (or court reporting equipment and software) to capture speech as it occurs.
To weigh their efficacy, let’s look at three categories of numbers: speaking speed, typing speed, and realtime stenographic transcription speed.
It’s natural to wonder why the human element—a trained transcriptionist—is still superior to relying on technology. Wouldn’t the use of transcription software and high-quality recording equipment be more efficient in generating verbatim records, without the margin of human error?
Not quite. The answer is in combining the two. Realtime transcriptionists employ equipment that incorporates back-up audio recordings to consult later if necessary, as well as AI-aided software that converts shorthand input to a text draft to be reviewed and corrected.
Whether through playback or live, a skilled professional can:
While ‘benefits’ sounds like extra bonus features, the following characteristics of using professional transcriptionists at depositions and other proceedings aren’t frills. For a lawyer, transcription is the only way to obtain:
Imagine using a search engine that limited information to a top category. Instead of searching for the cost of an annual family pass to a nearby zoo, for instance, you’d have to simply start at “Zoo” and scan through pages of text on the history, controversies, special events, funding, and all the other not-so-useful data before arriving at the specific fact you’re looking for.
Building a legal case includes finding important pieces of information and how they connect in sequence to case law and to support an argument. To do that efficiently, you need electronic transcripts of depositions and other proceedings that can be:
Relying on memory, notes, and repeated viewings of audiovisual recordings can’t compare to having quick-turn access to verbatim transcripts with these functions.
A legal verbatim transcription is the pinnacle of accuracy. Also called true, strict, or full verbatim, it captures every pause, stutter, repeated word, and nonverbal sound made by a speaker.
All of those ‘um’s and coughs and sighs can be critical to a legal transcript to:
In addition to an absolutely accurate record of oral testimony, a verbatim record will identify each speaker and may make a note of background noises.
Any video or audio recording intended for use at trial or in a formal court proceeding requires an accompanying certified transcript.8 The transcript is entered along with the recording as:
As such, they become part of the official trial transcript and are available for use to:
We’ve explored the why of lawyer transcription needs, but do you know which events or occasions in the legal field benefit from securing your own transcriber?
Each legal case can produce multiple witness depositions during discovery. With only 3% – 6% of criminal cases and 5% of civil lawsuits actually going to trial, depositions vastly outnumber trials and generate the most frequent need for transcription in many law firms.9,10
A formal record is required for any courtroom proceeding that involves a judge, jury, or magistrate.
Although court reporters are typically engaged to capture verbatim speech, some states and jurisdictions allow audiovisual recording without a transcribing court reporter present. They may also limit the transcription of recordings to be produced only if a lawyer requests and purchases it.
A law firm may need a professional to transcribe:
Between depositions and jury trials are a host of meetings that require an official record. You may need either realtime transcription or legal transcription of an audio file for:
For lawyers that rely on audio recording notes, memos, letters, and other drafts, a legal transcriptionist provides an efficient turnaround for creating a written copy.
A legal transcriptionist can also perform a transcript review. This may entail:
U.S. Legal Support has been in the business of providing skilled and reliable transcription services since 1996.
At center stage is our network of 5,000+ transcriptionists and court reporters across the nation. We can connect you with professionals who utilize stenography, voice writing, and digital reporting to capture verbatim records. We can also produce an accurate transcript of any audio or visual file.
U.S. Legal Support also offers litigation consulting and trial services, interpreting and translation services, record retrieval and analysis, and more.
Ready to learn more about our legal support services? Contact us by phone, email, or website request form for your immediate transcriptionist needs or to discuss how we can help with your overall litigation support needs.
Content published on the U.S. Legal Support blog is reviewed by professionals in the legal and litigation support services field to help ensure accurate information.