HOMEOUR BLOGFrom the Courtroom to the Page: Guidelines for Legal Transcription

From the Courtroom to the Page: Guidelines for Legal Transcription


Legal transcription is the process of conveying audible legal content into written content. It is used for so many reasons and it has many benefits. Legal transcription can be used for legal research, evidence, documentaries, videos, and many other types of legal content. This task is usually done by professional legal linguists who are familiar with legal terminology. 

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What is transcription?

Transcription refers to the process of creating written content out of spoken content. The spoken content can be audio, a video, a series, a documentary, and all other options related to audible and recorded content. Transcription can be done in all fields such as medicine, media and entertainment, IT, psychology, literature, legal, and more.

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Legal transcription is the process of writing down all audio recordings and videos that are related to the legal field. This means transforming all documents from audio or video into a written and readable format.

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Lawyers and people involved in the law and legal field are usually busy and don’t have much time to listen to audio and videos with no supporting readable content that can help them easily understand the audio or video. The purpose of legal transcription is to make it easier for lawyers and individuals who work in the legal field to understand the content in a faster way.

This also saves them a lot of time and effort. Also, some content might be used as evidence in the courtroom, and having all audio and videos transcribed makes the process easier and ensures a better understanding of the content.

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While legal transcription solely means conveying the audio and videos to written content, it does not mean the same thing as dictation and court reporting.

Dictation is about transforming what you have recorded yourself through recording software and typing it down afterward. After having it typed down, the written content will become transcribed. An example of dictation is order that should be obeyed, you can record what you have to say and have your assistant type it down.

It saves a lot of time. Plus, you can record your voice in separate sections and the person in charge of typing the content will hear them all and type all that was said.

As for court reporting, it’s what stenographers do in courtrooms by using a machine that allows them to write abbreviations and the machine will convert all that they have written into a full text after they have finished. Stenographers should be usually certified to be able to work as court reporters and their functions and purposes differ from the ones of legal transcription.

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There is no major that consists of legal transcription. What you need is a minimum of a high school diploma, and to have some experience related to law and the legal field. It is best if the legal transcriptionist has a degree or a background related to linguistics, translation, or literature which will help with all the grammar, spelling, and punctuation aspects. A higher degree in law is also beneficial. However, it is not mandatory. You can also receive training related to legal transcription that will boost your chance of being hired.

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To be a legal transcriptionist, you must have certain skills and qualifications that help you successfully complete the required tasks. These qualifications are:

  • Great listening skills. If you aren’t able to understand everything you’re listening to, then you might find it hard to be a legal transcriptionist because you will need to listen closely to everything that is being said and pay close attention to details.
  • Ability to understand legal terminologies, legal systems, and judicial procedures very well. If you don’t really understand everything related to this field, you won’t be able to understand what is being said and what terminologies are being used.
  • Fast and accurate typing skills. It takes being both fast and accurate since you will need to write a large number of words and you need to do it fast. Not only that, but you should also be able to write everything correctly and avoid typo mistakes.
  • Having IT knowledge. You should be familiar with transcription software and have basic knowledge of IT to know how to handle any problem that you might face.
  • Deep knowledge of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Not only should you be able to write in a fast and accurate way, but you should also write in a correct way and avoid all mistakes related to grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Editing and proofreading skills. Once you are done, you should have the ability to edit and proofread the transcription to make sure everything is in the right place.
  • Have patience. This kind of work needs patience. You might not always catch what is being said the first time, you might need to repeat it multiple times to get it right. Therefore, you must have patience with transcription.
  • Time management skills. You have to meet deadlines. Therefore, you should be able to manage your time in a way to always meet deadlines and finish on time.

There are basic criteria if you want to become a legal transcriptionist. They are additional skills and qualifications that will make a huge difference, and they will definitely make the transcription of high quality.

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To find a professional legal transcriptionist, you should do thorough research to make sure they are experienced and have the right qualifications that make them competent. You can read the reviews and feedback from previous clients that chose them. You can start by asking about their previous work experience. If they have previously worked on content related to yours, then you can hire them and get to work.

Plus, you might need to check their degree if they have one, and you should make sure they know all about grammar, spelling, and punctuation aspects to ensure that the outcome is good. Having a law degree, a certification, or even if they have received training in legal transcription is a plus.

There are freelancers who work as legal transcriptionists, and there are translation companies who usually provide you with such services. You can as well find a specialized company or agency that has experts and professionals in legal transcription.

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There are so many benefits to legal transcription services. They are very useful and lawyers usually prefer to use them all the time to make it easier for them to proceed.

These benefits include:

  • A preferred format for attorneys. If done professionally, the format of legal transcription is considered to be the attorneys’ favorite. The formats can help attorneys when presenting audio and videos as a source of evidence to the court since this is the only way to guarantee a good and correct understanding of everything that is being said.
  • Ability to highlight important parts and sections. Once the legal transcription process is done, one can highlight all important parts of the audio and video files. This makes it easier for them to return to the specific ideas they wish to read about. Therefore, this spares them time and makes them avoid listening to the audio or video files all over again.
  • Easy access. You can store the transcribed content across numerous file formats and devices, which gives easy access. Also, by having everything written down, the concerned individuals are not obliged to keep listening to the audio or the video to get what they want. All it takes is to read them and get all the information they are looking for.
  • Clarity and precision. Legal transcription helps attorneys when they have complicated and complex cases with many speakers. When the content is actually written, it gives more clarity and precision and makes everything easier to understand.
  • Beneficial for law students: Legal transcription can also be used in college to help students catch up on what they have missed during real-time courses. By listening and reading at the same time, they will be more involved in the material and they will understand everything better.
  • Easier appeals. For an appeal to happen, it is often required that the audio and videos are transcribed. So this ensures the process goes smoothly and easily.

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The steps for becoming a professional legal transcriptionist are as follows:

  • Earn at least a high school degree.
  • Have experience in the legal field.
  • Get a certificate or receive training if need be.
  • Develop your skills such as listening, fast and accurate typing, and grammar and spelling skills as well.
  • Get a higher education related to law. This is a plus that enhances your chances of getting hired.

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It all depends on the qualifications of the transcriber, the length of the audio or video file, and the deadline. Some legal transcriptionists charge per audio minute, while others charge per working hour. On average, an audio minute can cost anywhere between $1.75 and $5.00 based on the deadline.

However, if they were to charge per working hour, the average is around $17 per hour. The deadline also plays a major part in setting the price, the sooner you want the transcription process to be done, the more it will cost you.

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Many documents require legal transcriptions for different purposes and causes. These documents include:

  • Minutes
  • Tribunals
  • Reports
  • Letters
  • Property documentation
  • Leases
  • Inventories
  • Witness statements
  • Contracts
  • Disciplinary hearings
  • Instructions to counsel
  • Court documentation
  • Affidavits
  • Wills documentation

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To have a good outcome, hereafter are the tips and some advice to help legal transcriptionists deliver high-quality work:

  • Choose a quiet place to work in.
  • Use a soundproof headset or earphones
  • Transcription software
  • Foot pedal
  • Grammar dictionary to make sure that everything you are writing is correct.
  • Legal dictionary to ensure the right spelling and terminologies.

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The demand for legal transcription is increasing as time passes. This is because of the quality delivered if humans took care of this task. Machines can help with this task, but when it comes to the legal field, everyone prefers humans over machines because they are more accurate.

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Legal transcriptionists aren’t supposed to be certified by the law. All they need is a minimum of a high school degree, and an experience in the field of law and everything related to it. Everything else is an added value, and can definitely boost the chances of being hired and employed.

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Legal transcriptionists don’t have to work in companies and offices; they can simply work from home if they have the right setting and the required gear. Most freelancers and even employees prefer to work from home. They report feeling more comfortable and being more able to focus and produce better quality.

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Increasing one’s knowledge of anything, especially legal terminology, requires some effort. First, you can start by reading legal books, watching movies and series related to the legal field, listening to podcasts, and getting legal dictionaries, or you can always ask people who are involved in the legal field to help you.

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For some, it’s a piece of cake. While for others, consider it a hard job since you are responsible for everything, from spelling terminologies to grammar, covering all information, and typing it in the right way. Plus, if you are not a fast typist, you might find it challenging.

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There is no legal age for a person to become a legal transcriptionist. However, you should at least have a high school diploma. And to increase your chances of being noticed and hired, you might as well consider additional degrees such as literature, linguistics, translation, law, or anything else related to this field. It is as well advised to receive training and have some experience. 

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