Presentation skills are a must-have for lawyers. There are a wide variety of techniques that lawyers can use to improve their presentations, whether to a group in an interview or at work. The audio can be converted into written documents using an online transcription service, which is essential to ensure that the content or message is preserved correctly. While most legal professionals are good at public speaking, experts say that there’s a big difference between just speaking and really communicating.
Today, lawyers are presenting in virtual courtrooms and new skills are required to succeed in this medium. A JD Supra article discussed practical tips on how lawyers can improve their virtual presentation skills which were shared by communications and trial presentation consultants in a conference on virtual trials held by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. These views and others are summarized below:
- Look Directly into the Camera: When giving in-person presentations, speakers are advised to look directly at the audience. However, a points out that using this technique can make an online presenter look “furtive and distracted”. To avoid this, look directly into your computer’s camera and not the screen or at the audience. This will make people think you are looking at them. Ensure that the camera is at eye level. You can turn off self-view so that you are not distracted by the video of yourself, while allowing other participants to see you. The technique of looking into the computer’s camera lens can be perfected with practice.
- Position Yourself Correctly: When presenting online, practice your positioning and distance from the camera. See how much of yourself is visible and what the background looks like. If your hands are visible, pay attention to what you do with them. Whether you rely on natural lighting, side lighting or overhead lights make sure your face is well lit. Knowing how you look on camera and improving on it can build confidence when you’re new to the technique.
- Be Mindful of Body Language: Hand gestures can be a powerful tool for lawyers in the courtroom when used correctly. However, physical gestures may look awkward and fail to have the desired impact in a virtual presentation. Pay attention to body language and physical gestures when presenting online. Attorneys should make visible gestures on-screen only when they want to make a point, notes Carol Sowers, a communications consultant and former broadcaster from New York (www.jdsupra.com). Sowers says that effective gestures are those that are purposeful, match the speaker’s words and connect with the audience. Best practice is to keep gestures below the screen and out-of-sight.
- Build Skills with Practice: Presenting online can be really challenging if you haven’t done it before. The goal should be to appear trustworthy and credible, and the key to success is practice. Lawyers need to familiarize themselves with making presentations to a camera and test themselves. Prepare your presentation in advance so that you have time to rehearse it. Record the session, watch it, and repeat till you perfect your presentation skills. It’s important to practice with the same technology and materials that will be used in the virtual courtroom. Make sure you master the technology that will be used during the trial.
- Be Transparent about your Actions: If you want to look at your notes or read out from a prepared text, Sowers recommends telling your audience about it. If you are not transparent about your actions, viewers may get the wrong impression.
- Know how to use PowerPoint Presentations and other Visual Aids: Experts recommend judicious use of PowerPoint presentations in virtual trials and hearings. Prepare visual material with a clear goal in mind and make every slide count. Lawyers need to ensure that the visual images or slides do not take attention away from what they are saying, especially when they are making an opening or closing argument. It’s not necessary to rely on slides when speaking to an online audience.
- When it comes to faster Internet speed, a direct, wired connection to the network router is a better option than a Wi-Fi connection.
- Make sure that the trial exhibits can be viewed properly online by jurors.
- Have backup technology ready so that there is no interruption to the presentation if the main device fails.
- Dress appropriately and stand up. Just as in an in-person presentation, decorum and appearances matter when making a virtual presentation. Dress appropriately and stand up to create a good impression.
Whether they are presenting virtually or otherwise, lawyers should hone their presentation skills to convey their message effectively. Transcription outsourcing companies that specialize in presentations transcription for lawyers can ensure that the proceedings are properly documented for review and reference.
Like professionals in other industries, many lawyers have set up home offices since the pandemic broke. Video conferencing is a practical option for legal professionals to conduct legal meetings remotely. Using advanced virtual platforms, modern tools, and support from video transcription service providers, lawyers are effectively collaborating and connecting with their teams and clients from the comfort of their home. As they work remotely, lawyers are using innovative tools to draft and review legal documents, get electronic signatures, and provide clients with up-to-date information. However, to succeed with working from home, lawyers need to be well prepared and know how to leverage the power of video conferencing while maintaining the confidentiality of sensitive client information. Let’s look at the things lawyers should keep in mind when working from home using video conferencing tools.
Staying connected is the most important thing when working remotely and video conferencing is the best way to do this. While paid software converts the recorded meetings into transcripts, these may not be accurate. The best option to get recordings of virtual meetings transcribed by an online transcription service provider that specializes in legal transcription. Leading companies have professional transcriptionists on board who are well-versed in various legal terms and expressions and can provide error-free documentation of remote legal meetings.
With advancements in digital technology, digital court reporting or electronic court reporting has been implemented in courtrooms across the United States. In electronic court reporting, court proceedings are captured in audio and video format and transcribed to produce the record. Digital court reporting methods include computer assisted transcription as well as using legal transcription outsourcing for documenting digital audio/visual (A/V) recordings.
The digital court reporting comes with 5 key benefits, according to the World Bank (www.blogs.worldbank.org):
- Improves efficiency: Digital recordings offer courts easy and quick access to the verbatim record, and allows them to maintain and control the official record. Judges and lawyers can see, review, and mark up transcripts for reference as they are generated on the computer, which saves time. Lawyers and parties can focus on the proceedings instead of taking notes.
- Improves integrity and transparency: Digital records have a stamp of legitimacy. In cases where visual or oral cues are significant, recordings allow proceedings to be reviewed in lower courts and ensure their procedural integrity.
- Eliminates procedural abuse: Digital records can be monitored easily, which can prevent procedural misuse.
- Expands access to justice: e-court reporting allows depositions to be held outside the courtroom, benefiting vulnerable victims and defendants. Real-time transcription or audio amplification during a trial improves quality of translation and interpretation, and is a big help for people with hearing impairments.
- Promotes courteous behavior: Digital recordings and monitoring can improve norms of behavior and attitude in the courtroom.
However, the success of digital court reporting depends on adherence to best practices:
- Careful installation of the equipment: The hardware and software should be properly installed. For effective coverage of the proceedings, microphones should be placed in key positions – before the podium, judge, witnesses, lawyers, etc. When correctly placed, the audio signal is amplified throughout the room. It’s also important to select the right microphone (cardioid microphone or omni-directional) based on how it will be used, after assessing each location. Careful installation of microphones is critical since if audio is not clear, the participants, especially the jury, cannot hear the proceedings and will be unable to do their duty. Poor audio will also affect digital transcription of the proceedings. There should be a video conference system for remote appearances. Digital systems also have backup arrangements along with cameras placed to cover the entire courtroom.
- Test the equipment: Maintaining the equipment depends on regular upkeep of the hardware and software. This includes running regular systems checks and checking Test the equipment before the hearing to ensure that is working effectively and replace batteries if necessary. Periodical checking of the equipment is necessary to keep it in order.
- Confidence monitoring: The Supreme Court of Wisconsin defines confidence monitoring as “the practice of periodically assessing the performance of the DAR unit to ensure that a sufficient verbatim record is being captured in a manner that will allow for a quality transcript to be completed”. The guiding principles of the Court require confidence monitoring by digital court reporters and monitors. This is to ensure that the recorded verbatim record created is accurate.
- Continuous monitoring: The success of digital court reporting depends a lot on continuous monitoring by the court reporter/monitor. When the court proceeding starts, the recording quality should be checked. Each channel should be verified to see that it is working properly. If a malfunction is noticed in the digital audio recording equipment, the court official should be informed so that the hearing can be paused till the problem is rectified.
- Interrupting the proceedings: When the record is not being captured as it should, the digital court reporter needs to work with the court official as to the right way to interrupt a court proceeding. The goal should be to capture an accurate verbatim record. Situations where the proceedings can be interrupted are to ask a person to move closer to the microphone or speak more slowly, want the correct spelling of a name or technical term, stop people interrupting others, request people in the gallery not to make a noise, and so on.
- Creating log notes: Digital court reporting involves creating electronic notes pertaining to the case being presented. These log notes will allow judges and lawyers to navigate the electronic record for specific portions of the testimony both during and after court proceedings and also facilitate court proceedings transcription.
It’s clear that the success of electronic court reporting depends on regular maintenance of the equipment, having staff to perform all necessary functions, and following protocols for storing, archiving and retrieving records, and best practices. Even if court proceedings are digitally recorded, judges and lawyers still need a written record. Outsourcing the task to an experienced legal transcription service provider can ensure timely and accurate documentation.
To conduct litigation, law firms need to manage volumes of documents. In the past, lawyers relied heavily on document scanning services to get paper documents scanned into their databases. Today, legal transcription companies help lawyers convert their audio recordings into well-formatted electronic documents. However, even with digitization, lawyers have to deal with an abundance of data and use advanced techniques for e-discovery, legal research and document review. Now, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are revolutionizing the legal scenario by changing the way lawyers manage and utilize big data.
AI or cognitive computing refers to computers learning how to complete tasks typically done by humans. Machine learning is a branch of AI based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention (www.sas.com). AI has transformed the way lawyers think, work, conduct business, and deal with clients.
- Courtroom Transcription: Even a minor error in courtroom transcription can have devastating consequences by punishing the wrong people, and more. This underlines the importance of expert legal transcription services for documenting court proceedings. According to a recent TechZone360 report, enterprising legal transcriptions can now take advantage of AI through speech and voice recognition to provide error-free courtroom transcripts. Advanced software can ensure both speed and accuracy. Launched in October 2019, Courtside is a new automated courtroom service that uses AI and natural language processing to analyze and transcribe court records captured through digital recording (futureofworknews,com).
- Identify Patterns in Data: Cognitive computing enables next generation language processing and identifies patterns in data. Next-gen language software NextLP performs tests to assess the data and find results, thereby creating new ways for lawyers to look at data. By identifying patterns and stories in data, NextLP allows legal professionals to focus on utilizing the nuanced analysis and application of the results to their case (www.abajournal.com).
- Document Review and Legal Research: After flagging potential issues, AI can identify and collect the necessary documents for possible litigation. It can also prioritize the documents that must be looked at first through sampling. Machines are much faster than human beings and AI’s document review capability significantly reduces the time that lawyers would need to spend on e-discovery and document review. Rather than simple keywords, the software looks for concepts to provide better results. The AI system from ROSS Intelligence leverages natural language processing to perform legal research in a timely and comprehensive manner (www.forbes.com).
- Predict Legal Outcomes: By analyzing data, AI can help make predictions about the outcomes of legal proceedings. People often ask their lawyers about their probability of winning their case, so that they can decide whether to go to trial or settle. AI has the predictive power to help lawyers forecast litigation outcomes or give better answers to such questions.
- Due Diligence: Lawyers perform due diligence to provide clients with assessing risks and structuring agreements for mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Due diligence is an arduous, time-consuming task that involves various stages – from preparation and goal-setting to the analysis and classification of financial statements, contracts and other important information. In addition to the time required to complete the task, errors can occur, frustrating the legal team and affecting the integrity of the deal. AI can speed up the process and eliminate human errors (www.imanage.com). AI interprets and analyzes the data and prepares it for further review. The process allows lawyers to provide accurate analysis and counsel to their clients.
- Contract Review: Companies need to keep track of a large number of contracts, many of which lack uniformity and are difficult to organize, manage, and update. Inefficient contracting can cause firms to lose a lot of value on a deal. Most businesses seek the help of legal firms to review their contracts and identify risks and issues in the contract language that could have negative impacts for them. Legal teams identify and extract vital data points, edit contracts, and help firms decide if they should go ahead and sign the contract or not or negotiate better terms on the deal. AI contracting software has improved the way firms conduct contracting. Advanced software can review contracts in bulk quicker and with fewer errors than humans.
It is obvious that AI and machine learning are transforming the legal industry. Speech to text software or speech recognition in AI, instead of replacing legal transcription services, actually provides legal transcriptionists with the opportunity to improve efficiency. However, manual transcription is better than machine-generated text in specific areas. For example, unlike human transcriptionists, speech recognition software cannot spot homophones – words that have different meanings and are written differently, but sound the same. Examples include: allude/elude, their/there, ensure/insure. The software may also take time to understand nuances in legal audio recordings.
Briefing is one of the most important skills that every attorney needs to master. A well-written brief is one that effectively highlights the key issues in the case, cites authority where needed, and presents the legal argument clearly. Legal briefs constitute a large proportion of the recordings created on a daily basis. As attorneys focus on crafting high quality briefs, they can rely on a digital transcription service provider specialized in legal transcription to document their oral arguments.
The basic elements of a legal brief include an introduction that presents the party’s claim, a Table of Authorities (TOA) section that lists the legal authority sources cited, a Statement of Facts that incorporates a description of facts in a persuasive way that addresses the legal issues in a case, an Argument section that covers the main arguments of law, and a Conclusion that summarizes and draws attention to the key issues.
Writing a concise and compelling legal brief is crucial to present the facts of the case effectively and makes a good first impression on the court. Here are 9 tips for effective legal writing:
- Keep the reader in mind: While the presiding judge will not read your brief in detail, the research attorney will. Legal readers are busy individuals who spend a lot of time conducting legal research and summarizing briefs. Make it easy for them to find what they want from your document.
- Present the main argument first: To create a good first impression, start off your strongest argument. Present the relevant facts in a credible and compelling manner. Don’t wait till you get to the arguments section to explain the main theme of the case – state it in the beginning and then tell the reader how you got there.
- Construct an effective legal argument: To create a valid argument, first identify the relevant legal issues and apply the law to the facts. Next, structure your answer clearly and logically using appropriate legal language. Be organized and present your arguments logically and in a fair and reasonable manner.
- Avoid complex legal technicalities: Too much legalese will make your brief difficult to follow. Use simple language. Examples of bombastic words and phrases to avoid include:
manifestly, clearly, fatal, clear beyond peradventure, logic that is fatally flawed, egregious, contumacious, mere gossamer, must necessarily fail, totally in apposite (www.aba.com). Experts say that even simple words like plaintiff, defendant, petitioner, respondent, cross-complainant and other procedural terms can be confusing. The ABA report recommends using real names after you identify the players with their legal labels.
- Keep it brief: Keep your writing as simple and concise as possible. Avoid wordiness and too many points, citations, and quotations. Use effective nouns and verbs, and keep sentences short to make them easy to read and understand. On the other hand, varying sentence length is important to avoid monotony. Use your own judgment to determine how you can get your arguments across effectively.
- Use headings and subheadings: Briefs, like all other legal documents, can benefit from headings and subheadings. Single-word or short-phrase headings topic headings should be used to highlight the Argument, Discussion, and Statement of Facts. Explanatory heading or full-sentence headings and sub-headings can be used to break up a discussion or argument.
- Be professional: Stick to the facts, be objective, and concede the obvious. Avoid a sarcastic or caustic tone and don’t ridicule your opponent or their arguments in order to make your point. A good brief is about convincing the court about your side of the issue and that your opponent’s arguments are absurd – without actually saying so (www.digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu). As an ABA article says, “Argue the case, not your feelings”.
- Use visuals: Images, graphs, charts, bullet points can transform briefs. Visuals help you get your point across more effectively than words. For example, maps are great for identifying exactly where important events unfolded. An Appellate Advocacy blog notes that judges appreciate handy visuals that break down the facts or arguments in the brief. But keep in mind that visuals should be used to complement the writing and not replace it.
- Use citations and quotations effectively: Legal writing is dependent on citations or references. To support your arguments, all statements of law in a brief must be supported by a citation to a case, rule, treatise, statute, constitutional provision, or other source. A 2019 working paper published by the UNC School of Law says that the best way to incorporate citations is to integrate them to the text to effectively convey information to a legal audience. Precise use of quotations and paraphrases can also make your paper easier to read and more persuasive. Some key tips: try to stick to block quotes of less than 50 words, avoid excessive use of quotes, and paraphrase wherever possible.
After you complete your brief, proofread and edit it. Make sure there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes and that the document complies with court guidelines on fonts, letter sizing, and margins. Professional transcription services are a practical option to maintain accurate records of court proceedings.
More and more legal firms are relying on legal process outsourcing to streamline their tasks, save time, ensure operational efficiency, and cut costs. The comprehensive solutions that outsourcing companies provide include everything from mailroom and copy, document processing, records management to legal coding and research, finance and accounting, and data entry. According to Raconteur, a leading publisher of current affairs and special reports on business, finance, tech and healthcare, legal process outsourcing is “an innovative business model which law firms and in-house corporate teams should embrace”. Legal transcription services are the most vivid example of the benefits that outsourcing can offer.
Legal Transcription Outsourcing to Serve Clients Better
One of the principal strategies that lawyers use to handle the time crunch is dictation. Used the right way, dictation helps these busy professionals to save time and organize their thoughts as they get through their core tasks. They use dictation to draft simple documents and condense lengthy meetings into usable transcripts. The evolution of smartphones, voice recognition software and digital dictation has brought new dimensions to traditional methods.
Transcription can be done in-house. However, this would require hiring administrative assistants or transcriptionists as well as purchase of software and some equipment. For small practices with limited staff with limited space and other constraints, this can be a difficult proposition. Many lawyers are finding that outsourcing is the way to go.
To meet the needs of their customers, legal transcription service providers combine smart technology and harness the skills of legal process experts to deliver timely and accurate transcripts of arbitrations, briefs, depositions, court proceedings, general correspondence, interviews, pleadings, police interrogations, and more.
Collaborating with the right outsourcing service provider will allow lawyers to ensure client satisfaction. According to the Raconteur report, this is crucial, as today, “clients have become more focused on driving value from their law firms and will often not tolerate anything less than the optimal (or at least creative) way of delivering services”.
The Right Service Provider to Get More For Less
The right outsourcing transcription service provider would be highly focused on delivering accurate, secure, and cost-effective solutions in quick turnaround time. In fact, partnering with the right company would help lawyers achieve more for less. Benefits include:
- Professional support to maintain error-free legal records
- Savings on resources need to train and maintain an in-house transcription team
- Technologically advanced solutions
- Effective electronic document management including archiving
- Easy and fast retrieval of information
- Rapid updating of legal records
- Lower operating costs
- Greater efficiency and productivity
- Confidentiality of data
As with any other business, legal firms too need to move with the times and technology or be left behind. And outsourcing offers the answer.