Maybe you can’t get enough of crime shows and everything about the law captivates you; you dream in legal terms and your celebrity crush is Perry Mason. Perhaps you should consider legal transcription as a career or even a side gig because here you can get your real life legal fix while making a pretty good income.
What is Legal Transcription?
Transcription, simply said, is typing out what is on a recording, in other words, a transcriber listens to recordings and converts them to written documents. Legal transcription is a specific branch of this field. It’s a bit more specific and technical because it entails legal cases and specific verbage and knowledge.
Though many people might picture a court reporter when they think of legal transcription, these are two different professions. A court reporter is the person you see in court proceedings recording real-time, live testimony. A legal transcriptionist works from recordings or other settings rather than in the court itself. They usually don’t do live work.
The Balance Careers tells us that
The types of material a legal transcriptionist might transcribe include recordings of hearings, interviews, and depositions; dictation by legal professionals, and sometimes written documents such as handwritten communications, notes or other legal documents.
You can see there’s a nice variety of work here, and legal transcription pros definitely get their taste of the legal world. Lawyers need written documentation of everything to make their work easier, and the accuracy of transcribing any document is crucial to each case. Think how much easier it is to sift through written documents than try to play recordings over and over when focusing on a certain part.
How is legal transcription different than general transcription
Though we touched on this briefly, let’s revisit why legal transcription is in its own category of transcription. The only other specific category of transcription is medical. Both of these categories require extensive knowledge of professional terms. For legal transcription, professionals often have a background in law or at least a strong interest. Many law students help fund their education through legal transcription work.
Legal transcriptionists understand specific formatting for legal work as well as the need for discretion in this field. Because they usually work solely in this field, they develop the nuanced skills that legal transcription needs. General transcription pros may work on different projects in different fields (which is a skill in and of itself), but often don’t have the in-depth knowledge that legal transcriptionists have.
Do’s and Don’ts of Legal Transcription
A successful transcription pro knows the necessity of accurate work. One mistake can change the overall meaning of a document. When it comes to legal work, this cannot be overlooked. Many of these do’s and don’t’s cover all forms of transcription, and some are specific to the legal world. If you are thinking about getting into this type of work, it’s a good idea to look over this list and see what kind of fit you’d be.
If you need a reminder about the importance of accuracy here, look at what EQ Transcription Services tells us about accuracy. Lawyers are going to refer to your transcriptions rather than recordings. That is the reason you must be 100% accurate – and 100% means just that, not 99.9%. Any small mistake on your part could make the difference between a guilty man going free, or an innocent one being condemned.
We know that’s a lot of pressure, but that’s why not everyone is cut off for legal work. If we haven’t scared you off, read on.
- Do include every single thing said in a recording, even long pauses, false starts, and language fillers. These can be crucial clues in a conversation.
- Do note nonverbal communication and background noise. This includes things like laughter or crying. Crowd and environmental noises can be important, too, so this all should be noted in any transcription document.
- Do understand legal jargon, terms, and acronyms. You may hear these in recordings and conversations, and the better you understand it, the better your transcription will be.
- Do be aware of spelling. When it comes to specific words and proper nouns, like names and places, get the spelling right.
- Do maintain proper format. Your job is to make the job easier for someone else. If your documents are well organized and formatted correctly, the lawyers and paralegals will have an easier time searching them.
- Do ask questions. If you aren’t sure of something, ask. It’s better to clarify things upfront rather than risk a mistake in the transcription.
- Do have an excellent grasp of grammatical rules and usage. When it comes to transcription in this field, sentences are often long and complex. Having three or four sentences combined into one seems to be a standard. That means a lot of commas, apostrophes, semicolons. It’s crucial not only for understanding the material, but also to keep the meaning intact to have a strong knowledge of grammar.
- Do be comfortable working remotely. A lot of this work is done in-home, and those who have a great work ethic and motivation are well suited for at home legal transcription.
- Don’t jump into this field with no understanding of legal terminology or without strong attention to detail.
- Don’t make assumptions. If you think that’s what someone said, don’t just use that. Be sure about everything and if you really can’t understand some speech, write “unintelligible” or “inaudible.” Someone who was present may remember what was said, as long as you point out the problem, this article reminds us.
- Don’t correct any grammatical mistakes in speech or slang. Everything must be verbatim to get a clear depiction of the conversation. Subtle nuances can give strong clues and speech and grammar can speak to a client’s background.
- Don’t make a judgment on what to include or leave out. This is not up to you. Include everything said. Everything.
- Don’t leave out false starts and stutters. While often this is just a show of nerves, it can be telling to the lawyers. Let them decide, not you. This can be an indication of lying or trying to get a story straight.
How to Find Work
We are happy you’re still reading and maybe you’ve found a great niche to work in. Now the question is where do you get a job in legal transcription work? The good news is that this is a great field to be in. We all know the world is full of lawyers and most of them are overwhelmed with work and need the help of legal transcriptionists. The good thing about legal transcription as compared to medical is that no real certification is necessary, but it can help. There are a few different ways to find work, let’s take a look:
You could work completely independently taking care of your marketing, negotiations, and other details. Some people love this as they have complete control and set their own prices and workload. Others don’t like the fact of having to market themselves and negotiate each job.
Work with a law firm
Sometimes law firms will hire legal transcriptionists for full or part-time work. This keeps the work and hours consistent and is great for those looking for full-time work rather than a supplemental income. This can take away some flexibility but it provides more stability.
This is a great option for those wanting to freelance but not wanting to seek out the work and market themselves. Working for a service like our own Bunny Studio provides consistent opportunities and varying work. You may do work for the same client every so often, but you also have the opportunity to work with a variety of legal documents.
When it comes to working with freelance services, check out their requirements for legal transcription pros. Some may want some sort of certification or specific background or education. Remember, this is a specific field and not one to be taken lightly. It’s true, the work you’ll be doing can affect someone’s life in a real way.
Hiring a Legal Transcription Pro
To look at the other side of the coin, let’s take a moment and speak to those of you looking to hire a pro in this field. We understand what you’re looking for and the critical component of precise work and accurate transcription. So we want to share a few tips on finding the best pro to use.
Check out some services. You can probably find some local to you or remote, like Bunny Studio. Since most of the work is done remotely, many law professionals are fine with remote transcription.
Make sure the background and experience are what you want. Sure, it’s easy just to hire any transcription pro, but you want someone that will do accurate and accountable work. Remember, legal transcriptionists are trained specifically in this field. They understand the role they are playing and the crucial component of 100% accuracy. So hire a transcriptionist in the legal field, not just a general one.
Summing Up Legal Transcription
So you can see, legal transcription can be a pretty intense, detail-oriented field. Because of the detail and intricacies, including terminology and formatting, it’s in a transcription category of its own. There are also high stakes with the documents. Those that are skilled in this field can do well. They’ll have consistent work, make good money, and can make a difference in the world. If you have experience with transcription and a legal background and you’re looking for a transcription home, we are always looking for strong pros to work with us.
If you are a law professional looking for reputable, accurate, and experienced transcription professionals, you’re at the right place. Talk with our team at Bunny Studio and let us find just the right pro for you. It’s our pride and joy to fit our professionals with our clients. We’d love to do this with you.