Trends always seem to come back around as time goes on, even in the world of legal technology. This currently applies to the use of voice recognition software (sometimes called speech recognition, voice automation or speech dictation).
For years, attorneys dictated documents or wrote them on yellow legal pads for secretaries to type out. This changed with the advent of personal computers. Many attorneys began typing their own documents, although staff sometimes completed the formatting.
Today, a growing number of successful lawyers are returning to dictating documents. The twist is that they are now dictating to voice recognition software rather than to secretaries. This old, but modern method is proving more efficient and economical.
Voice recognition software is not all that new, but it has become much more accurate, flexible and easy-to-use in recent years. It has also become much more affordable.
What was once a frustrating tool used in desperation has become a fast, sophisticated, and accurate way to write, navigate and complete legal documents.
Depending on the voice recognition software you choose, it can enable you to:
- Dictate words and numbers
- Open documents
- Navigate within documents
- Insert pre-configured text or clauses using voice commands
- Record dictation and download it to voice recognition software, saving you later on transcription costs
- Complete forms quickly by using artificial intelligence programming that can search for keywords or phrases to complete legal forms
- Schedule appointments
- Write and send emails
- Search the Internet
Serious Speech Dictation Software
Hands-down, the leader in voice recognition today is Dragon NaturallySpeaking by Nuance. If you are going to buy software, you will likely want to choose one of their professional versions, or a version specifically created for law firms.
Dragon software today is leaps and bounds beyond what it was in the 90s. A lot of time and money has been spent to improve Dragon NaturallySpeaking over the years, and it clearly shows. It performs all the functions mentioned in the previous section, while also powering voice-driven apps, like Siri.
Versions and Price
Dragon has various versions available. If you feel that you don’t need the legal-specific variety with legalese (i.e. litigation lawyers), there are alternatives. You may prefer Dragon Professional Individual or Dragon Professional Group. These actually allow you to add your own terms if you want, but cost less than the Dragon Legal series.
The better investment, however, is to go for Dragon Legal Individual or Dragon Legal Group. They come with many legal terms already in the vocabulary. This legal software is, “trained using more than 400 million words from legal documents to deliver optimal recognition accuracy for dictation of legal terms right from the start.”
A great add-on for any Dragon NaturallySpeaking version is Dragon Anywhere. It allows you to dictate, edit, format and share documents on many cloud-sharing services from your phone or tablet. This is particularly useful for those who are often on the road.
Training, Accuracy and Machine Learning
The Dragon website claims their software is three times faster than typing. This is not hard to believe, because let’s face it, no matter how fast you type, you can talk faster.
Dragon also claims a 99% accuracy rate from the first time you use it. It can achieve high accuracy, even where there is background noise or the speaker has an accent.
Years ago, it took hours to train Dragon voice recognition software to your voice and manner of speaking. Today, there is an initial training where you read some text to the software for about 10 minutes.
Free Voice Recognition on your Windows or Mac OS
If you’re not quite ready for Dragon NaturallySpeaking, look no further than your own OS.
You may be surprised to learn that Windows has had built-in speech recognition since Version 7, and Apple added voice recognition beginning with Mountain Lion and higher versions of its Mac OS X operating system. You can dictate content and control your computer with both the Windows and Mac versions.
Using the built-in voice recognition software on your OS is free. But ease-of-use, accuracy, speed and functionality is not quite as high as that of Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
Technology is Increasingly Important to Law Firm Success
Lawyers sell services, so saving time means saving money.
Voice recognition software is very affordable. Legal professionals should explore how they can save time on various tedious tasks. It’s also worth exploring other law firm software solutions, like document creation and assembly tools, that save time and money.
Law firms that effectively use keep up with legal technological enjoy a competitive advantage. Making these investments now provides major savings in the future.