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Impacts of Speech Recognition Technology on Legal Transcription

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Technology is having huge impacts on every aspect of the legal profession, including legal transcription. More and more companies are researching the advantages of using speech recognition technology instead of using real live humans for their legal transcription needs.

Coupled with the increasing attention on how artificial intelligence is shaping the legal profession, we think it’s a good idea to dig into the how, what, when, where, and why of speech recognition technology.

While there is not a right or wrong answer to the best solution, it is important to understand the ins and outs of speech recognition technology in legal transcription.

How Speech Recognition Is Helping Legal Transcription

As we learn more about speech recognition technology, companies are better able to understand how best to use these software tools. As we see more advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, the underlying technology driving speech recognition technology is getting stronger.

While, technology can never fully replace legal transcription experts, speech recognition technology can improve and help with legal transcription.

  • Faster document creation. Yes, trained legal transcriptionists are very quick, but they can work even more quickly with the aid of speech recognition technology. Whereas humans are limited by typing speed, speech recognition tools do not have the same limiter.
  • Multiple language support. It can be very challenging to hire multilingual legal transcriptionist. With the help of speech recognition technology, legal transcriptionists don’t need to stress or worry about transcribing languages they are not 100% familiar with. While, these people still need a base understanding of the language, the speech recognition software can give the helping hand needed to get the transcript to the next level of completion.
  • A good back-up plan. Let’s face it, people get sick, scheduling conflicts happen, and sometimes you simply can’t find a reliable legal transcription company. In these scenarios, relying on speech recognition software is your next best choice. While you’ll still need someone who attended the trial, deposition, hearing, or meeting to review the transcript – you will save time and money versus trying to do the full transcription yourself.

The Limits of Technology in Legal Transcription

As much as the above benefits of speech recognition technology are helping legal transcription, there are still some key limiters and barriers to wholesale adoption of this technology. In fact, recent research reveals that speech recognition technology cannot be completely relied on to deliver the same quality as human legal transcriptionists.

The key limiters to the efficacy of speech recognition technology in legal transcription include:

  • Challenges of multiple voices. Artificial intelligence-powered technology still struggles with multiple voices. Try this out for yourself – have two people ask Siri or Alexa a question at the same time – you’ll either get a confused answer or no response at all. Legal transcription professionals are trained to differentiate between multiple speakers, staying tuned to the key voice in the conversation.
  • Accents, colloquialisms, and mumbling. Most speech recognition software is trained to understand American English and British English. This means that a very wide range of accents are completely neglected. Coupled with speakers who use colloquialisms or speak quietly or stutter or repeat words or mumble or speak very quickly – the capabilities of speech recognition technology are stretched to the limit. Professional legal transcriptionists are trained to listen very closely and develop techniques to understand different accents and speech irregularities.
  • Noise. Think of how hard it is to have a conversation in a restaurant or in a busy place such as a shopping center. It can be very challenging to hear your friend or colleague speak, let alone understand what this person is saying. Fortunately, the human ear is able to tune out most background noise and focus on the conversation. Speech recognition technology does not have this same focusing ability, making it hard for the software to discern the key conversation from background noise such as music, passing cars, other conversations, etc.

Because speech recognition technology is still relatively new, there are still many gains to be made in how and where this technology can be used. It’s an exciting time to be involved in legal transcription, with so many key technological advances coming to the courtroom and deposition suites.