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October 15, 2015

The 8 Most Essential Free IPad Apps For Attorneys

Maybe you already have an iPad, or maybe you’re planning to get one in the near future. Either way, you probably want to know the best way to put your new tool to use in your practice. After all, an iPad is only as good as its apps. With that in mind, here is a list of what I consider to be the most essential free iPad apps for lawyers:

1. Dragon Dictation

If you’ve dreamt of having an app that will convert your dictation into print, Dragon Dictation is for you. The app uses voice recognition software to convert dictated notes to text. In fact, if you’re daring enough, Dragon Dictation will even integrate with Facebook and Twitter so you can easily dictate status updates. It is surprisingly accurate too (although I recommend carefully reviewing these before making them public).

2. FastCase

Fastcase is a powerful legal research tool providing access to a free law library incorporating case law for all 50 states and access to statutes for most states and the federal government. There are some holes in the offerings including only access to select codes and regulations (and no access at all to statutes for Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Ohio, and Pennsylvania). Nonetheless, unlike Westlaw or Lexis, access to the Fastcase law library from the iPad app is completely free.

3. Westlaw Next

If your office uses West for legal research, then this app is essential. It creates an iPad-friendly interface for Westlaw Next allowing you to perform all of your legal research on the go. The Westlaw Next app automatically syncs with the Westlaw Next website so you can begin your research on your iPad and later complete your research at the office. The app also incorporates KeyCite, Folders and allows you to access your search history.

4. Lexis Advance HD

I should preface this one by noting that Lexis Advance HD is still a new app with some major bugs for the Lexis team to figure out. Still, if your office uses Lexis for legal research, you’ll want to download this app for your iPad. Like the Westlaw Next app, it allows you to perform legal research on the go. You can use Instant Search to run a search without having to select a specific source, Shephardize case law, and use Work Folders to synchronize your search results to view them on your work computer.

5. Evernote

As I recently discussed in my post about using Evernote to improve your practice, Evernote is absolutely essential for lawyers on the go. I use Evernote for nearly everything. Evernote allows you to store your case files in the cloud and easily search those files from any location. Evernote also allows you to create and format documents. Evernote allows you record dictated messages. Best of all, the app and the basic account are free. I honestly believe this is the best app you’ll download for your iPad. Paired with the Penultimate app ($0.99) you can even take handwritten notes on your iPad and save them to Evernote – effectively replacing your yellow legal pad.

6. Adobe Reader

Odds are you deal with PDFs everyday in your practice. Whether it is notices, pleadings, motions or giant discovery productions, you’ll want a smooth and easy way to view your PDFs on your iPad. Adobe Reader app doesn’t offer much in terms of functionality and editing, but it does allow you to easily view and read PDF files on your iPad.

7. Twitter

I’ll presume you are already promoting your practice and engaging with colleagues and clients on Twitter. You should be. The Twitter app is a fantastic way to navigate Twitter on your iPad. In fact, in my opinion, the Twitter iPad app offers a better user experience that their regular website. The Twitter app allows you to easily switch between multiple accounts, tweet on the go, and creates an easy to read conversation view of your direct messages with other users.

8. WordPress

This is an essential app for the attorney blogger on the go. It can be a frustrating experience trying to create and edit posts from the regular WordPress.org web dashboard from your iPad. The iPad app mostly solves that problem by creating an easy to use interface that allows you to moderate comments, create or edit posts and easily add images and videos to posts on your iPad.

For more information, please visit quikscribe.com and digidictate.com

Source: Rocket Lawyer


October 14, 2015

Lawyers Can Feed Their APPetite For Efficiency With Mobile Speech Technology

If you still use a Dictaphone, your law practice is on the fast track to obsolescence.

In fact, you may already be a dinosaur but just don’t know it yet.

That’s according to Sam Glover, whose popular Lawyerist.com blog offers law office management and marketing tips.

At the September 2014 Clio Cloud Conference in Chicago, and some months earlier in this blog post, Glover identified six technologies every lawyer should have gotten rid of long ago:

     
  • Dictaphone
  •  
  • Copiers
  •  
  • Fax machines
  •  
  • Typewriters
  •  
  • Blackberry
  •  
  • Windows XP

And yet, are some of these technologies still in use in your office?

I’m guessing yes. Most of you probably have a physical fax machine. Ditto a copier (pun intended). And maybe even a typewriter or two lying around.

You’re not alone. Lawyers from Nevada to New Jersey wrote Glover defending their continued use of the maligned machines.

Some said they used typewriters to fill out forms required by banks and real estate companies. Others said physical fax machines were more secure and less vulnerable to hackers than e-faxes. One said his local court required hard copies of certain documents.

Time Is Running Out On The Dictaphone

And then there is Brian Focht. The self-professed techno-geek and author of the Cyber Advocate blawg says he attended the Cloud Conference and sat squirming in his seat as Glover pronounced the Dictaphone deader than a dodo. Here is what Focht posted about the episode:

“[Glover] asked the crowd if anyone still used one. I didn’t raise my hand. Sure, I type or use voice recognition for most of my practice, but I have one plugged right next to my monitor (where it most often serves as a speaker). The senior partners in my firm all still dictate their letters, motions, briefs, and pretty much everything else into their handy dictaphone, to be transcribed by a legal assistant.

I knew that full-time use of a dictaphone was probably obsolete, and employing someone for the sole purpose of transcribing your dictation is far more expensive than the best voice recognition software available. Yet even I was surprised by what I found on my return to my office.”

What Focht found was that his dictating days were coming to an end – whether he liked it or not.

“I hadn’t been back for more than an hour when I spoke to our firm’s office manager, who informed me that we had been contacted by our IT company and told that they would no longer be supporting our dictation equipment. I didn’t understand. Our digital dictaphones were newer than our desktops (not saying much, but…). And it wasn’t that there was something to upgrade to. Apparently, she had been contacted by other local office managers about the same issue. They all called, wondering what solution was available. For us, apparently, it involved begging for another year of support, to which our IT firm relented. That’s it – one more year.

Ready, Set, Dictate

All of this reminded me of my very first law job way back in the early 1980s.

The New Associate Orientation process consisted of:

     
  • Getting taken around the office and introduced to my new colleagues (15 minutes).
  •  
  • Receiving a guided tour of the law library (10 minutes).
  •  
  • Learning how to use the copy machine (5 minutes).
  •  
  • Learning how to use the Dictaphone (3 full days).
  •  
  • The Dictaphone was a wondrous device indeed. There was a trigger-activated handset, a foot pedal, a black box straight out of Star Trek and a long wire that snaked across the floor and disappeared into a hole in the wall.

Amazing. I pulled the trigger. I spoke into the handset. Pretty soon a secretary brought me a piece of paper that contained the four words that I had spoken just minutes before.

They had been perfectly transcribed. They looked lovely on the page. They were: “Testing, one, two, three.”

For more information, please visit quikscribe.com and digidictate.com

Source: Lawyers Mutual NC


October 13, 2015

Lawyers Can Feed Their APPetite For Efficiency With Mobile Speech Technology

In 2009, Apple coined the phrase “There’s an app for that”TM. Never has this statement been truer. As of May 2015, Statista reported that Android users were able to choose between 1.5 million apps, and Apple users have access to 1.4 million apps.

The budding availability of different mobile applications also parallels the growth in mobile device usage, as a whole. In fact, Gartner reported that global smartphones sales reached 336 million units, an increase of 19.3 percent during the first quarter of 2015. While much of this growth is consumer-driven, many organizations are now finding great benefits in the increasing variety of mobile devices and applications that are available to support their mobile workforce. The 2014 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report showed that 91 percent of US lawyers now use a smartphone for law-related tasks, and 49 percent of lawyers are also using tablet devices.

Lawyers can now practice from anywhere and at any time with the dramatic improvement in mobile technology. Today’s mobile devices are e-readers, mobile law libraries, scanners, and time and billing managers. Applications for mobile devices even allow you to create and manage your office documentation, spreadsheets, and presentations. But, perhaps, there’s not a more natural progression than merging your mobile device with speech technology tools such as digital dictation and speech recognition.

Historically, lawyers used analog tapes or digital handheld recorders to capture their dictations. These methods worked for decades, but using analog and digital handheld recorders have their limits. With analog dictation, tapes can be lost and can break. This results not only in rework, but also the loss of secure client information. Tapes also hold up the document turnaround process as often a single tape contains multiple recordings, and tapes require physical delivery to support staff for transcription.

While digital dictation via digital handheld recorders solves many of the issues that occur with tape-based dictation, it can also have its own drawbacks. Using a digital handheld recorder, the user typically captures dictations on the device, docks or plugs the device into a PC using a USB cable, and then uploads the audio files to be emailed for transcription or uses a digital dictation workflow system to route the uploaded audio files to support staff. This setup requires attorneys to be in their office or at a computer before they can send their dictations to be transcribed. With mobile dictation through smartphones and tablet devices, this isn’t the case.

Dictation through mobile devices is one of the latest progressions in speech productivity technology. Imagine having the ability to capture dictation at a client’s site or in transit, and being able to immediately send work to your assistant or back to the office for completion ? before ever returning there yourself. Mobile dictation helps to make productive use of your valuable time. Legal professionals can dictate case notes, tasks or directions to support staff, time for billing, etc. and send those recordings instantly to support staff for transcription or follow-up, without requiring the device to be docked or connected to a computer. This allows for a more efficient delivery of information, saving legal professionals energy, time, and money.

There are several other advantages to mobile dictation, including:

     
  • Improved productivity
  •  
  • Improved document turnaround time
  •  
  • Better client responsiveness
  •  
  • Reduced hardware costs and maintenance, as mobile dictation users no longer need to carry and maintain both a smartphone or tablet and a handheld recorder
  •  
  • Furthermore, some mobile dictation applications work with speech recognition engines to allow for even greater efficiency gains. With the accuracy of speech recognition engines now averaging 95 percent or greater, mobile dictation with voice-to-text capabilities can enable even quicker document turnaround and client responsiveness, as speech-recognized dictations usually only require minor edits before delivering a final document.

In the fast-paced world, where the dynamics of legal practices are changing, lawyers are becoming more mobile. Moreover, many firms are under competitive pressure to deliver information quickly. Wouldn’t it be great to have a tool to make your work more efficient? Mobile speech technology could be that tool, and it can certainly help to satisfy your APPetite for efficiency!

For more information, please visit quikscribe.com and digidictate.com

Source: Winscribe


October 12, 2015

How To: Outsource Dictation

Outsourcing dictation can save a law firm thousands of pounds, but it must be managed carefully, writes Jonathan Rayner.

On the one hand, there are those who demand to know why anyone would consider such madness. After all, just having a temporary secretary for a day throws you off your stride; it would be much worse if you had to rely on strangers full-time. And anyway, they assert, it is a solicitor’s duty to respect client confidentiality. Why even contemplate farming out commercially sensitive or personal data to another body? It is enough to get you struck off the roll.

On the other hand, there are those who wax eloquent on the subject. Outsourcing, they proclaim, allows you to reduce staff overheads and concentrate resources on fee-earners. Also, there are tried and tested mechanisms in place to ensure confidentiality, quality and compliance with Solicitors Regulation Authority rules. Outsourcing is a no-brainer, they say.

So, outsourcing dictation is either wanton recklessness or law firm management of the highest order. The Gazette sought a balanced view by speaking to users, regulators and providers of the service.

Shifting The Dynamic

Gary Storer, practice manager at West Midlands firm QualitySolicitors Silks, says that outsourcing to transcription and digital dictation company dictate2us has been a ‘success’ for the firm and saved it ‘thousands of pounds’ over the last three years. He says: ‘Importantly, it allowed us to shift the dynamic of the firm in the light of the economic downturn. A fee-earner and secretary working as a unit is no longer a sustainable model. Outsourcing meant we could let some people go, while focusing others on becoming multi-functional.

‘The process is easy to use. We dictate as though the secretary is there in our office and then transfer it to the dictate2us website. It’s a quick turnaround and, in our case, the finished job is filed directly on to our case management system.’

Jamie Abrahams, operations director at niche London real estate and commercial firm Harold Benjamin, makes the unusual claim that he would like to spend more money with digital dictation company DictateNow. He says: ‘Our decision to outsource was prompted more by a wish to increase efficiency than to reduce costs – although that was also an important consideration. We have massively increased turnover and profitability in the last two years. If we are spending more with DictateNow, then we must be generating more work.’

Harold Benjamin now outsources everything that previously would have been typed in-house. As a result, the firm no longer employs secretaries in the traditional sense and, despite fee-earner numbers climbing 20% since January 2013, has not needed to put in place a proportionate rise in administrative support. Abrahams says: ‘The people who used to type in this building have been encouraged to move on to become paralegals or legal executives, which again has improved efficiencies.’

So outsourcing has been a success? ‘Definitely,’ replies Abrahams. ‘It is helping us do it better for less with no long-term contractual obligations. The arrangement is based purely on results and can be cancelled at any time.’

The providers of outsourced dictation are, unsurprisingly, equally enthusiastic about its benefits. Take transcription provider Voicepath, which boasts more than 200 law firm clients, ranging from large nationals to high street practices. Many of its client firms have agreed to provide testimonials for Voicepath’s website.

Hertfordshire firm Debenhams Ottaway, for example, says: ‘We have calculated that we have saved £500,000 in salary costs alone through using Voicepath.’ London firm HowardKennedyFsi claims that Voicepath’s services have enabled it to ‘revolutionise our business practices beyond the simple adoption of digital dictation’. Lancashire firm Scott Rees & Co praises Voicepath for the ‘fast and accurate turnaround of the work we send them’.

There are similar paeans on the website of DictateNow, whose clients range in size from sole practitioners to top-100 law firms. International firm Ince & Co praises DictateNow’s reliability and its ‘seamless integration into our operation that engenders confidence and removes the pain’. National firm Lewis Silkin commends the provider’s ‘quality and accuracy’ and adds that much of the firm’s work is picked up by the same typists so that they are more ‘an extension of our team… than an external service provider’. Wandsworth Borough Council, more technically, endorses DictateNow’s ‘hosted server system, which considerably reduced the implementation cost’ and allows the council to outsource whenever its secretaries are absent or busy.

Lost In Translation

The only criticisms appear to concern offshoring. Many law firms have brought their dictation back onshore because of time-consuming – if sometimes amusing – errors that have crept into their letters and other documents when processed by non-native English speakers. One solicitor, for example, complained that south-east London’s Brockley came back to him as broccoli. A lawyer from the south-west, moreover, was somewhat taken aback when her letter telling a client that she had ‘calculated the costs’ was returned with the disclosure that she had ‘copulated the costs’.

Rule one of how to outsource dictation, then, is to keep it in onshore with a reputable provider. Rule two is to check that the service is such that the law firm remains compliant with the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. The Law Society’s website carries a detailed October 2011 practice note on all forms of outsourcing, including due diligence, IT, Companies House filing and ‘legal secretarial services [such as] digital dictation to an outsourced secretarial service for word-processing or typing’.

Compliance places a heavy obligation on law firms. Practices remain responsible for all outsourced work – you cannot blame the outside supplier. SRA principles apply: you must provide a proper standard of service to your clients, you must comply with your legal and regulatory obligations, and you must run your firm in accordance with proper governance rules. Your client care letter, moreover, should inform clients what aspects of their work are being outsourced.

On the subject of confidentiality, the SRA code says you can only outsource services when you are satisfied that the provider has taken all appropriate steps to ensure that your clients’ confidential information will be protected. Note the words ‘when you are satisfied’. It is your responsibility to check that the provider is able to do what it says it can do – and is doing it. If things go wrong, it is your head on the block.

Finally, and assuming you have not been scared off by the regulatory obligations, you need to carry out a risk assessment. For example, there are only a limited number of outsourced dictation providers, while there are thousands of law firms each carrying out hundreds if not thousands of transactions a year. How can you be sure that there is no conflict of interest, with the same provider supplying the firms on both sides of a transaction? There is a risk that commercially sensitive information could be leaked. How would you explain that to your client?

Prevention is better than cure, as the saying goes, and so if you choose your provider wisely, then you probably won’t have embarrassing questions to answer. The wisest move is to ask a prospective provider for the name and contact details of one or more of its existing law firm clients. Speak to these firms, ask what difficulties or obstacles they had to overcome to begin using the service. Ask them about the benefits: has it reduced headcount, saved money, protected confidentiality, sped up processes, made life easier or more difficult? Would they recommend the prospective provider?

Graham and Daryl Leigh, legal director and chief executive respectively of Bury-based dictate2us, are confident that their company not only ticks all the boxes, but offers additional features too. Daryl Leigh says: ‘We provide a specialist typist for each legal sector, whether commercial, criminal, family, property or the rest.’

Graham Leigh notes the appeal of the firm’s international service. ‘We provide transcription in any language, such as Cantonese or Mandarin in Hong Kong,’ he says. ‘We can take a Russian language document and transcribe it into Japanese, for instance. This means different time zones and long hours because we have turnaround undertakings to meet – we say that a piece of dictation less than five minutes long will be turned around in an hour, any time of the day or night. We even type in braille.’

He ends by stating that confidentiality and data protection are ensured by ‘military-grade encryption’ and by ‘confidentiality agreements’ signed by typists, editors and everyone involved in the quality control process.

Account manager Jonathan Shiels at Leamington Spa-based Voicepath claims that his company’s legal typing and transcription service ‘helps law firms do more for less’. He says: ‘Firms are not increasing headcount in these difficult economic times. This is unsurprising given that, in London, the average salary for a legal secretary is £45,000. Firms can save up to 60% in costs if they outsource some of the work.’

Change In Attitude

Voicepath was established in 1998 and in the intervening years, Shiels says, there have been fundamental changes in attitudes to outsourcing and the way the service is delivered.

‘Outsourcing used to be regarded as back-office support, but now it is seen as a viable extension to a firm’s business model. It frees up fee-earners’ time so they can concentrate on high-value work and on meeting targets. It also gives firms flexibility without commitment – they can choose when or when not to use us, and how urgently they want the work done. We can do it overnight or with a 45-60 minute turnaround time – it’s the client’s choice.’

Shiels adds that developments in technology have also transformed outsourcing. ‘Firms used to use analogue tapes, with one tape per user,’ he says, ‘but the new digital platforms have changed everything. Lawyers can dictate directly to us on their mobile phones, for instance. The evolution of voice recognition programmes has also been epic. The programmes can recognise accents and allow files to be uploaded, which we can then tailor and format in one streamlined process.’

So, how best to outsource dictation? Choose onshore, not offshore, to avoid a broccoli moment; canvass providers’ existing clients for a recommendation or otherwise; ensure SRA compliance – or face the consequences; and check that the provider is using the most up-to-date technology.

For more information, please visit quikscribe.com and digidictate.com

Source: Assured Transcription


October 9, 2015

Top Ten Tips For Good Quality Recording

The better the sound quality on your recording, the less time it will take to transcribe. The following tips are given purely for guidance and the time taken to transcribe recordings can vary.

     
  1. Get to know your recording equipment, how it works and how to maintain it. Ensure you are aware of where all the buttons are located. If you are unsure, refer to your user manual. Try to remember to have your dictation equipment serviced at least annually; this will ensure that your equipment stays in good condition and that recording quality remains high.
  2.  
  3. Before you start your dictation, organise yourself. Assemble all the information you may need before you start dictating, this ensures that you have everything to hand and helps maintain your concentration.
  4.  
  5. When dictating, if you need to find a file or a piece of information, Stop the dictating machine. Once you have started your recorder, pause for a moment before dictating, and when you have finished speaking, allow the recording to continue for a second, this will help to ensure that none of your dictation has been clipped off.
  6.  
  7. Try to speak clearly and at a regular pace, spelling any difficult and unusual words, or names with various different spellings.
  8.  
  9. When dictating a letter state the recipient’s full name and mailing address as clearly as possible, and spell any unusual street and town names. Also spell ambiguous words as you may mean ‘Maine Street’ and the typist may type ‘Main Street’.
  10.  
  11. Make sure you are in a quiet area so your dictation can be heard clearly by the typist, background noise can be distracting and can also distort words when recording, increasing the risk of errors. A quiet area will also help you maintain your concentration during dictation. Noises that cause particular problems are shuffling papers, rattling of coffee cups, tapping on the table where the recorder is mounted. If recording multiple speakers try to avoid speaking over one another.
  12.  
  13. Speak with your mouth at the recommended distance from your particular brand of dictation equipment for optimum sound levels. (Refer to the user manual.) If you are too close, your dictation can seem muffled and if you are too far, the dictation is too quiet; if you vary between the two, this can deafen the typist and is very uncomfortable.
  14.  
  15. Try to be aware of punctuation, say the words ‘comma’, ‘full stop’, ‘new paragraph’, ‘question mark’, etc. This will ensure that your document is easy to read and minimises editing.
  16.  
  17. Try to breathe between sentences; you may pride yourself on being able to fit 10 minutes of dictation into two minutes of tape, but this will take much longer to type and the error rate is far higher.
  18.  
  19. When you have completed the tape, please let us know. You could say ‘end of dictation’, this way we will know that the tape has finished and does not lead onto another tape.

Source: Assured Transcription


October 8, 2015

Why Lawyers Might Want To Ditch Typing For Dictation

Today’s lawyers are focusing too heavily on written communication at the expense of oral communication, putting at risk mastery of fundamental lawyering skills and impeding efficiency at law firms, according to a group of leading Australian lawyers and tests conducted by BigHand and Nuance Communications.

The view that typing an email or developing documents via typing them into a computer is the most efficient use of a lawyer’s highly-valuable time is a fallacy, according to tests conducted by BigHand and Nuance.

“Tests show that lawyers are typically three times more efficient when verbalizing their ideas rather than typing them,” said Anthony Bleasdale, Director – Asia Pacific at BigHand said. “This is a significant result in an industry where time is money.”

“Law firms need to ensure they are not losing efficiencies in how their lawyers are working, provide the right tools to maximize their efficiency and ensure younger lawyers are developing the oral communication skills they need,” he said.

Theodora Ahilas, Principal and Director, Maurice Blackburn agrees.

“We are actually becoming less efficient, rather than becoming more efficient in our time by becoming slaves to the computer and typing ourselves, rather than actually thinking about what we are doing and having a system and protocol to develop our ideas through dictation,” she said.

“A junior lawyer will say to me ‘but I am much more efficient typing it up than actually dictating it.’

“I don’t think that they realize that dictating can be much more efficient because not only do they have clarity of thought, they get it done much quicker than sitting at the computer and actually typing up the document. The best way to do it is to dictate the document, get it back on the system, correct it and then get it out.

“We time cost our work. It is much more efficient for clients that I spend 15 minutes of that hour dictating it and it gets typed by someone else, rather than spending an hour and a half typing it up and then I’ve used their quota or the amount of time allocated for the particular task,” she said.

“I was certainly a bit surprised at how much quicker I could verbalize something more than typing it. But then typing something is a much more mechanical process and delivering information verbally can be much more fluid,” Kirk Warwick, Senior Associate, Norton Rose Fulbright said.

“There is a huge amount of blue sky for digital transcription technology to fill. I think that this technology will really drive efficiency, and really make the way that we operate much more fluid and really save some time.”

Source: Financial Post


October 7, 2015

Microphones

Positioning the microphone correctly is important. It should be to the side of your mouth, not in front, or your breath may interfere with your sound quality. Once you find a placement that works for you, keep the microphone in the same place each time you use it.

Some microphones have batteries. If yours does, make sure you carry extra batteries with you. If your computer’s speech recognition deteriorates, try changing the batteries.

Microphones provided with most software are low quality. If you dictate a lot, consider getting a better microphone. It can make a huge difference. If you improve accuracy one or two percent it may not seem like much, but if you write several pages a day this adds up. It can mean hours in a year.

If there is a change in your sound environment, consider running the “Audio Setup Wizard.” It doesn’t take long. If you have a problem with recognition, check your surroundings. Is there a window behind you that could reflect sound? Try switching to a sound absorbing background such as drapes or a bookcase.

Finally, remember to turn off your microphone when you finish dictating, or pause when dictating for more than a brief moment. If you don’t, you may end up with garbage on your screen as the program puts background noise into words. To turn off the microphone, click the upright microphone icon on your toolbar. You can also use the commands, “Go to Sleep” and “Wake Up,” to turn your microphone off and on. I recommend a microphone with a mute button. You can mute the microphone when you do other things. Note, however, that some mute buttons create static, which causes the program to insert a word you did not dictate. One microphone I use inserted words when I turned the microphone off and on. I sprayed it with Radioshack’s contact and head cleaner—at the on-off switch and at the tail end with the cord pulled out. For a while, this eliminated this problem but eventually it reoccurred, although it was not as bad as it was before. Further sprays with the contact and head cleaner made no difference.

Some microphones have fragile cords which can get damaged and cause electrical interference. I now use a handheld microphone with a sturdy, replaceable cord. With a handheld microphone, make sure you keep it a constant distance from your mouth when you turn your head.

Some of the programs allow you to use a hand-held recorder. They work like a regular recorder but when you want your words transcribed, you hook it up to your computer, select the recording, and click “Transcribe.” These are generally not as accurate as dictating directly to your computer.

Source: PC Speak


October 6, 2015

Dictating To Your Computer

Why Dictate?

Voice recognition has come a long way in the last few years. You can now dictate your notes, judgments, letters, and other documents to your computer at your normal speaking pace. In fact, dictating too slowly may degrade your accuracy because the program selects words based on their context as well as on your voice waves. (If you say, “dear,” the program will not know whether you mean “deer” or “dear.” If you say “Doug,” the program will not know whether you mean “Doug” or “dug.” If you say, “Dear Doug,” this provides a context for the program to select the correct words. So does, “As I dug my waterline, a deer jumped over it.”

Although you can dictate quickly, you must enunciate each word clearly and ensure you do not you run your words together.

The following two sentences, which I will dictate, demonstrate how the program deals with homonyms by looking at words in context:

     
  • Two boys went to see the doctor because they ate too much food.
  •  
  • They’re going to park their car over there.

Your computer types the words as you speak, and, if you have the right program, it can play your words back to you in audio.

Because of the speed and accuracy of the newest programs when combined with powerful computers, after a couple of weeks training the program (and yourself), you may be able to get more done in less time. It only takes a few minutes to get started if you have a new program and a powerful computer.

I have found that dictating frees my hands to sort through exhibits and other material.

After years of using speech recognition software as a stand-alone product Wetzel was able to combine multiple options as he always wanted to and significantly improved his workflow.

Some time ago, after a long day of typing my notes in court, one of my hands was sore. Although I had been dictating to my computer off and on, I then started dictating to my computer on a regular basis to prevent repetitive stress injuries to my hands and wrists.

Dictating to your computer can turn tedious tasks into more enjoyable ones. For example, I took a fact-laden paragraph from a child protection report and quickly dictated the points into a list that automatically numbered itself in Word. It was then much easier to comprehend. Besides, it was fun to do.

Source: PC Speak


October 5, 2015

Law Firm Streamlines Transcription Process

Integration Of Digital Dictation And Speech Recognition Improve Efficiency And Productivity

Modernization was in order when La Cava & Jacobson, P.A., launched itself as an independent practice in June 2010. The 12-attorney medical malpractice and civil defense law firm in Tampa, Florida split from a larger organization and acquired the former parent company’s office along with decades-old tape-based dictation equipment.

“The tapes were old and the machines broke frequently,” says partner James D. Wetzel.” With help from their local vendor, the firm began researching a suite of digital dictation and transcription tools. In 2011, after thorough analysis, La Cava & Jacobson choose a dictation software suite with Philips Pocket Memo digital recorders to replace their obsolete equipment and inefficient workflow.

Seamless Workflow Integration

La Cava & Jacobson’s attorneys were accustomed to dictation, so substituting tape-based recorders with the Pocket Memo devices was seamless — yet it greatly improved the efficiency of the transcription process.

Prior to the switch, attorneys would dictate letters or reports, and then either hand-deliver cassette tapes to their assistants or search for an available transcriptionist. Now, with the digital capabilities of the Pocket Memo combined with the dictation software, attorneys simply dock their recorders at their PCs. The audio files are automatically and securely uploaded to a centralized system that can be accessed by an authorized assistant or typist. The attorney’s dictation can then be transcribed by the first available assistant, or specified support staff.

Improved Efficiency With Speech Recognition

Their Voice Systems representative was able to show La Cava & Jacobson’s attorneys how to further enhance productivity with the use of speech recognition. Integrating speech recognition software within the dictation software workflow solution further automates the transcription process. Attorneys can use speech recognition to create a draft document and send it through the system for completion. Rather than spending the bulk of their time transcribing from scratch, typist only need to proofread the documents created in the speech recognition and make corrections if needed.

After years of using speech recognition software as a stand-alone product Wetzel was able to combine multiple options as he always wanted to and significantly improved his workflow.

“I use a desktop microphone to dictate directly into the computer. I have a workstation with all the software installed at home as well as in the office, so I can do my work wherever I want,” Wetzel explains. “For longer documents, like case studies, I prefer to dictate directly into Microsoft Word, and speech recognition populates the text automatically. For all other documents I dictate directly into the dictation software with templates.” From there, documents are automatically routed to the internal support staff for review.

There has been a lot less typing due to speech recognition — a fact the employees really appreciate. “Assistants are happier because they are typing much less, and the lawyers are thrilled with the fast turnaround on documents,” Wetzel says.

Superb Sound Quality And Accuracy

The entire suite of Philips devices has been awarded the highest ratings in a Nuance survey for microphone quality. The clarity of recording has led to better recognition and accuracy rates.

“The more you put into it, the more you get out of it, it’s clearly better than tapes; only good things have come from this change.” says Wetzel.

Source: Philips Dictation


October 2, 2015

Punctuation Commands For Dictation In Voice To Text For Android

Google is really improving Android dictation capabilities, and while you’re not going to experience Dragon-like dictation, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

STT Types What You Tell It To

Android’s speech to text engine is quite literal. That means, when you say, “new paragraph,” the STT engine translates and types, “new paragraph.”

This “stupidity” happens for essentially two reasons:

     
  1. STT isn’t really designed for dictation (at this time); and
  2.  
  3. Google’s interested in conversational context for its STT engine.

STT Design

In the grand world of speech to text, dictation — at least as attorney’s think of dictation — takes a very distant place. The reality is that most Android consumers will never use their Android devices with the intent of dictating long, legalese-filled, memos and diatribes. The true purpose, at least in the STT world according to Google, is to translate and send short bursts of text (think text messages or Twitter updates — 140 characters), rather than lengthier discourses.

When STT accomplishes that goal, 95% or more of users are happy.

The Conversation Is The Important Factor

Those happy users, sending short bursts of messages, is what Google’s trying to capture. Google’s search engine is all about conversational elements, as opposed to choppy keyword searches.

If you remember conversational, it’s easier to get engaged with STT.

What Commands Work?

Ultimately, figuring out what commands work, and when, will drive you bat crazy. Here’s a list of usable commands to make STT work a little better.

Here are some commands that are guaranteed to work:

     
  • Period = period (.)
  •  
  • Comma = comma (,)
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  • Question mark = question mark (?)
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  • Exclamation or exclamation point = exclamation point (!)
  •  
  • Apostrophe = apostrophe (‘)
  •  
  • Enter or new line = moves to a new line
  •  
  • New paragraph = new paragraph
  •  
  • Tab key = tab
  •  
  • Colon = colon (:)
  •  
  • Dash = dash (-)
  •  
  • Ellipsis or dot dot dot = ellipsis (…)
  •  
  • Ampersand = ampersand (&)
  •  
  • Asterisk = asterisk (*)
  •  
  • At sign = at sign (@)
  •  
  • Backslash = backslash (\)
  •  
  • Forward slash = forward slash (/)
  •  
  • Open bracket = open bracket ([)
  •  
  • Close bracket = closed bracket (])
  •  
  • Open parenthesis = open parenthesis (()
  •  
  • Close parenthesis = close parenthesis ())

Making It All Work Together

I’ve found that the best way to get dictation working is to have a continual conversation with your device. This means that if you pause for long periods of time, usually 2 or more seconds, STT won’t connect your command as a command. This is especially true for commands like “new paragraph” and “new line” or “enter.”

I find that if you pause only slightly, STT will spell out “enter,” rather than execute the command. It’s a really finicky function, but if you do it right dictation works well.

Source:  The Droid Lawyer


October 1, 2015

Low Cost Technology For Highly Productive Lawyers

Now more than ever, great technology tools – many especially designed for lawyers – are amazingly affordable if not free, tech-savvy lawyers advise. But don’t forget the crucial difference between “frugal” and “cheap.”

Smaller firms and solos in Illinois know the importance of making every penny count when outfitting their offices with technology. But that shouldn’t mean getting it on the cheap, say practitioners who have focused closely on the issue.

“Frugal does not mean cheap. You still have to have all the basics for your law firm,” says Marc Matheny, an Indianapolis-based solo practitioner in civil litigation, probate, and family law who’s part of a nine-attorney shared office, who presented at the 2013 ISBA Solo and Small Firm Conference in Itasca (see sidebar). On the other hand, said Matheny, “The one thing that you need to avoid as a frugal lawyer is the ‘gotta-have-it’ syndrome. I’m a ‘gotta-have-it’ guy. But if you’re a frugal lawyer, and I still think I am, you have to stay away from [getting all of] the newest products.”

A small firm or solo does not need an information technology staff or top-of-the-line specialty software. But, “if you’re cheap, you’re going to get burned,” Matheny says. “We’re not asking people to bypass things by being frugal. We’re asking people to explore other options, such as using OpenOffice to open documents, as opposed to, somebody sends you a document in WordPerfect, and you don’t have WordPerfect – and [you use free OpenOffice] rather than spending $400 on WordPerfect, which you’re hardly ever going to use.”

Nerino Petro, a member of the ISBA’s legal tech committee and practice management adviser to the State Bar of Wisconsin, agrees that frugal doesn’t mean spending the least amount of money. “Frugal means getting the most efficient and effective technology you can for a reasonable price,” says Petro, who continues a part-time real estate practice in Illinois.

He also uses OpenOffice as a frugal-versus-cheap example, looking at it from a different angle. “You can get OpenOffice at no cost, but if you have to spend a lot of time learning it, or getting it to do what you want, are you saving money vs. a commercial product?”

Source:  ISBA


September 30, 2015

Five Essential Tips For Effective Dictation

You already know that the superior recording quality and usability of Olympus’ Revolutionary Voice Systems help users achieve outstanding speech processing results.

But did you know that five simple dictation techniques can help you slash material review time, streamline work processes and save you time and money? Here are our five tips:

     
  • The device should be held between 3 to 5 inches away from the speaker’s mouth.
  •  
  • Remember to pause before and after dictating to avoid clipping information.
  •  
  • Spell out technical words used in your profession. However, do not try to spell unfamiliar words. Instead, simply say the words slowly and clearly.
  •  
  • Some numbers sound similar. Numbers such as, 13 and 30, 14 and 40, 15 and 50,16 and 60, 17 and 70, 18 and 80 can be difficult to distinguish. The proper format to dictate teen numbers is to say, for example, “Fifteen. That’s one, five.”
  •  
  • Always say, “End of dictation” when finished.

Source:  Olympus American Pro Dictation


September 29, 2015

6 Technology Tips For Lawyers

When your 18 month old daughter swipes the TV screen with her thumb and index finger before she can pronounce the word ‘Mama’, you suddenly realise that the technology tools at our fingertips are vast and life changing for future generations.

Whether it is online communication and collaboration aids, smart apps, cloud-based technologies, document automation, electronic evidence programs or legal research tools, legal practitioners are being called upon to keep up with emerging technology trends.

You might be a Mum working from home around your baby’s sleep times, a solo practitioner branching out on your own or an entrepreneur launching a virtual firm. You may be an experienced legal professional looking to upskill in the rapidly changing digital world.

So what are the top tips and trends for lawyers who want to work efficiently and embrace the technological revolution?


Feel The Flow

And I’m not talking about vinyasa yoga (although that’s great too). I’m talking about workflow. Online collaboration, workflow and project management tools are on the up. Sites like Slack, Basecamp and TeamGantt and services such as Evernote, Dropbox and Teamviewer help you organise and document your work life with ease and connect and work with colleagues remotely. The aim is to streamline communications so that your workflow is smooth and efficient. The more easily you can ‘feel the flow’ and connect with other practitioners and clients, the better your life will be.


Join The Cloud

Reporting to Lawyers Weekly in July 2014, ALPMA president Andrew Barnes said that technology is one of the primary factors driving change in law firms but that law firms see technology as a threat as well as a solution.

Whether you find it threatening or not, as Andrew notes, the internet provides a platform for competitors to use non-traditional practice structures to deliver quality at a lower price, which means firms are under pressure to be more efficient.

This is where cloud-based practice management software and technologies can help you work more effectively by storing, accessing and managing data remotely.


Sort Out Social Media

The key here is to use social media consistently and make it engaging. When I chatted to law firm marketing specialist and social media expert, Dan Toombs of Fast Firms in October 2014, he recommended that firms endeavour to “be remarkable” by creating a different consumer experience and differentiating themselves from the crowd through compelling content, podcast series, downloadable guides, seminars and a global social media strategy.

Look at your target market and decide on a social media strategy that works best for your practice – your clients may prefer Facebook or Twitter, or perhaps LinkedIn may be a better digital platform to reach your commercial clients. Either way – jump on board the social media train and ensure that your engagement is frequent, useful and provocative enough for people to sit up and take notice.


Arm Yourself With Apps

With a range of handy apps from speech recognition and dictation to scanning and document management tools, you’ll never run the risk of being Dennis Denuto, dictating solo at your desk and then typing up your own letter with no administrative help in sight.


Enter The Electronic Marketplace

On the cusp of wide scale disruption, the legal profession is one of the last few industries to resist change, operational transparency and knowledge democratisation.

As acclaimed legal futurist, Professor Richard Susskind, predicted, the world of virtual courts, internet-based global legal businesses, online document production, commoditised legal services and web-based simulated practice, has arrived and the industry is opening up to non-legal market players.

By staying on top of evolving technology trends and using the available resources to achieve efficiency, practitioners will be well placed to compete in this market and find their niche in the online space.


Tango With Technology

Speaking with Legal It Professional in February 2014, Susskind reported that in his experience, young lawyers, with their social media familiarity and ease in using computers, are not as receptive to change and new technology as you would expect and can sometimes be more conservative than older practitioners. As counterintuitive as this may seem, it is also some comfort for those generations who weren’t texting in the womb and it means that being open to technology really does transcend age. Anyone can start this tango with the tech world – it’s not too late!

No matter how old you are or how long you’ve been practicing, learning to love technology is the only way forward. As Susskind says, being part of the “most documented and information intensive industry in the world”, means that avoiding the massive paper output and killing of trees that results from it should be reason enough to use technology.

With so many amazing IT tools at our fingertips, lawyers are poised to ride an exciting wave of change in the next couple of decades – who knows how many tech skills my daughter will learn before she can string a sentence together?

Source:  Legaler Blog



September 28, 2015

How Lawyers Can Use Technology To Create Better Profits

The quest for lowered overheads, increased profitability and better productivity is an ongoing battle for law firms, but there is little doubt that technology is coming to the rescue for firms in the form of practice management, accounting software, and numerous other benefits afforded by tech trends and innovations.

Dictation technologies are one area that has rapidly developed, although it has been around for many years. Now, however, it has reached the point where the technology is so smart that smart lawyers and other professionals see it as largely a must-have addition to their law office tools.

The use of dictation technologies and the technology itself has developed to the point where the ease of use is such that it provides benefits across a vast range of businesses and in education, medicine and elsewhere.

Indeed, the technology’s development is such that it can not only be used for document and letter drafting, but for emails and text messaging, forcing a reassessment of the traditional manner in which documents are “drafted”.

Like the emergence of the calculator and the internet, digital dictation devices permit enormous benefits and bring about significant change for professionals and how they deliver services.

Digital delivery is very much the way of the future, but for many law firms it is also a significant part of their present operations.

A good digital dictation system goes well beyond merely “speaking” your letters and documents, but it can permit the ‘writer’ to monitor the exact status of their work, retrieve jobs easily and quickly for additional material or for edits, permit easier outsourcing of work, mobile usage for litigators and lawyers away from the office and other advantages.

As modern law firm practice has increased, so too has the need for lawyers to be out and about. The use of smart phones permits the use of digital dictation to reduce workloads when returning to the office and greater efficiency in delivering quality work quickly.

Integration With Other Technology

Further, the use of smart software in areas like document management means digital dictation technology can be readily integrated using good workflow management solutions that permit better use of time and siginificant cost savings.

The benefits to lawyers from using technology has proved daunting for some. But as the technology has become at once both more powerful and easier to use, it has also become a no-brainer solution for lawyers seeking to provide faster, better service and to reduce costs and overheads at the same time.

All of which creates greater profits.

Source:  Law Fuel


September 25, 2015

Top 12 Tips For Professional Dictating

Whether you are a seasoned dictator or a first-timer wishing to improve your professional dictating skills, it’s worth knowing what tried and tested techniques work to create successful dictations.

These top 12 tips for professional dictating listed below will assist you to brush up on your professional dictating skills, so you will receive better quality transcripts and eliminate the need for a final edit.

TIP #1: FAMILIARISE YOURSELF WITH YOUR RECORDING EQUIPMENT Learn about your recording equipment, how it works and how to maintain it. Understanding the settings and other options will allow you to produce the highest quality audio recording possible.

TIP #2: OPTIMISE YOUR RECORDING ENVIRONMENT Make sure you are in a quiet area so your dictation can be picked up easily by the recording device. Do everything possible to minimise background sound by moving to a quieter area, closing any doors and windows, and shutting off any noise-making devices. Extraneous noise can make it difficult when playing back the audio for dictation.

TIP #3: COLLECT YOUR THOUGHTS, PLAN YOUR DICTATIONS Collect your thoughts and plan your words before speaking. Assemble any papers or reports before you start dictating, including documents you may refer to on your computer. Set priorities and organise.

TIP #4: PROVIDE CRITICAL INFORMATION Identify yourself at the beginning of your dictation and state what dictation you are doing, i.e. what type of reports and the date you want reflected in the reports. (The date of your dictation, the date the transcriptionist is actually transcribing the work or a prior date of your choosing.

TIP #5: IDENTIFY TEMPLATE FOR USE Where applicable, ensure you identify which template the transcriptionist should use for your dictation.

TIP #6: STANDARDISE YOUR DICTATIONS Try to use similar phrases in each of your report types. Be consistent in the way you approach similar reports. This not only reduces the chance of errors in the transcript, it also will make dictating a much more simple and routine process for you.

TIP #7: DICTATE PUNCTUATION Dictate punctuation as you go, including “period” or “full stop”, “comma”, “new line” and “new paragraph”. Pause slightly before and after small words such as “a” and “the” if they are being lost or misrecognised.

TIP #8: SPEAK WITH CLARITY Speak clearly and naturally, at your normal rate, avoiding letting your voice fade-out at the end of sentences. Word beginning and ending sounds are important for speech recognition accuracy, in particular.Speak as you would to someone sitting across the desk from you. Do not speak too loudly or too softly.

TIP #9: SPEAK IN CONTINUOUS PHRASES Speak in continuous phrases. This is particularly important when using voice recognition software, such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Dragon Medical Practice Edition, as this approach provides contextual clues about what you said and helps the software choose between homophones like”:” the punctuation mark, and “colon” the body part.

TIP #10: MICROPHONE USE Speak with your mouth at the recommended distance from your particular brand of microphone for optimum sound levels. Try not to breathe into the mic as it tends to produce a rough sound that can obscure the dictation. Avoid clearing your throat, yawning, and eating whilst dictating.

TIP #11: SPELL TECHNICAL TERMS OR JARGON If you are using a transcriptionist rather than voice recognition software, spell technical terms or jargon not normally found in the mainstream of daily work. If you use an unusual word or a word that sounds the same as another, spell it out. Spell out ALL proper names and industry-specific terms. To the transcriber, Rose Ann, Roseann, Rosanne, and Roseanne will all sound the same. Include addresses if known; spell unusual street names and identify as street, lane, drive, avenue, etc.; spell city names if not local

Tip #12: Remember to say “End of Dictation” Remember to say “End of Dictation” at the end of your dictation, so the transcriptionist will know there is no more dictation to follow.

Source:  Sterling Transcription


September 24, 2015

6 Tips For Helping Frustrated Writers Learn Dictation

Does handwriting still matter in the digital world? A recent New York Times article describes the importance of handwriting as a tool for learning and memory, and argues it should be taught to kids on a regular basis. This, the authors claim, is because handwriting activates a neural circuit in the brain that involves the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus, and the posterior parietal cortex, facilitating the capacity to generate ideas and recall information.

While, no doubt, some students can improve their memory through writing by hand, there’s also a large group of kids for whom the process of handwriting is so laborious that they can’t adequately or effectively express their thoughts on paper. Many of these kids are characterized by sloppy or illegible handwriting, short written responses to homework and classroom assignments, or a tendency to rush through or avoid written work. Their parents and teachers say, “If they only took their time, they could write neatly.” This may be true, but the problem is that “taking their time” means that a 10-minute homework assignment for their peers may equal 30 minutes of homework for them.

There are other students who generally display legible handwriting but require excessive amounts of time to complete their written work due to the slowness of their penmanship. As these students move into early elementary grades, they begin to notice that their peers complete work much more quickly than they do, and they may begin to feel inadequate or “stupid” because they simply write more slowly than other students. Perhaps the most damaging impact of the struggle to get information onto paper efficiently is the level of frustration and negativity these students express about their own academic abilities.

Students diagnosed with dysgraphia, a disorder of written language, may simply have difficulties with fine motor issues and a tendency to produce written work in a very slow and methodical fashion. Difficulties getting ideas onto paper is also seen frequently in kids diagnosed with ADHD and executive function disorders. For many of these kids, the best strategy may be to bypass pencils and paper and go directly to talking out their ideas with dictation devices.

Obviously, becoming a good writer requires far more than quick and legible penmanship. Teaching writing skills to kids who simply can’t write their thoughts onto paper may be putting the cart before the horse. Fortunately, dictation tools such as Dragon Dictation and Siri can help kids as young as 8 years old speak what they want to say and then very quickly see those words in print. Even if dictation tools are used only as an opportunity to blurt out the ideas a kid is thinking, they can prove to be a helpful way to start the writing process.

Educators and parents can’t simply give kids technologies like Dragon Dictation or a smartphone with dictation abilities and expect them to dictate effectively. In order for these talk-to-text tools to truly be helpful with writing skills, students will need to learn to speak in prose and combine dictation with word processing tools to create sentences, paragraphs, and entire drafts.

As a teacher or parent, you don’t need to be an expert in dictation to help kids learn how to use it effectively. Because dictation isn’t easy to master, your first job is to help kids find the motivation to learn the skill. Here are a few simple strategies.

     
  1. Prove that dictation is faster than writing. Engage students in
    Intelligent Audio File (IAF) is an advanced digital dictation file format, specifically designed by Quikscribe, to provide advanced RICH audio dictation and transcription capabilities.
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