Voice Technology Tools Should Adapt to Lawyers' Workflows

In an increasingly competitive legal industry, firms need to adopt workflows that allow lawyers to prospect, serve, and bill clients with maximum efficiency. Maximizing document creation is an ideal example of a workflow process that should be streamlined.

Seasoned lawyers may find it more efficient to continue to use the decades-old tape recorders they are comfortable with to dictate notes, briefs, and letters. Younger attorneys who grew up with computers, on the other hand, are likely to believe it is faster to type their own documents rather than speak into a recorder.

Both sides of this debate are correct--and incorrect.

Both are right in that they should employ workflows that allow them to be most productive based on their skill set. However, they also are wrong to think they should just stick with the same processes they have used for years simply because it appears to be effective. With small adjustments to their current workflows and the adoption of some simple but powerful voice technology solutions, most lawyers can vastly improve productivity and efficiency.

Streamline Dictation

The seasoned attorney may seem to be quite productive on the bulky dictation device he or she has used over the years. Yet the analog tapes that most of the older devices require are expensive, degrade in quality, and are increasingly difficult to source from suppliers. Moreover, if the recording equipment itself breaks or malfunctions, it is often costly if not impossible to repair.

By contrast, transitioning to a handheld digital recorder in combination with digital transcription tools can offer a more streamlined workflow that is similar enough to former workflows to feel quite comfortable for the attorney adopting it. They are designed for comfort and ease-of-use and optimized to keep thumb movement to a minimum and allow for blind operation with the familiar slide switch. Digital recorders are also optimized for speech recognition as a next step in a new digital workflow.

Rather than trying to organize, transcribe and store analog tapes, digital recorders integrate with enterprise-wide transcription software to offer security and intuitive management of voice recordings. Transcriptionists simply use their PCs as transcription tools. Instead of moving back-and-forth between analog equipment and their workstations, an on-screen "player" eliminates interruptions between tasks. Clearer digital sound quality also improves transcription productivity and turnaround time, while increasing accuracy.

Faster Than Typing

Now consider the young lawyer who indeed may be a fast typist, whether on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Such lawyers often can generate dozens of words per minute and then quickly send a document to support staff through email.

Despite these skills, these attorneys also could benefit from exploring the numerous mobile voice technology options currently available. Studies show that people speak seven times faster than they type. In addition, smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous now and most people are comfortable using them. A mobile app that turns the smartphone or tablet into a wireless digital dictation recorder easily could be integrated into any existing workflow and streamline processes.

One major concern for lawyers is the fact that sending a voice file through email typically is not secure--and is therefore a risky proposition for confidentiality-bound attorneys. Therefore users should look for mobile applications capable of encrypting files and uploading them directly from the smartphone to the firm's network where the recordings are identified by author name, date, client name or other data and automatically routed to the correct transcriptionist.

Smaller firms also may appreciate digital dictation solutions that are configured for speech recognition software, further automating the transcription process. Transcriptionists or legal assistants then only need to proofread the documents transcribed by the software, making any necessary corrections and confirming the changes with the lawyers.

Flexibility and Consistency

Forcing lawyers to adapt to voice technology solutions that do not mesh with their current workflows can be disruptive, causing a negative impact on both morale and billings. Instead, firms should consider flexible, intuitive tools that require minimum training yet deliver maximum efficiency after implementation. Adopting the right solution that aligns with a lawyer's current work style will not only lead to more productive attorneys, but also more satisfied clients--and a growing, successful firm.