LEGAL DICTATION: Making the Case for Legal Speech Recognition

Attorneys will have to start using their computers. Let’s face it, lawyers are struggling to stay on the cutting edge of technology today, and it is not cheap. Lawyers, usually not technical people to begin with, are finding they need to cope with time and billing systems and calendar software. They are trying to use records and case and document management software along with internal and external email. Now speech recognition is added to this list of software on which we integrate, train, and consult in the legal technology field. There are a few wrenches being thrown in the gears with voice recognition and law firms. Around the globe, the legal community will have to pay huge amounts of money to upgrade desktops just so producing attorneys and word processors don’t have to type anymore. It actually makes sense for them to do so. They will have to make massive upgrades sooner or later (we recommend now) so that the newer Y2K software applications will work and remote users can get on the network. Someone has to light a fire under tech committees to get things moving. No doubt hardware upgrades help productivity and give peace of mind, but will voice recognition software light that fire? Legal professionals are going to have to take the time to learn a tidal wave of everyday applications and legal-specific software tailored for their firm. So what will the voice recognition software training add? Some packages are easier to train from the start, but all systems require this so accuracy rates will be high and kept up in the 95% range. Packages that will let the attorney train on the fly will be definitely favored due to ease of use. Not having to go back and start the training from scratch will be the biggest benefit for the "time is money" professionals. Attorneys may balk at wearing high tech head sets with microphone in front of their mouths like NASA technicians or the people in the fast food drive- through. But they can also choose hand-held devices so they can be more mobile, all the while dictating right to their computer. Certain voice recognition software can even read previous work an attorney has done by feeding in documents so the personal profiles will grow and mature with words and writing styles. Packages like that make the voice recognition training a piece of cake. Creating pleadings, legal documents, internal memos, and briefs are now easier to do, and since the software recognizes legal vocabulary, it really saves time. Speech recognition is definitely something attorneys involved in high technology fields have been anticipating. Getting together a pilot group for this technology has been pretty easy. Eager, technologically-savvy attorneys have been looking for a solution like this. Some even go buy software on their own while fantasizing of a hands-free environment, and they love it. Since most of the dictation software packages reside locally, the IS department does not have to get heavily involved, and attorneys train themselves on it thoroughly. But is it beneficial to have software with data locally and not on the network? It may be too early to say because speech recognition is relatively new and is still considered a luxury, not a necessity. It is a question any law firm considering speech recognition will have to assess. Some companies involved with voice recognition are scrambling to come out with "thin" client software so law firms would only have to beef up their server and not the desktops, saving money and a lot of engineering work. A thin client voice recognition package would really turn on the law firms as long as it stays as accurate. Success in Medicine
Speech recognition has been incredibly successful in the medical industry and it was welcomed there with open arms. Dentists and doctors were anxious to do beta work and get a product that makes their life easier. They did it! Law firms are getting a late start (as we do with anything high-tech), but this is something they are all going to have to face. I have, and it felt great to put down my mouse and navigate around Windows hands-free, opening applications, creating new documents or inputting my time or notes into any of my Windows based applications. Now that expedited things! I have to go back and correct some things, but it was still faster then if had I typed it – and I type quite fast. It now takes half the time to create long letters or notes. I like to be on the phone with a client and repeat things right into my microphone as I go. The client on the phone simply hears me repeating things like I normally would for confirmation and I can also talk freely by toggling the microphone on and off with the keyboard. Clever! A few words I don’t worry about anymore, carpal tunnel syndrome. At times, it was difficult to get the words to flow freely from my head to my fingers, but my drafts are more conversational and not so stiff. I think today’s speech recognition companies have released a mature product and once law firms find out how well the software works, they will find it is a valuable tool. Craig Reinhardt, a senior associate with Computer Consulting Group, a national legal technology consulting firm, works in Orange County California and can be reached at 714-777-2686 or 888 938 2646.
Dictation for Lawyers from L&H
Lernout & Hauspie recently shipped L&H Voice Xpress for Legal-Litigation Edition, which combines continuous speech recognition and L&H’s Natural Language Technology. The product includes a specialized vocabulary of legal terms, phrases and acronyms, and a language model designed to enhance accuracy for litigation-related dictation. Used effectively, L&H Voice Xpress for Legal can reduce costly transcription expenses and improve office productivity. L&H Voice Xpress for Legal allows users to access much of the functionality in Microsoft Office applications. The product also enables legal professionals to dictate into and control virtually any Windows-based application, including Corel WordPerfect. "With more than 900,000 attorneys in the United States alone, the legal market represents an excellent opportunity for L&H to offer speech solutions that positively impact the bottom line," said Paula Wheeldon, product manager of L&H’s legal dictation products. Key features of the L&H Voice Xpress for Legal product line include:
  • Continuous speech recognition at a rate of up to140 words per minute.
  • The comprehensive, customizable vocabulary L&H Voice Xpress for Legal is equipped with a specialized active legal vocabulary that can be expanded to 64,000 words (220,000-word backup vocabulary).
  • Text-to-speech capability.
L&H Voice Xpress for Legal Litigation Edition has an estimated street price of $1,499, which includes software on a CD-ROM, documentation, and a deluxe quality noise-canceling microphone. Designed for Microsoft Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows NT 4.0, minimum system requirements include: Pentium 166 MHz processor with MMX (Pentium II recommended); Windows 98/95 or Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3 or later installed; 64 MB RAM Windows 98/95 or Windows NT; 190 MB hard disk space. For more information, call 1-800-634-8723, #5100, or visit L&H’s Web site at http://www.lhs.com. Mobile Office for Attorneys
Speech Machines recently announced its partnership with Psion Incorporated, the developer of the award-winning Series 5 hand held computer. Under the terms of the agreement, CyberTranscriber, the Internet-based verbatim transcription service will be available with Psion’s Series 5 pocket-sized computer to allow mobile attorneys the opportunity to dictate into the hand-held computer’s built-in recorder and send the dictations via e-mail attachments to the CyberTranscriber service. Verbatim transcriptions arrive in the attorney’s e-mail in-box within approximately three hours. SpeechMachines’ CyberTranscriber is the world’s first and only general purpose Internet-based automatic speech recognition service. The CyberTranscriber uses computer speech recognition developed in exclusive collaboration with the British military. Psion bundles range from $549 to $749 and CyberTranscriber costs $29.95 to register, $9.95 for each following month, and $3.50 for each page, with each user receiving four free pages each month. For more information about Psion, call 800 99PSION or access their web site at http://www.psioninc.com. For more information about the CyberTranscriber or Speech Machines, call 888 267 9891 or access their web site at http://www.speechmachines.com. Speech for Lawyers
SpeechLaw, Inc. was founded in 1995 to create and market law office systems using advanced continuous speech recognition technology, and sells speech products to both VARs and end users. The company also has developed 20 software modules, or "Con Texts" for different areas of law and law enforcement. Speech Law’s recognition products come in network and single user versions and consist of three modules:
  • Dictation: in which the authors create dictations.
  • Recognition: which actually recognizes the spoken words and converts them to text.
  • Correction: which presents the recognized text and sound file the author created for correction and formatting.
SpeechLaw uses software from Philips and IBM and adds a legal-specific vocabulary and language model and a user interface to make SpeechLaw a software tool that integrates with most legal applications. For more information, access the company web site at http://www.speechlaw.com.
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