Are you looking for a legal transcription provider? Lawyers and everyone else in the legal industry typically have their hands full 24/7. Many work over-time reviewing client documents, interviews, and court recordings. Let us help you learn how to choose the right legal transcription for you and your firm, court system, or office.
It’s no wonder lawyers in the US work such long hours to meet their productivity goals. The 2017 Legal Trends Report from Clio finds that lawyers spend 29% of each work day on billable time. That’s only 2.3 hours of billable time for each 8-hour work day!
Finding ways to be as time-efficient as possible is crucial for success, especially if you’re planning to take on new clients.
The most time-consuming tasks are all administrative, including transcription. Finding the right legal transcription provider can help alleviate the burden on your law firm.
With one Google search, you are presented with so many options for transcription services. How do you decide which one to use?
Should you go with the least expensive option?
Do you go for that guaranteed accuracy?
How about the one with the outstanding reviews?
It’s challenging to know which one to choose unless you know exactly what to look for.
And frankly, choosing the wrong legal transcription company could end up being a timely and risky mistake.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the different legal transcription providers so that you can make the right decision for your law firm.
Table of Contents
- How Does Legal Transcription Work?
- What Do Legal Transcription Agencies Offer?
- What Can You Use Legal Transcription For?
- Benefits of Legal Transcription
- The Risks of Choosing the Wrong Legal Transcription Provider
- Legal Transcription Accuracy Rates
- Typical Turnaround Times for Legal Transcription
- Typical Pricing for Legal Transcription
- Security Measures for Legal Transcription
- Choosing the Right Legal Transcription Provider
- Downloadable Checklist
How Does Legal Transcription Work?
When choosing the right legal transcription provider, it’s essential to know the process the provider must take to ensure the quality and safety of your documents.
Step 1: The audio is recorded in court hearings, depositions, or interviews with multiple speakers. It’s usually recorded by the government or someone paid to record it.
Some lawyers dictate and record their own notes, letters, and memos similar to what physicians do when they dictate their patient’s medical charts. These notes include referral letters to other attorneys and memos for staff and are often recorded using a handheld digital recorder, toll-free call in dictation system, or an iPhone App for the best quality.
Most legal transcription agencies accept audio and video files in a wide variety of formats. It’s best to check with your prospective provider to see if they can accept your specific format. Likewise, always tell the legal transcription provider the dates you require your files back and in which format you need.
Once the file is received, the legal transcriptionist listens to the recording and transcribes exactly what they hear, which is called verbatim transcription, following the format you requested. They’ll also take into account what type of source material they’re transcribing.
For example, if the file is of a suspect interview or court proceeding, the grammatical inconsistencies and nuances of all speakers’ speech patterns should remain intact.
On the other hand, if the file being transcribed is a legal document or letter, syntax, grammar, and correct wording and phrasing will be used to create a professional document if it is not dictated correctly for some reason. it will be used to create the professional document
Step 2: After the transcriptionist finishes, your document is reviewed by another person. At Transcription Outsourcing LLC, we send our completed transcripts to our QA (Quality Assurance) team for a thorough proofread. This step is crucial for the grammatical integrity and accuracy of the document.
Step 3: The document is sent back to you once everything has been proofread and double-checked. The document can be returned as a paper hardcopy or in various digital formats, if you prefer. The finished certified legal transcript should then be securely archived in case you need it again in the future.
Voilà! Overall, the steps for legal transcription are simple and straightforward. The QA and editing step should not be missed, because that’s where they’ll catch mistakes and typos that can change a 98% accurate transcript into a 99% or 100% accurate transcript.
What do Legal Transcription Agencies Offer?
You want a company that can cater to your law firm’s current and future needs so you don’t have to switch companies down the road.
Most legal transcription providers offer the following services:
- 911 calls
- Administrative hearings
- Arbitration hearings
- Client letters
- Client tapes
- Conference calls
- Conference or panel recordings
- Court proceedings
- Evidence/legal argument
- Examinations under oath
- Federal agency investigations
- Fire investigation reports
- Interviews, speeches, lectures
- Jail calls
- Legal briefs
- Legal pleadings
- Licensing appeals
- Mediation briefs
- Mediation proceedings
- Minutes of meetings
- Public hearings
- Seminar recordings
Experienced legal transcriptionists already know the language that each of these niche services entail. Different types of recordings often require different transcript formats, and you can also provide your own template or formatting specifications when needed. Always ask the provider what services they have if it’s not already listed on their website.
What Can You Use Legal Transcription for?
Legal transcriptions can help legal professionals and lawyers in more ways than just saving time. It helps advance court cases and plan future legal actions.
A lawyer can read transcripts to develop questions for witnesses. They can also help plan for trials and make proposals for appealing cases that have already been decided.
Also, legal transcriptions can be used as evidence against or in favor of a victim or suspect.
Lastly, the decisions of the judge and jury can be difficult to understand at times. Going over the transcripts can clarify their choices.
There’s a lot of benefits to utilizing legal transcription. Let’s go over some more below.
Benefits of Legal Transcription
The right legal transcription company will help you as an attorney be more organized and save valuable time. The benefits don’t end there, though.
Here are some benefits that will move the needle for legal professionals across the US:
The Correct Document Format
You’ll receive the correct document format for your needs. The finished transcript can include timestamps, line numbers, page numbers, and identifies the speakers by name. This information allows attorneys to track the event’s timeline and flow of information. The flow is crucial for finding inconsistencies in a witness’s testimony and the formulation of your case.
Easier to Note Critical Points
Typed transcripts make it simpler to highlight the document’s critical parts. Likewise, note taking is faster with a transcribed document right in front of you. You can find information quickly to formulate questions. It’s painless to upload and access a written document, and digital formats allow for searching quickly through a document to find key words and phrases. The right legal transcription provider allows you to save the file in different formats to open it on your desired device.
Helps Support Evidence
Legal transcripts will also help you support the audio or video recordings presented as evidence. Transcriptions are useful for jurors and others involved in the hearing or trial. With a transcript, everyone receives the same information from the submitted evidence, which reduces the risk of misinterpretation.
Gives You A Wider Understanding
If you’re handling a complicated case with conflicting reports from the people involved and several witnesses, a legal transcript of the corresponding audio or video evidence can help you grasp the evidence and information. Having a more comprehensive view may lead to a positive result for your client’s case.
Having digitally stored legal transcripts makes it simpler to organize, locate, and search for information when you need it. It’s also handy to share information with other people working on your cases with you, inside and outside of your firm.
Transcriptions Are Flexible
Legal transcripts can be translated into many different languages, allowing anyone to follow along regardless of whether or not they can understand English. This includes people at the hearing and family members who are unable to attend. It’s also a huge benefit for the deaf and hard of hearing as transcripts allow them to follow the trial proceedings without missing a thing.
Legal Record Keeping
In North Carolina and some other jurisdictions in the US, the appellant is responsible for providing the previous trial’s complete record. You need to have it ready when your client wants to file their appeal. Having all of your transcripts in one place, all in the same format, helps you prepare new strategies with ease.
Outsourcing legal transcription to a competent transcription provider benefits you majorly by saving you money, time, and energy. Your legal transcription provider understands the requirements you face in the legal industry and helps you perform at your best.
However, this isn’t always the case. Choosing the wrong legal transcription provider can make you jump through hoops to get a transcript you can present in court. Worst of all, an error in a transcript can lead to an innocent person being falsely accused and receiving an unfair sentence.
The Risks of Choosing the Wrong Legal Transcription Provider
In legal transcription, there’s no room for error. While most legal firms and lawyers are now choosing reliable legal transcription providers, there are still some cases where minor transcription errors cause huge losses.
The significant reasons for errors in legal transcription could be passive listening on the part of the transcriptionist, unusual accents, poor judgment, issues with the audio/video recording, skipping of the editing and proofreading process, transcriptionists not being well educated in legal terms, spelling and grammatical errors, syntax errors, and the list goes on.
There are also different types of transcription to consider. AI speech recognition transcriptions do offer tempting prices. While they are generally less expensive than human transcription, they can only promise an accuracy rate of 50% or so.
Most legal transcription providers understand the seriousness of your legal profession, and everything that is involved with it like legal transcripts. That’s why they should do everything it takes to give you back error-free certified transcripts that can be submitted to the court right away.
Legal Transcription Gone Wrong Case Study
In 2011, a 66-year old Colombian man, Carlos Ortega, was arrested. He spent a year in jail and ran legal bills up to $300,000. He lost his entire livelihood.
Why? All because of a basic transcription error.
Carlos Ortega had retired from doing business as a plane broker and consultant. A wiretap revealed Carlos selling aircrafts to drug traffickers. However, a private investigator looked into the wiretap recordings and found that Carlos Ortega had been mistaken for another Carlos. The other Carlos was the actual person featured in the wiretaps and was involved in criminal dealing.
The US authorities were informed of this mistake 5 months after Ortega had already been in Bogota’s maximum security prison, La Picota.
Even after this new information came about, the South Florida federal prosecutor ordered the lawyers involved in the case to keep the wiretaps proving Ortega’s innocence under wraps.
After a legal fight, Ortega was brought back to Miami to face trial in 2012. The charges against him were dropped, and Ortega was allowed to go back to Colombia. Ortega later had an unsuccessful attempt at suing the US and federal prosecutor for false prosecution, false imprisonment, and many other charges. The lawsuit was dismissed because it was claimed that the US had “sovereign immunity” and that the federal prosecutor was protected from legal action.
While Carlos Ortega was out of jail, he was left with no business and more debt than he could handle.
It’s crazy to think that all of this was caused partly from a transcription error. It goes to show that transcription errors in legal transcription can be catastrophic and ruin lives. That’s why it’s crucial to find a provider that doesn’t make life-changing mistakes.
Legal Transcription Accuracy Rate
To ensure you have the most accurate audio to text transcription, pay close attention to a legal transcription provider’s accuracy rates. How can you determine if the transcript is accurate or not?
Transcription accuracy rates give us insight to the percentage of errors within a transcript using an overall word count divided by the number of errors. For example, a transcription accuracy of 99% means there is a 1% chance of error. To think of it in another way, there could be 15 errors per 1,500 words.
What causes transcription accuracy rates to drop?
Audio clarity, mumbling, background noise, and nuance can all play a huge role. Poor accuracy can make the transcript difficult to read and may have misspelled words, the intended message may be unclear, diminished in meaning, or totally inaccurate all the way around. This won’t only confuse your readers — it can lead to a loss of trust in your firm and affect your client’s cases.
So, how do you find the best accuracy rates?
- Look for a legal transcription company that guarantees at least 99% accuracy. You should also follow up on this claim by asking the company questions and checking reviews and references. We’ll get to the specific questions to ask a little later.
- Choose a 100% US-based transcription company. The transcriptionists are native English speakers and understand the legal jargon and slang. A transcript that is sent off-shore is handled by non-native speakers that will have difficulty understanding complex legal language, slang, acronyms, and everything else unique to the way Americans speak English. As a side note, most legitimate US-based transcription companies follow the country’s data security requirements. If action needs to be taken due to an incident, they should have the proper insurance to cover you and your client.
- Pick a legal transcription provider that goes above and beyond to grow their transcriptionist’s education and skills. While it’s useful, transcriptionists don’t need to be certified to work for a legal transcription company. The level of certification a transcriptionist has determines the abilities of the transcriptionist. If the transcriptionist has their professional legal transcription certification, it means they have impeccable skills and can transcribe the most complex files.
At Transcription Outsourcing, we make sure all of our legal transcriptionists are certified or have the equivalent experience. Many companies don’t do this as they don’t have the right insurance, or they aren’t in the US. They know they won’t show up in court if verification of the transcript’s accuracy and authenticity is needed.
Ask your provider what kind of certification the transcriptionists have before sending your files. And definitely ask them if they are willing to legally certify their transcripts so that you can use them in court.
To recap, your legal transcription provider should have at least a 99% accuracy rate. It’s even better if they can guarantee it so that you can get your money back if warranted.
Typical Turnaround Times for Legal Transcription
While every legal transcription provider is different, and you should always ask before submitting your files, the most standard and usual turnaround times are as follows:
After uploading your file, you’ll get it back in 3-5 business days. Because your provider understands that you may need your legal transcripts back sooner, they’ll likely offer 1-2 business days and rush rates (available in 4 hours) as well.
Clients willing to wait can choose to have their transcripts back within 6-10 business days.
Bulk files (100+ hours) and substantial projects may take more than 6-10 business days depending on the complexity of the projects.
Overall, the typical turnaround times for legal transcription are pretty flexible.
Typical Pricing for Legal Transcription
In general, legal transcription costs anywhere from $1.50 to $5.00 per audio minute.
The prices of legal transcripts may be affected by the following factors:
Many companies charge a set rate based on the length of the recording. This rate takes into consideration the fact that transcribing an hour of audio always takes 3-4 x times longer than the audio itself, especially if the transcriptionist needs to rewind the recording often to go over tricky parts.
To make the transcription process smooth, it’s important you record a high-quality audio file. The speaker’s voices should be distinct and loud enough to hear clearly. A legal transcription provider may charge more if the audio is low-quality and requires extra time and effort to decipher what’s being said.
Need your transcript back fast? This is usually no problem, however, rush fees cost more than the standard turnaround time. The legal transcription service also must ensure there are enough staff to do it, and consider the current workload.
At Transcription Outsourcing, we like to organize our pricing system in categories.
The categories make it easy for both us and our clients to understand.
Let’s explain the categories:
This recording can be a single person or a standard one-on-one interview. Examples include note taking for active or prospective cases you are working on. A one-on-one interview could be speaking with your client or even a deposition preparation meeting. As long as it’s 1-2 people speaking, the recording falls into category A.
This category includes any interviews with a maximum of three people. The audio can have significant background noise and hard to understand voices (poor recording, soft voices, etc.) It could be an official deposition with your client and the opposing attorney, or a conference call to discuss a case with two other attorneys.
Category C allows audio files with four or more speakers. Examples may be presentations dealing with highly specific terminology or heavy accents, panel discussions, focus groups, conference calls, or seminars with multiple people. Court hearings and depositions usually fall under this category because they naturally have more speakers.
Before quoting you, a legal transcription provider should listen to your tape to see for themselves how many speakers there are and what the audio quality is like.
Security Measures for Legal Transcription
Although legal files don’t require the same kind of security as medical transcription files do with HIPAA policies, your provider should have security measures in place to protect your documents before and after they’ve been transcribed.
The majority of legal transcription services use secure and reputable online file management systems and use 128-bit/256-bit encryption technology that facilitates confidential and secure legal transcription outsourcing.
Here are some other key security features your legal transcription provider should offer:
- All computers are equipped with file encryption software, firewall protection from unwanted recipients, password protected email, secure online platforms, daily virus definition and Windows updates.
- 24/7 security services to prevent the theft or vandalism of information stored on their computers.
- Floppy disks and external hard drives are disabled on each computer.
- Office personnel are not allowed to bring external devices such as laptops, or any personal devices.
- Each staff undergoes a criminal background check before getting hired.
- Random checks are set up on a regular basis.
- Monthly computer backups are done and stored in password-protected lockers.
- All employees must sign non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements.
- Administrative procedures are in place to guard integrity, client confidentiality, and document availability.
- Proper staff training on security, privacy, and confidentiality.
Why is it crucial that your legal transcription provider follows security measures?
Because legal transcription involves transcribing confidential briefs, legal letters, wiretaps, police reports, depositions, witness and suspect interviews, confidential judgements, and a handful of other highly sensitive situations.
Security of data is a serious issue. In 2019, there were 811 data breaches, which affected 493,011,910 individuals. So, in order to avoid security problems, proper care must be given to all aspects of the secure transmission of legal files.
Choosing the Right Legal Transcription Provider
Choosing the right legal transcription provider isn’t obvious. There are many providers that offer good deals and claim they provide 99% accuracy and enough security to keep your files safe.
Is that all you should look for?
Sometimes the best deal doesn’t mean the best quality transcription, and vice versa. To choose the company that fits your firm’s needs, make sure the legal transcription service ticks off the following boxes:
- An accuracy rate of 99% or more. If they cannot guarantee at least 99% accuracy, you may want to look for another provider.
- The turnaround times fit your needs. Most transcription providers are flexible, and if you have a sudden rush file, the provider should adapt to your schedule.
- A legal transcription provider 100% based in the US is crucial. Sending your files overseas, or even to Canada or Mexico can cause a disaster as they may not follow the same protocols and requirements as in the US. Non-native English speakers will not have the vocabulary needed to transcribe your legal documents properly.
- The standards for privacy and security must be very high. They should be open about their security and encryption practices. You should be able to obtain staff information (criminal background checks) if you agree to sign a long-term agreement.
- Insurance to protect clients and the provider. Check if the insurance includes general liability and cyber liability. The three main types of insurance are: General Liability or Business Owners Policy, Workers Compensation, and Professional Liability insurance. Make sure they have all of them.
- A transparent contract that should itemize the scope of work, including the exceptions of the client and the provider. The contract should be easy to cancel if you’re ever unhappy with the provider’s work.
- The provider should have reviews, case studies, and be established.
- A free trial is a plus so you can determine if it’s the right provider for you.
In the end, it comes down to making sure the legal transcription provider covers you in every possible way so that you can keep moving forward in your legal career. The last thing you want to deal with is completing unfinished work you paid for, being embarrassed in court, or losing a case because of a typo.
Now that you know what your legal transcription provider should offer, you can download this checklist with the questions to ask your potential legal transcription provider before sending your files.
Conclusion – how to choose the right legal transcription for you
Finding the right legal transcription provider isn’t an easy task. In fact, you need to do a lot of research to ensure the company is safe and will cater to all of your needs. The right legal transcription provider will not hide information. It should be easy to find on their website or through a quick phone call. At Transcription Outsourcing, we believe in transparency and honesty is what’s going to help our clients and ourselves reach success.
Call us at (720) 287-3710, we’re happy to answer any questions.
And don’t forget to download the checklist!