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Easy Dictation for Attorneys: a Demo of Dragon NaturallySpeaking Voice Recognition

Dragon boxBottom line: I heartily recommend voice recognition software to busy attorneys who have fairly new computers (e.g. no more than 3 years old). Ernie Svenson of Paperless Chase in his blog post reviewing Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

I second the recommendation—attorneys should try Dragon voice recognition software because it is so useful and so inexpensive ($101.03 today on Amazon for Premium version 12 for Windows). In today’s blog post, I’ll share how I use dictation software for litigation, and show a video demonstration of how I get good results just using my laptop’s built-in microphone (no headset)!

Dictation Beats Typing (Sometimes)

When I started as a litigator at a San Francisco law firm, I was handed a Dictaphone cassette recorder and encouraged to dictate tapes for my secretary rather than type on a computer. I was told that I could be much more fast and efficient in writing if I spoke into my cassette recorder rather than if I tried to type it myself.

I was dubious because I think and edit as I type. I still do (I’m typing this sentence, although I dictated much of this post). Over the years, I have continued to use a computer keyboard as my main way to get words onto a screen.

However, I also learned to dictate to supplement my typing and give my aching wrists a break. I never learned to write legal briefs with dictation (some of my partners were very good at doing finished legal briefs with the Dictaphone) but I did find that dictation was incredibly useful for capturing thoughts and notes, and for first drafts. For example, when I returned from a witness interview with a legal pad full of scrawled notes, I would then make myself sit down in the next day or two and dictate a memorandum about the meeting. This digital form of the notes was infinitely more useful than my scrawled notes. I could return to this memorandum months later and it would be a clear record of what I had wanted to remember from the meeting. Moreover, this digital form of my notes was much more useful in that I could do things like put chronology entries and to-do items into my CaseMap database of the case using the dictated memo as a source. (See this post about why interview notes in a case management database can be so much more valuable than notes in a word processing memo).

Dragon NaturallySpeaking—Dictation Without Secretarial Support

As a litigation consultant helping attorneys with graphics and technology, I no longer have a secretary, so I now use Dragon NaturallySpeaking for my dictation needs. Of course, even if I had access to a secretarial pool, I would still use Dragon for the following reasons:

  • Instant feedback: With a dictated cassette at my former law firm, I needed to wait until the tape came back from the secretarial pool with the memo, and then edit the memo. Now, I dictate, and see it come up on the screen, and I can make my changes immediately.
  • Integrating dictation and typing on time sensitive projects: As a litigator, I often wrote under very tight deadlines as I tried to get a pleading out of the door. In this circumstance, I found dictation difficult to use because I needed to keep typing and editing and I could not wait for the dictated tape to come back. Now, I can integrate typing and dictation on the same project, even under a time deadline. (For example, I dictated a portion of this paragraph, and I typed and edited on the keyboard for the rest).
  • More efficient and valuable uses for administrative support: Law firms are continually cutting back on administrative support costs, and having secretaries standing by to transcribe dictated memoranda is largely a thing of the past. If you have great assistants to help you on your cases, think about other ways they can help get results for your client.
  • More natural speaking style: I recently used Dragon NaturallySpeaking to prepare an outline for a closing argument. In the outline, I showed demonstratives, exhibits and key testimony from the trial. I then added my suggestions for closing arguments about this evidence. Using dictation software gave me a better closing argument that sounded more like speaking than typing.
  • Document/transcript review: I like to use Dragon when I do a document review or transcript review and I want to make entries into a table or database as I go. On a recent project, I reviewed a document production of several hundred documents and I wanted to create an index of the documents as I went. I had a database that allowed me to pull up images of the documents and review them. I would click into the description field of the database and dictate a description of the documents as I went. This is a project that I could not have done with a Dictaphone, but using digital dictation on my computer allowed me to accomplish it easily.

A Video Demonstration of Digital Dictation

In the video below, I demonstrate my experience using Dragon. As I mentioned above, I use Dragon without a headset, and I find it quite useful with good accuracy in capturing what I speak.

Closing Thoughts: You Need a Capable Computer, and Try it On Your iPhone Too

As mentioned in the recommendation that opened this post, you need a modern computer to run Dragon because it can be a drain on resources. I use a Lenovo X1 Carbon laptop with Windows 8.1, an Intel Core i7 CPU and 8 gigs of RAM. In order to improve the responsiveness of Dragon, I like to restart my computer shortly before starting Dragon. This clears out other competitors for system memory.

One other closing thought on the topic of voice recognition: try it on your phone too. I use the Apple iPhone’s voice recognition daily to dictate emails, texts and Google searches, and I love it.

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  1. It is my understanding that the App on the iPhone relays your dictation to a server where the process is actually done. I stopped using it because I could not ascertain what the policies were regarding what Dragon could do with that information. Can you confirm how the software and App currently work? I’d hate to accidentally disclose sensitive client information.

    • Michael Kelleher says:

      Of course, you need to make the decision as to whether your data is secure enough. Here is what I found about this issue on a Nuance privacy policy at “Nuance Product Usage. Certain Nuance Products require you to enter Speech Data in order to use and derive the benefits of the particular product. These Nuance Products collect and process the Speech Data you input into the Nuance Products. Nuance or third parties acting under the direction of Nuance, pursuant to confidentiality agreements, use the Speech Data to develop, tune, enhance, and improve Nuance services and products. Nuance will not use the contents of any Speech Data provided to us through your use of Nuance Products for any purpose except as set forth above. “Speech Data” means the audio files, associated text and transcriptions and log files provided by you hereunder or generated in connection with Nuance Products. Speech Data may include Personal Information.”

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