Practical Ways to Use Voice Productivity Technology for a Better Law Practice

Many attorneys today don't "do" dictation, often thinking of it as a 20th century approach. Some who still do dictation have stayed with their 20th century technology, complete with tape recorders and other legacy devices that are expensive, slow, and sometimes hard to replace when they inevitably break.

Enter the 21st century and voice technologies have forged ahead immensely, changing dictation into something more: voice productivity technology or VPT.

VPT has emerged as a result of increased adoption of voice-activated technologies like Siri, significant improvements in speech recognition software, like Dragon, and apps that easily convey voice files.

VPT can help attorneys be more productive and efficient in their daily practice of law -- even when they're on the go. Attorneys can do more than dictate documents to be transcribed later. They can better manage their workload, cut costs, boost billable time, improve client service, and focus on what matters most: an attorney's intellectual capital and time.

For attorneys in small firms, they likely already have the assets they need to adopt VPT: a smartphone with an app like Dragon, Voice Dictation or BigHand (dictation hardware works as well), an assistant, and software that allows for the sharing of work with those assistants. Bigger firms need the same tools, but may want to investigate enterprise systems because they likely have more complicated workflows for document production or task management.

Better Manage Workload (via Smartphone Apps)

With antiquated dictation methods, lawyers drop off their tapes and other recording media on their assistants' desks, and then wait until they get the files back. Often these voice files are already days old, particularly if the attorney is traveling or out meeting with clients. Documents and projects can take up to a week to be completed and prioritization can be time-consuming for support staff. There's no way to monitor how work on a particular task is proceeding.

Additionally, there is limited ability to share work among support staff if an assistant is busy or unavailable.

On the other hand, VPT offers attorneys smartphone apps that enable them to record voice files and send their work instantly into the queue throughout the day. They can also use the apps to prioritize and track the status of submitted work. Creating a digital trail, attorneys can see who is working on the task, what progress has been made, and whether deadlines are being met.

Cut Costs and Boost Billable Time Capture

In the past, dictation required expensive equipment that was only good for dictation. With the increasing prevalence of smartphones and tablets, the software and hardware needed for dictation is much cheaper and multidimensional. This minimizes investment and training costs.

An investment in VPT can quickly pay for itself when attorneys fully leverage it. Consider the unpleasant task of recording billable hours. By putting it off, lawyers run the risk of losing track of their hours and forgetting what they did and when. This can result in lost revenue.

However, attorneys can use VPT to capture accurate, billable time. For example, as soon as they leave a client meeting, lawyers can open an app and record exactly how much time they spent in the meeting. A similar approach can be used for recording expenses--with some apps, lawyers can even take pictures of their receipts and send them to their assistants with voice directions to be entered into the system.

Improve Client Service with Shorter Turnaround Times

With VPT, attorneys see a significant reduction in document turnaround times--in some cases, from days down to hours. Lawyers don't need to be chained to their desks in order to produce a key document, correspondence, or response.

Because lawyers can use their smartphones to submit work throughout the day, support staff can better manage their workload as work comes in. They can address time-sensitive matters first while also transferring work to other staff in cases of bottlenecks or overload. The result? Faster client service.

Add in speech recognition integration and turnaround times are even quicker. This integration turns a typically long transcription process into a much more efficient editing and formatting task, allowing support staff to focus on higher-value work. Rather than painfully typing out dictations, voice files are automatically converted into text files that require minimal review and corrections.

Speech recognition technology, with the proper security features in place, also ensures that documents can be produced, even after-hours. When a client needs an important document over a long weekend, there's no need to wait until an assistant is back in the office.

Offload Non-Critical Tasks to Focus on Your Most Valuable Assets: Your Intellectual Capital and Time

Time and billing entry. CRM updates. Short memos and letters. Booking travel and meeting rooms. All of these administrative tasks add up each day and translate into significant lost time that could be better utilized for client matters and business development. When attorneys have a few minutes between meetings or if they get stuck in traffic, with just the touch of a button, it's possible to quickly dictate short tasks and instructions and delegate items on the to-do list, saving attorneys hours of time.

The explosive growth of smartphones, voice-activated systems, and speech recognition applications make it easier than ever for attorneys to turn talking into a time-saving activity. It makes sense to "do" dictation again, the 21st century way