Legal Transcription vs General Transcription: What’s the Difference?

Two of the more common types of transcription are general and legal transcription, and most transcription service providers specialize and offer both to their clients. So, what’s the difference? 

It mainly boils down to who needs it. 

Legal transcription involves transcribing legal documents, court proceedings, and dictations, while general transcription encompasses a wider range of topics such as interviews, podcasts, and business meetings. 

That means the former is mostly needed by attorneys, law firms, and other legal industry members, and the latter is for everybody else who doesn’t fall into a specific category.  

Of course, this marked difference affects how the transcription process is done, how transcribers are trained, and what type of documentation rules and format are required. So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it all and fully discuss the differences between legal transcription vs. general transcription. 

Some people think general transcription can be more lax than legal transcription regarding accuracy, and it’s easy to see why.

General transcription often involves recorded content used for informational or entertainment purposes or to boost video content SEO. A mistake here and there might irritate a viewer (if captions) or reader (if transcripts); otherwise, it wouldn’t have that much impact. Or so most people think.  

Legal transcripts, on the other hand, are used for various processes like trials, court hearings, appeals, legal research, and legal education. A mistake here can have heavier consequences than, say, a wrongly spelled word in a lecture transcript. 

Transcription companies—and, by extension, the legal professionals that use their service—can face disbarment, financial loss, reputation damages, and legal action for inaccurate transcripts. That is why legal transcription requires a precision level of over 99% accuracy. 

In short, accuracy is crucial in both legal and general transcription, but legal transcripts demand even higher precision due to the potential legal implications of the content. 

No Compromises

A good transcription company knows that accuracy is not a negotiable aspect of the job. Yes, legal transcription needs more precision, as the law is a precise endeavor. That doesn’t mean that the same level of accuracy can’t be applied to general transcription, which can suffer similar consequences due to inaccuracy.  

Here at Ditto Transcripts, we make no distinction regarding accuracy. That’s why we can guarantee more than 99% accuracy for all jobs in general, legal, academic, or medical transcription. 

Skill Requirements For Different Transcriptionists

Like with any job, transcription work requires a specific skill set. Here, we’ll discuss the difference between general and legal transcriptionists regarding competency.

General Transcription

General transcription is, based on the name itself, more generalized. That means a general transcriptionist must only meet the job’s minimum skill requirements. This includes: 

  • Fast typing speed (between 40 to 60 words per minute)
  • Acute listening skills
  • A full grasp of English, including familiarity with idioms, cultural expressions, and currently popular terms
  • Appropriate computer and audio equipment
  • Background knowledge about different video and audio files
  • Knowledge about different word processing and transcription platforms

A legal transcriptionist needs all the skills mentioned above, and more.

You see, legal transcription works in the same way as court reporters or journalists do. That is, they cover recordings that discuss legal matters. Legal transcriptionists often need to be familiar with legal jargon, court procedures, and specific formatting guidelines unique to the field, while general transcriptionists have more flexibility in terms of content familiarity. 

Though not always the case, legal transcriptionists can benefit from having provable work experience in the legal field or if they’ve gone through certification courses and other special training. Additionally, legal transcribers must type at an average speed of 80 words per minute to meet the demand.

Terminology In Transcription

The key difference between legal transcription and general transcription is the specialized knowledge and terminology required for legal transcription, whereas general transcription typically doesn’t require specific domain expertise. 

The legal industry is notorious for legalese, a specialized form of writing employed by lawyers and other legal industry members to write and discuss laws, legal definitions, applicable terms, and other legal subjects. This writing style uses formal archaic terms (including Latin, of all things), overcomplicated sentences, unfamiliar abbreviations, redundant clauses, and other uncommon language structures. 

However, that doesn’t mean general transcriptionists can coast on stock knowledge alone. For example, a transcriptionist working on a podcast about technology may require prior knowledge or familiarity with the subject. Otherwise, they’d have to repeatedly stop to search for the words used in the discussion or risk inaccuracy. 

The same goes for market research recordings, focus groups, radio shows, etc. Speaking of which—

Types of Audio And Video Content For Different Transcription Work

General transcribers cover a wide range of transcription services that don’t specifically fall into more specialized categories. The typical audio or video files they work on include:

  • TV shows
  • Radio shows
  • Web conferences
  • Lectures 
  • Interviews
  • Audio CDs
  • Video content 
  • Podcasts
  • Government meetings
  • Conference calls
  • Focus group
  • And more.

General transcriptionists can also do document-to-document typing work, like for handwritten memoirs, company newsletters, old newspaper articles, birth certificates, old manuscripts, invoices, and more. Their clients can range from podcasters to insurance adjusters to research institutions. 

Legal transcription is more akin to court reporting but without the real-time element. They work with distinct types of recording, all connected to legal proceedings. Here are some of those types:

  • Interviews
  • Deposition summaries
  • Custody hearings
  • Conference calls
  • Client meetings
  • Witness statements
  • Settlement meetings

Other Potential Differences

General and legal transcription may have other differences that need to be considered. However, these largely depend on the specific provider. Still, they are important aspects for choosing the right partner to meet your transcription needs. 

Pricing

First, the subject of cost. Due to the additional expertise and attention to detail required for legal transcription, rates for legal transcription services are often higher than for general transcription services.

However, a reliable transcription company like Ditto Transcripts can offer a more affordable and customizable cost structure. Our prices for both general and legal transcription start at $1.50. This can go higher depending on factors such as: 

  • Audio issues (background noise, poor recording quality and conditions)
  • Number of speakers in the recording
  • Word density
  • Language, accents, and dialects

Furthermore, companies looking to balance costs with turnaround times have additional options to fit their budgets better. Our turnaround times range from one to two (rush), three to five (standard), and six to ten (extended) business days.  

Security

Like with accuracy, some people think that legal transcription requires more security because there’s more to lose. This is true to some extent, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to offer discretionary security measures for different types of transcription work. 

Ditto Transcripts offer the highest levels of security across the board, and we don’t discriminate. Every byte of data that goes through our servers is protected with top-of-the-line encryption, secure file transfer protocols, strictly defined user access levels, dedicated data centers, and VPNs. 

We’re CJIS- and HIPAA-compliant, too—something not every provider can claim. 

Understanding The Basics of Transcription Jobs

Transcription is the process of accurately capturing the words that are spoken in audio and video files and converting them into digital text formats. 

Clients send the recordings they want to be transcribed to a transcriptionist or a transcription service provider, such as Ditto Transcripts.

The transcriptionist works on the file, creating a text document to match every utterance in the recording (verbatim transcript) or performs some light editing to preserve the point of the discussion (cleaned-up transcript). Once the transcripts are checked for accuracy, they are returned to the client for review and use.

As a broad view of the industry, general transcription accounts for about 60% of the transcription market demand. Legal transcription has a smaller market share. However, approximately 8 out of every 10 law firms rely on professional legal transcription services, which means a bigger portion of the legal industry enlists the services of transcription companies. 

Conclusion

Legal and general transcription have their share of differences, although it is fair to say that they have more similarities, especially at the foundational level. Still, a business seeking safe, reliable, accurate, and affordable transcription services might be better served by looking for an appropriate specialized service provider. 

Or, better yet, they can enlist the services of a transcription company that is an expert on both

Ditto Transcripts is a HIPAA-compliant and CJIS-compliant Denver, Colorado-based transcription services company that provides fast, accurate, and affordable transcripts for individuals and companies of all sizes, including general and legal transcription. Call (720) 287-3710 today for a free quote, and ask about our free five-day trial.

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