Is Speech Recognition Software Obsolete?

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I am fortunate enough to have a great job, but I do not have a secretary, meaning I experience the pleasure of typing every single brief with my name on it. I have written fairly positive reviews about iPhone speech-recognition, but computer-based recognition is another story altogether. Until I read this review, I did not even think people still used it. That aside, is it really worth it?

Increased productivity or recipe for disaster?

According to the review, you can draft an email while filing paperwork. That would not work for me, I have consistently failed the “rub your tummy and pat your head test” since I was six years old. In this ADD culture, especially for lawyers, do you really want to draft a client email while doing something else? That sounds dangerous to me. I would probably end up with my email that merely verbalizes what I am physically doing.

For brief writing, it would be nice, at times, to just say what I am thinking, instead of typing it. I tend to move around when I argue, so being able to walk around the room would be nice. But then I would worry about whether the microphone is catching everything I say. Which would anchor me to the computer as the words appear. I am not sure that is more effective, or easier, then just typing it out.

That said, I bet it would be nice for blogging, when I not as nearly concerned about spelling errors and other minor details.

(photo: mag3737)

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  • G. Blair McCune

    I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking (Ver. 10.1 Prof., Win 7 PC) for everything — briefs, motions, letters, and this comment. It took me quite a bit of time to learn how to dictate properly. It is also really (!) important to proofread carefully. But it has been worth it. I am a solo practitioner doing (mostly) criminal appeals, so I spend a great deal of time dictating long documents. Using DNS (eventually) made me much more efficient and has saved a lot of wear and tear on my aging hands and wrists.
    The following public forum is a great resource for learning about DNS: http://knowbrainer.com/PubForum/index.cfm?page=forum

  • Sean Nichols

    I use Dragon as well, though I haven’t switched over entirely. It takes some getting used to, but it helps immensely. I think faster than I type, and sometimes lose arguments by having to split my attention between two tasks – typing and thinking.

  • Dan Sheridan

    I also use Dragon (along with a Philips Digital Pocket Memo dictation device). I am a solo, but have been around long enough to have been trained on dictation. I think that the real trick is getting comfortable dictating. I don’t use it for e-mails or brief correspondence because that is not efficient in my current set up. But for more detailed documentation (memos, briefs, detailed correspondence), it’s a great way to generate an initial draft (and you can get your exercise in while doing it). I also agree with Sean – It is easy for me to dictate thoughts or concepts that may need refining. When typing, I tend to self-censor or edit a bit more.

  • I have worked with a number of lawyers who dictate, which is the reason I don’t. Correspondence and blog posts are one thing, but nobody writes and speaks the same way. Writing and speaking require different language, diction, and that is not a good thing.

    Even though dictators obviously revise their dictated work, I can tell a dictated brief from a written brief any day—and that is not a good thing. It would take a lot of convincing for me to hire someone who wanted to dictate, just as it would take a lot of convincing for me to hire someone who could not touch-type.

  • Randall Ryder

    @ G. Blair – you raise an important consideration – saving wear and tear on your wrists. That is perhaps the best reason I can think of to try out dictation.

    @ Sean & Dan – good to hear it works for some people, which is another reason I would consider it moving forward.

  • Terry Lawson

    @Sam – I am surprised by your comment re: dictating. Do you think that people who dictate use conversational English in their dictation? I dictate and type, and I don’t see big difference in the two, style-wise. Now of course, conversational speech, blog posts, etc. are a different category. But legal writing vs. legal dictation — to me they are pretty darn similar.

    Also, despite numerous attempts to improve, my typing is stuck at about 40-50 wpm. I don’t want to be that limited when whipping out letters and such, so I dictate. Does that mean that you wouldn’t hire someone like me, on the basis of typing speed alone?

  • I know people who dictate do not use conversational English, but it still comes out worse than writing, most of the time.

    I said it would take a lot of convincing for me to hire someone who could not touch-type. If your briefs turned out to be high quality and you were able to use dictation software instead of a transcriptionist, I could get over my bias, but you would definitely be at a disadvantage.

  • Those who are experienced dictate “written” english, rather than spoken english. No one would ever mistake my dictated briefs for conversational english. And I mean that in a positive way. Those of us who came to the profession in the years before PCs had no choice but to learn to dictate.

    I still dictate, but have not jumped to voice rec software, although I’m considering it. Nor does my secretary transcribe my dictation. Rather, I use Speak-Write.com. Its outstanding. I can upload digital dictation at midnight, and be editing the brief in my office the next morning.

  • Michael J. Farley, Esq

    I am also a solo, and I use Dragon Naturally Speaking for just about all my documents, but primarily for day to day dictation to my assistant, using MS Office One note. The digital Notebook that the dictation goes into is shared, so we both can have it open at the same time. Things can be moved around in it to prioritize, and all of the tasks/items are visible at the same time for better time management. It’s also fully searchable so you can double check whether you already dictated something.
    The Dragon software isn’t pertect, but it really cuts down document production time. You simply edit as you go, and your first draft is done right before your eyes, the assistant will review for format etc. then copy and paste it into Word- Done!