The Case for Dictation

When you think of the word “dictation,” what comes to mind? For many people, the word “dictation” conjures up nostalgic imagery that could be the subject of a Norman Rockwell painting. People tend to think back to a time when businesses were run by men with dedicated secretaries who prepared documents for them, usually by taking shorthand and recreating text on a typewriter. The world has changed tremendously since those days. Today, men and women tend to support themselves and often do not have a personal assistant at arm’s reach. There has been a shift among new generations to cease dictation in lieu of preparing one’s own documentation. Most colleges today do not teach dictation as part of their curriculum. The result is a lack of emphasis on one of the most effective ways to improve productivity— via dictation.

Tremendous efficiency gains can be made by utilizing dictation over self-composition. The average computer user types at 33 words per minute, 19 words per minute for composition tasks. The average person speaks at a rate of 200 words per minute for standard conversation, although trained dictators can speak significantly faster. If the average person dictates information instead of compositing it themselves, production is nearly 10 times faster than preparing the documentation oneself. Think about the impact this could have on a firm’s bottom line. It is simply inefficient for attorneys to be so heavily involved in administrative tasks. You have billable hours to think about. Those hours pay you to think, apply law and work directly with your clients. Those hours do not pay you to shuffle paperwork and be immersed in backend documentation. When attorneys are alleviated from the hassle of completing this documentation, they have more time—time for themselves or time that can be used to acquire new work, increase their billable time, and serve their clients better.

The technology behind dictation has come a long way. Historically, attorneys used analog tapes to capture their dictations. This method has worked for decades, but using analog tapes does have its limits. Tapes get lost and break—resulting not only in re-work, but also loss of secure, client information. Tapes also hold up the document turnaround process, as often a single tape contains multiple client matters, none of which can be transcribed until the tape is full and given to the transcriptionist, who then has the challenge of trying to identify how much work is on that tape, what jobs are there, and which ones need priority attention. Fortunately, technology has evolved, and we now have a solution to the challenges posed by analog tapes. That solution is digital dictation.

Going digital frees you to dictate from a wide array of devices including digital handheld devices that are very similar to microcassette recorders, speech microphones that plug in to your PC, and mobile devices such as Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Nokia smartphones. You may be using a basic form of digital dictation today leveraging, perhaps, a digital handheld recorder to capture dictation and email to transmit it directly to your support staff. Although a step forward from analog capture, today’s digital dictation platforms offer much more than what a basic digital dictation system can provide. Advanced digital dictation systems of today have automatic routing capabilities. Regardless of the manner you choose to capture your work, that work can be automatically routed to your transcriptionists or transcription pool based on criteria that you define (such as job type, due date, client matter number, etc.).

These systems help you overcome issues associated with:
• The inability to monitor productivity, track down job status and reallocate to available resource
• The inconvenience of manual allocation of tapes and files throughout the organization
• The high costs for tape and unit replacement
• The need for remote dictation and transcription and improved document turnaround time

Imagine having the ability to instantly know how many dictations are pending for completion. Imagine having the ability to know who is working on what. Imagine having the ability to configure a system that can identify and remedy bottlenecks in the production process. With an advanced digital dictation workflow management system it is all possible.

If you are a member of a small firm, you may be wondering, “Is this attainable for a firm like mine?” It is true that in not too distant times past, the more sophisticated digital dictations workflow management systems required investments beyond what a small or mid-size firm could handle. Fortunately, today, the cost of these systems is much more affordable and accessible by firms of all sizes.

There are many providers of DDS solutions and many consultants who can help you review your unique situation and select the platform that is right for you. When working for a vendor, ask questions. Discuss your needs and challenges. Evaluate their offerings. Be mindful of not only the financial ROI (which is tough to measure with these sorts of technologies) but the soft return such as improved security, better service delivery to your clients, improved visibility of documents in production, and overall improved staff efficiency.

Amy Clevidence of WinScribe, Inc.

Amy Clevidence of WinScribe, Inc.

About the author: Amy Clevidence is the global marketing operations manager for WinScribe, Inc., an award-winning provider of digital dictation workflow management solutions for a variety of vertical markets including the legal industry. In her role at WinScribe, Ms. Clevidence manages marketing initiatives for the firm’s US, Canadian, New Zealand, Australian, UK and European markets. Ms. Clevidence is dedicated to educating professionals on the benefits of digital dictation and workflow technologies. She is a published author whose articles and contributions have been published by the American Bar Association’s Law Technology Today, Practice Manager Magazine and Executive Healthcare Magazine.

This article originally appeared in the Legal Technology Update.

~ by CDLB on May 19, 2009.

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