Legal Transcription

Converting recordings of depositions, court proceedings, interrogations, pleadings and voicemails and other multimedia into text is a time-consuming task. Today, most law firms rely on outsourced legal transcription services to get perfectly formatted documents from audio/video files. Real-time transcription is one of the major advancements in the field of speech-to-text conversion. The process involves converting the audio stream to text immediately into a feed that can be read, broadcast, searched, chronicled, and stored.

Digital transcription agencies create transcripts from video or audio files sent to them by their clients. Real-time transcription or live transcription is a method of record capture that allows skilled transcriptionists to type and deliver a transcript almost instantly after the words are spoken. The work of court stenographers is a perfect example of real-time transcription.

What Real-time Legal Transcription involves

Court reporters use steno or machine shorthand to create notes. They type out court discussions as they happen using a stenotype machine designed for shorthand writing. Traditional stenotype machines provide a printed paper transcript from the shorthand produced by the court reporter. Modern stenotype machines are usually connected to a laptop. When shorthand key combinations are typed on the machine, a specialized computer program instantly converts the key codes into the correct text format and displays it on the screen in real-time.

There are 22 keys in a steno machine and each key has a letter of the English alphabet, except for the key in the center of the machine, which contains an asterisk. The machine can key out coded numbers, phrases, words, and even sounds. Groups of keys are pressed down to create a punctuation mark. Numbers are written by pressing down certain alphabet keys along with the number bar on the top of the machine. Syllables, words and phrases can be created phonetically by pressing down groups of individual keys simultaneously. The letters that a steno machine does not have are created by pressing more than one key at the same time.

Court reporters need to be extremely skilled in stenography to provide a legible and searchable record of court proceedings through an almost instantaneous feed through the computer translation system. The advantages of this real-time legal transcription service include:

  • Proven way for attorneys and judges to get immediate voice-to-text translation of the proceedings and immediate access to the transcript
  • Can be used by attorneys to prepare for trial during depositions, especially when parties are in different locations, thereby avoiding travel and associated costs
  • Allows people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing to participate in the judicial process
  • Provides better quality remote/videotaped depositions
  • With instant trial transcripts, cases move forward more quickly
  • Allows for instant annotations, advanced search capabilities, and facilitates quoting directly from the record, which helps reduce challenges or objections

With real-time transcription, attorneys can view proceedings in real-time, see and evaluate questions and answers at a deposition, and get transcripts quickly. Some software allows access to instant messaging features, which can be very useful for legal teams in multiple locations to view the deposition remotely and offer their suggestions on strategies and line of questioning. According to www.courtreporteredu.org, court reporters who type up to 300 words per minute (wpm) can accurately record even the most intense or fast-moving conversations.

Best Practices to deliver better Real-time Transcripts

Following best practices can help attorneys get most out of this real-time translation of court proceedings. An article published by Law Technology Today offers the following tips for attorneys participating in a deposition with a court reporter providing real-time transcription of the testimony:

  • Learn to use the real-time software: Before the deposition, the attorney should ask the court reporter how to use the software. The iPad or laptop used by court reporters come with search capabilities. The real-time scroll can be stopped to enable reading a portion of the text and returning to the scroll. The testimony can be quickly marked by the attorney by touching the screen or hitting the space bar, which enables quick reference of the marked testimony.
  • Point out any errors seen in the real-time notes: If court reporters come across an unfamiliar word or phrase, they will usually type out what they hear phonetically and edit it in the final transcript or ask for clarifications later. If the attorney thinks that the reporter may hear a word or phrase wrong, this can be brought to the notice of the court reporter during the session or a break.
  • Speak clearly when reading any document: If there is any reading from a document, it should be done with clarity and at a normal speed. Court reporters will ask for the document before finalizing the transcript to make sure it is error free.
  • State preferences: If the attorney marks the transcript during the real-time documentation, the court reporter can email a PTF (portable transcript file). The notes and marks will be transferred to a rough draft and later to the final transcript. The real-time court reporter usually sends a cleaned-up rough draft after the deposition is over. If a rough draft is not needed and only a real-time transcript is needed, the court reporter should be informed about this at the end of the deposition.
  • Choose the right court reporter: As real-time transcription is a very specialized skill, attorneys need to choose the right individual for the job. If the transcript is necessary in fast turnaround time, the court reporting firm should be requested about this so that they can assign a reporter who can deliver the transcript quickly.
  • Provide the court reporter with available information in advance: Based on availability, list of witnesses, expert witnesses and/or a word glossary should be provided to the court reporter in advance. This will allow the reporter to feed this information into the stenographic dictionary to provide a more accurate real-time feed and rough draft. Real-time court reporters can often stream the transcript text off-site to a remote location(s). Some allow deposition participants, both local and remote, to not only watch the video of the witness but also read the real-time text on the same screen.

Many court reporters rely on companies providing court proceedings transcription to prepare official transcripts of legal proceedings in addition to the realtime feed. When litigants want to exercise their right to appeal, the official transcript will allow them to provide an accurate record of what transpired during their case.