The law firm of Redding, Steen & Staton, PC, provides litigation, appellate advocacy and mediation services across West Tennessee. Like any firm, dictation is an important part of our daily efforts, but unfortunately it has not always been a smooth process.
We had long relied on a microcassette transcription system for our dictation needs. Yet the truth is, this process resulted in valuable tapes being lost or accidentally erased--at least six times--and it took a toll on our productivity. The attorneys and our staff wasted precious hours simply keeping track of tapes. In those instances when they were lost or erased before transcription, we devoted more unbillable time re-recording the lost dictations. Even worse, lost tapes placed both the firm and our clients at potential risk for security breaches.
Switching to Digital Dictation
All of this changed in 2006, when we made the decision to implement a digital dictation system. Since then we have not lost a single dictation, and we have also managed to cut our costs. Now, with the entire dictation process streamlined, we are better able to focus on our clients' needs.
As might be expected for a practice of our small size, we don't have a full-time information technology (IT) department. For the most part, I am the one who fulfills that role. When we decided the time was right to find an alternative to our microcassette dictation system, it had to be simple enough for me to install and teach the others how to use it, plus fit within the firm's budget.
Weighing Your Options
I evaluated several different technologies, first experimenting with MP3 recorders. I found that although the recorders were a convenient size, the audio files were difficult to navigate and did not have editing functionalities. Ultimately, we selected Philips handheld recorders in combination with docking stations and SpeechExec Pro dictation software because they worked together seamlessly and best met our needs.
Since we installed everything ourselves, I appreciated the simplicity of the system. The recorder, for example, has a slide button switch that mimics cassette tape systems and therefore made the transition easier. The software component of the system has been a great addition to our practice, as well. It organizes the workflow of our dictation files, and enables us to better monitor our work status. Although we don't often work remotely, the customizable solution allows us to send coded dictation to different offices, complete with notifications.
Another benefit is its ability to work easily with our speech recognition software. Often, when I work on longer documents like briefs, I download the file into SpeechExec, click on the speech recognition link, and it is automatically transcribed in the speech recognition system.
Over the last six years, since "going digital," we have not lost a single dictation file. At the same time, we have improved our workflow. When working in the office, we simply place our handheld recorders in their docking stations to download and automatically back up our dictation to the server. When out of the office, we can email a digital file directly to our support staff--without going through the former hassle of using a courier service to deliver cassette tapes.
The system also has been valuable in terms of security. As attorneys, we are entrusted with sensitive client information, but built-in security features ensure that confidential files are kept secure, right here in our office.
Other benefits that have accompanied implementation of the digital dictation system include cost savings. Because the digital system does not require us to purchase or transport cassette tapes, we have been able to eliminate both of those costs. In addition, now that we no longer have to manage microcassette tapes, we have gained the time we used to spend keeping track of the tapes and checking them for sound quality.
Looking back, I do believe installing this digital dictation system was a major benefit for our firm. The hassles and drawbacks associated with manual dictation workflows are gone. Streamlining our dictation processes has provided us with the opportunity to work more efficiently in our practice and better serve our clients.