The Lost Art of Dictation: Getting Legal Work Done Old School

A few weeks ago, I met with a respected colleague about a case we are doing together. The lawyer is one of the best criminal defense lawyers in Georgia. As I entered his office, I noticed something conspicuously absent from his desktop — computer monitors. Where a monitor might go, there was a dictaphone with, get this, micro-casette tapes. I know from working with the lawyer before that he is a prolific writer. He engages opposing counsel, witnesses, and his client frequently with written correspondence. He files creative motions on his cases, and he is always prepared.

The experience got me thinking about dictation. I’ve never mastered it as many lawyers my age and younger have not. I’ve dabbled in it and always found that I was very productive whenever I have. I pulled out my digital recorder and dictated a few letters. Suddenly, my productivity spiked.

Even if you don’t have the support staff in place to transcribe dictations, it has probably never been easier to dictated documents. I use an Olympus Digital Voice Recorder WS-400S that I bought from an office supply store about a year ago. At under $100, it takes clear recordings, and it has a built in retractible USB connector. From there, I upload files to Speakwrite, where the dictations are outsourced, transcribed, and returned to me as a Word file. The service is fairly inexpensive.

If you don’t want to use a service like Speakwrite, there are other options. I use MacSpeech Dictate for voice recognition on my Mac. For Windows users, there is Dragon Naturally Speaking. There is also a free Dragon app for the iPad.

A few weeks ago, the Mac Power Users Podcast devoted an entire episode to dictation with the Mac.

Right now, I am doing motions and letters via dictation. Eventually, it would be nice to do briefs and trial trasncript summaries that way also.

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