Legal transcription vs. Dictation

Sese Hang Limbu
December 2022

Legal transcription vs. Dictation

Working as a legal professional is a daunting task, no matter what field of law you specialize in. You need to be able to research legal terminologies and existing cases. Also, the need to exchange accurate information need precise note-taking.

Legal transcription services and dictation are two helpful technologies for that purpose.
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Dictation and legal transcription services are similar, but they're not the same.

What is Dictation?

Dictation is when someone speaks into a recording device to record. Writing while someone is speaking also comes under the definition of dictation. You can playback the recording or read from the written notes after dictating.

What is Legal Transcription?

Transcription is the conversion of pre-recorded speech into text. Either a human using a keyboard or an AI system can perform transcription. Transcribing a meeting or courtroom discussion is more time-consuming than dictation. Yet, it is useful as you can share your notes with anyone who needs them.

Legal Transcription vs. Dictation

Depending on your need, one method may be better suited than the other.

So consider the one that best fits your schedule and makes your task easier when deciding between the two.

  • Time Taken

    Time Taken: By definition, dictation is quicker, as it happens simultaneously when someone speaks. Dictation gets done as soon as someone finishes speaking. Legal transcription generally requires more time than dictation. It requires listening to a pre-recorded audio/video file. So, in a case where time is of the essence, dictation is the way to go. However, transcription provides easy-to-understand content out of those two.
  • Human vs AI

    In the past, dictation largely involved a secretary writing the conversation in shorthand before preparing a full version. Nowadays, it involves software that automatically writes and records speech before saving it as a text file. The quality of recording can vary depending on various factors like the use of equipment and type of software.

On the contrary, transcription usually involves a human typing up the recording and editing necessary changes while ignoring filler words and sounds. The content of a transcript can include as much or as little information as you want, such as timestamps and speaker labels.

Due to human intervention, transcription is a lot more accurate than dictation.

  • Ease of Sharing

    Ease of Sharing Both dictations and transcriptions can be easily shared with others. Dictations are shared as audio files with those who need to hear them. But going through an entire audio file to find a specific quote can be taxing. However, transcriptions are shareable, and since they're in textual format. You can even copy-paste and share only parts of the relevant transcript. It is also easier to skim through, search and highlight information in a transcript than in an audio file.
  • Clarity

    You may experience problems with the quality of the tape afterward with dictation. Having said that, dictation software has evolved considerably over the past few years and is much more reliable nowadays. You should ensure that your audio recording is as clear as possible for the software to document it accurately. On the other hand, a skilled transcriptionist will pay enough attention to the content and leave out filler words that make little or no sense. Generally, dictation software cannot reproduce the human element of transcription. Transcriptionists can deliberately exclude unnecessary sounds and are more likely to identify the correct words.

Final Thoughts

Legal practitioners in any field of law can get a lot out of both dictation and legal transcription. The better choice for you depends on what your need is. Consider the factors above before choosing a service.

Learn more about legal transcription and much more on the Reduct blog!

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