What is legal transcription?

Legal transcription can be said to refer to the act of writing or typing a legal document from video and/or audio recordings. It involves the transformation of documents from audio or video files into written format where the information within can be easily found. 

What is legal transcription?

Whether they are working with the government or running their own chambers, lawyers are very busy people. It takes a lot of time to go over documents even if they're just skimming through, and it takes even more time if the document was in recorded format. 

To improve their workload, make their jobs easier, and give them time to take on more clients, legal transcription became a thing. 

Transcription services enable you to turn in audio clips, court recordings and video files in exchange for written documents. Transcriptionists are divided into several categories and there are those who specialize in law. Think of legal transcriptionists as the latest addition to paralegals. They are that good with what they do!

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Differences — Legal transcription — Dictation — Court reporting

The legal transcription industry is rapidly growing because of how useful it is to the legal profession. Anything from depositions, to affidavits and legal briefs can be quickly transformed to a written document in the accepted legal format. 

Legal transcriptionists are total game changers since they can help lawyers draft all the documents they need to with the help of a video recording. 

What is legal transcription?

As we have mentioned earlier, legal transcription refers to the conversion of recorded video or audio files into written form. It's different from dictation which involves the process of speaking into a device that can record the sound or to someone who can write down what you're saying. This means you dictate to voice recognition softwares on your phone and when what you've dictated is written down, it becomes a transcription.

Differences between transcription and dictation

Legal transcription and dictation can be differentiated by the following features:

  1. Legal transcription involves actually typing the information from a recorded file into a legal document. Dictation involves typing what you've spoken or dictated into a recording software. You will need to record your dictation separately and later on, type it in the legal document. After doing this, it becomes transcribed.
  2. Dictation is usually faster than legal transcription. Since dictation doesn't involve typing, you can save a lot of time. However, transcribed documents are usually more complete than the original recording since there could be noises in said recording that could make it hard to understand.
  3. Legal transcription has a higher quality than dictation since the information is already written so everything's been considered.
  4. It's easier for people to dictate than it is to transcribe due to the amount of typing required.
  5. Transcriptions are easier to use than dictations. Since dictations are usually recordings, it's difficult to skip some parts and get to the part of the dictation that you need. On the other hand, transcription involves the use of documents that can be easily scanned, highlighted, copied and pasted.
  6. The quality of dictations depends on your equipment, but on the other hand, legal transcription is usually done in a professional setting so transcriptions have a higher quality than dictations since they're already typed out.

Court reporting on the other hand is what is done by stenographers. They use a machine which allows them to write in shorthand and convert it into full text later on. 

Differences between transcription and court reporting

  1. Court reporters usually work in the courtroom and what distinguishes them from legal transcriptionists is that they use a stenograph and are usually certified to be court reporters. Legal transcriptionists on the other hand don't need to be certified by an organization or go through a qualifying exam.
  2. Court reporters are usually given the duty of recording everything that's said in the court or other legal setting.
  3. Court reporters have to be accurate since they are expected to take down every detail they hear without making mistakes, so it's important for them to be fast and clear. Legal transcription on the other hand is not time bound and as a result places more emphasis on accuracy.

Legal transcriptionists in essence are doing a similar thing as court reporters but not on an official level because they don't need the qualifications needed by court reporters.

Why should you invest in legal transcription?

Legal transcription is becoming very popular because of the benefits lawyers and law firms derive from it. Not only does it help them save time because they no longer have to go through audio files to find information, they receive documents which make record keeping easy. 

Since your assistants and paralegals are not the ones handling the transcription, they have time to focus on other things. In short, it reduces your workload and enhances your productivity.

You can also save time and money when you invest in legal transcription because the average cost for a legal transcriptionist per hour is lower than the average rate of a paralegal. Of course, paralegals work more than legal transcriptionists and it makes sense that they earn more than legal transcriptionists. But you can make them more productive by having them work on tasks you can't outsource. 

Since law firms are always busy, it shouldn't be too hard for you to find something for them to work on that can further make your workload lighter.

Legal transcription rates

Legal transcription rates can differ depending on the agency you're getting for the service. At Philips SpeechLive, transcription costs £0.99/US$ 1.39 per audio minute of the recording. Rush rates are higher and you can get your transcribed back within 5 working hours. 

Prices may also differ depending on how complicated the audio recording is. For interviews involving two speakers, the rate is £1.75/US$ 2.66 per minute. For three speakers, £2.25/US$3.41 per minute. For four to five speakers, £2.45/US$ 3.71 per minute and for six and above, £2.95/US$4.47 per minute. 

These rates only apply if the audio files are in English. The rates become higher if the files are in other languages such as German and the turnaround rate is 8 hours for fast delivery. For French, the rate is even higher. 

With other agencies, you'll also may have to pay more if you want to provide an audio file in a specific format, such as MP3 or AAC. These rates can be determined by the agency you're working with and the complexity of the transcribed files.

It's important that you know what you're getting in terms of quality before putting down the money to invest in legal transcription. 

Work with a legal transcription agency or with own transcriptionist

There are two options for you if you want to invest in legal transcription for your law firm. You can either go with an agency or get your own transcriptionist at the push of a button. 

With an agency

Whether you're looking for a transcription agency for yourself or for your law firm, what you should pay the most attention to is getting an agency that specializes in legal transcription rather than one that's 'Jack of all trades' (i.e generalizes in all types of transcription). 

Since someone who specializes will know more about your profession or industry, the chances of getting back a transcribed document with errors is greatly minimized. They know about all the jargons pertaining to your profession and the format the documents should be in. They know the right way to cite cases, and they can do it very quickly.

If you're looking for an agency for an agency to transcribe your audio and video files, there are certain things you need to pay attention to and they are;


When it comes to transcription, it's best that the agency you want to work with has been in business for a long time and that they've worked with clients from your profession. If they've been in business for a long time, there's a guarantee that their work is quality committed.

An experienced agency will have all the right transcriptionist to get your document transcribed quickly and correctly.


For you to feel safe about someone with your documents, it's best that they have a security system in place. This is to make sure that no one can access your files without your consent.

You also need an agency that has the correct security protocols in place and procedures for backup in case the computer system does crash or stops working. You can't afford to lose important files because of technical problems.


The quality of the transcription should also be a key factor to consider when picking a company to work with. You want an agency with well educated and well trained transcriptionists so they know how to get the job done right. 

It's best that you ask for samples before deciding on which company to go for.


This goes hand in hand with experience. If a company has been in the business for a long time, it's safe to say they've mastered how to be efficient with their time and resources. They can get your documents transcribed very quickly and that means you'll have access to them in days rather than weeks or months.


This is another thing you need to consider when it comes to efficiency. It's best that you get an agency that charges per hour or per case rather than flat rate. You don't want to spend a massive amount of money on legal transcription and you'd be doing yourself a favour by working with an agency that can offer you lower rates for better quality.


This is really important when you're working with an agency because they can help you with all the other things you need help with. They will be able to answer any questions or concerns that you may have regarding legal transcription and your document after it has been transcribed.

With own transcriptionist

This is the best option if you want to invest in legal transcription for your law firm. It's very cheap compared to using an agency for the same purpose. With a personalised package from your own transcriptionist, there are no hidden charges and no hidden fees.

At Philips SpeechLive, we use a dictation workflow software which connects you with a transcriptionist at the click of a button. All you need to do is to start dictating and your assigned transcriptionist will ensure that you get the result in a couple of hours or days depending on the difficulty of the audio file. 

The best part about having a personalized transcription package from Philips SpeechLive is that you get access to your files at absolutely no extra charges. Investing in legal transcription will be a much better investment for your law firm than ever before.

Legal transcription process

At Philips SpeechLive, the legal transcription process happens in three stages. The first is the recording stage where you use the web recorder or app to record or upload an existing recording. The second stage is the transcribing stage.

The transcribing stage is where your document goes through our highly trained staff of transcriptionists. Your transcriptionist will make sure that all mistakes, all grammatical errors and all potential mistranslations have been removed.

The third stage is where you receive your transcribed documents. The documents are archived on Speech Live and you can access them via website or app.

How long does legal transcription take?

There are two factors that will affect the time it takes to transcribe a document. It's either due to the complexity of the audio file or because of the amount you have chosen to pay for. At Philips, we offer rush rates and normal rates. In both cases however, you should get your transcribed documents back within 24 hours or 48 hours.

What ensures that the legal transcription service is the right one?

We have already mentioned things to look for when you're looking for a legal transcription agency for your law firm. The same things apply if you're trying to ensure that the legal transcription service you've chosen is the right one. You have to make sure that there's a high guarantee of accuracy and that the turnaround times will be fast and not unnecessarily delayed.

Also, make sure the agency you pick is based in an English-speaking country for USA and European based for German and French. The security standards of the transcription agency should also be satisfactory enough. There has to be insurance for your documents. Even if you lose them, you should be able to access them again through the agency. 

Other legal transcription services existing 

  • Administrative hearings
  • Arbitration proceedings
  • Client letters
  • Client tapes
  • Conference calls
  • Conference proceedings
  • Seminar proceedings
  • Correspondence
  • Court proceedings
  • Court tapes
  • Court transcripts
  • Depositions (taped)
  • Evidence/Legal argument
  • Examinations under oath
  • Federal agency investigations
  • Fire reports
  • General correspondence
  • Government think-tanks
  • Indexing of records
  • Interrogations
  • Interviews, speeches, lectures
  • Judgments
  • Jury instruction
  • Legal examinations
  • Legal pleadings
  • Legal briefs
  • Licensing appeals
  • Mediation briefs
  • Mediation proceedings
  • Memorandums
  • Minutes of meetings
  • Public hearings
  • Teleconferences and calls
  • Telephone conversations
  • Wiretaps

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