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Speech Recognition Makes a Comeback into Law with the Power of AI

By Ed McGuiggan for

Law firms depend on documentation to serve their clients, prepare for cases, and ensure they have the most updated information. Traditionally, inputting this information into the requisite legal systems has been subject to human error and is time-consuming, requiring hours of typing or writing. Meanwhile, firms are also under pressure to keep costs low in an effort to maintain efficiency for their clients and retain their business. These challenges have only grown as a result of the pandemic, which has forced more lawyers to work remotely, requiring them to keep careful, accurate documentation without their usual tools and workspace.

Ironically, the answer to solving these new problems may be in a “new/old” skill: dictation coupled with speech recognition technology, which is making a comeback in the legal space. Vastly improved from the days of tape recorders and Dictaphones, speech recognition today is automated and incorporates the power of AI to provide better, faster, and more accurate record-keeping. When weaved into speech recognition tools, conversational AI helps with productivity and collaboration, while also reducing costs and making lawyers’ lives easier. Perhaps this trend is best summarized by the American Bar Association, which has stated, “The advent of voice-recognition dictation has ushered in an entirely new and streamlined way to dictate documents.”

The idea of using recordings and subsequent transcription is not new, especially in the legal space. Originally built off Thomas Edison’s phonograph—the first recording device invented—dictation machines have been used across industries for years to make it easier for professionals to record meetings, classes, or other important events so that they did not have to take arduous notes. The discs and tapes could then be played back so that someone could transcribe them.

This was an extremely popular practice in the legal industry, as it would save lawyers from having to transcribe every meeting or court appearance they attended. However, speech recognition was not without challenges in the modern workplace, as shared workspaces became the norm, making it harder for workers to leverage speech recognition devices without disturbing their colleagues. In fact, a 2015 study conducted by Avanta Serviced Office Group found that 42% of respondents list conversations and people talking as the most annoying office noise. This sentiment only started to change as voice-powered personal assistants rose to popularity—particularly in office settings. mean

By combining the power of speech recognition with new technology like AI, law firms can increase productivity while also decreasing costs. First and foremost, adding AI into speech recognition enables advanced accuracy and thoroughness capabilities, which eliminate the need for anyone to transcribe notes. Instead, when users dictate, the speech recognition software uses algorithms to transcribe the spoken word, rather than simply recording it. Not only does this save valuable time—it’s up to three times faster than typing—but it also eliminates the potential for human error that often occurs during a manual transcription.

With lawyers spending less time documenting everything needed for a case, costs for clients are significantly decreased, and risk is mitigated—leading to improved experiences and an increased likelihood for them to be repeat customers. Meanwhile, lawyers are freed of the burden of time-intensive paperwork, enabling them to quickly switch to higher value, client-facing, and strategic tasks. Not only will this improve the law firm’s output, but job satisfaction is also likely to increase with attorneys and other legal professionals able to focus on their “real job” of serving clients.

While security may arise as a concern with AI technology, many solutions allow for encryption options and server protection to ensure all sensitive data is secure and only accessible by those in the firm using the technology. However, law firms should address their concerns with technology partners upfront to guarantee their needs are met, and privacy is upheld.

Keeping costs low while also keeping morale and productivity high is no small feat—particularly during a pandemic, as individuals adjust to the predominantly remote world. While speech recognition may not be the first solution that comes to mind, the new, AI-enabled platforms available to law firms today have completely revolutionized what was once a tool of the past. By turning to AI-enabled solutions, law firms can confidently navigate difficult times with grace and agility, secure client retention, and give their employees the tools needed to succeed.