I’ll be honest; AAERT certification was not a career move. Part-to full-time medical transcriptionist (MT) work during college breaks led to full-time MT work. That led to legal transcription part time and AAERT. About the same time, a globally sustaining and growing cash cow emerged. That describes the source of income from voice recognition (VR) technology that keeps profit margins meeting or succeeding expectations. In early May, Google Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, announced that VR was the top priority project on their emergent to-do list (Geier, 2015). Kirk Teska, author and law professor, suggested obsolescence for the keyboard. VR is now a standard feature for digital phones, an essential security resource for financial, government, and security industries, and even a United States government certified tool under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some elementary schools use VR for in-class writing assignments. VR is here to stay, grow, and yes, threaten our very livelihoods, recording and transcribing legal proceedings.
Maureen Collins (2014), a law professor at John Marshall and published author, promoted the use of Nuance’s Dragon® VR program as an essential writing tool for law school students. One might wonder if lawyers who used VR for oral compositions could make the lives of the legal paraprofessional (that’s us) either much easier and with improved diction or reduce our workforce. Might Google innovation produce a VR program to eliminate background noise, clean up accents, give meaning to mumbled bench conferences, and accurately transcribe the nuanced regional and global accents and dialect differences in meaning for 100% verbatim and accurate transcripts? Eversheds International, a global legal conglomerate, thinks they can do just that. The company piloted a VR program for lawyers to dictate and edit their notes with great success (Eversheds goes with BigHand for Biggest Ever Legal Sector Speech Recognition Roll-out, 2014).
While true that VR’s burgeoning use represents a major contributor to the continuing series of products replacing the human workforce, the technology is not error free. We can look to the medical profession for a sense of what VR might represent for us. Abd Ghani and Dewi (2012) summed research consensus nicely “data captured through speech recognition once translated to health records is always inaccurate. It was noted that the human factors such as accent and tone in speaking affect the translation of speech recognition into medical records.” The rate of errors researched has shown 21% with VR and 8% without VR. Imagine for a moment how that might play out in legal transcription for local, state, and federal proceedings.
There is another way, however, to use VR to our advantage. It’s known as back end VR and frowned on by the VR industry. I used my inexpensive pre-Nuance Dragon Systems software for several years. I listened to original dictation then voiced that into the documents (MS Word and Corel WordPerfect) using the text expander options from both Word programs with the Dragon. Voila! 250 + words per minute, productivity soared! The Dragon is now Nuance’s Dragon®, improved in understanding voice variations, accuracy, and speed. Dragon® now responds faster than I can speak. The software is worth trying as an alternative to the outsourcing protocol of dictate, edit, send back for errors, re-edit, and produce a final copy. With Dragon®, you listen, dictate, and edit at the same time.
Abd Ghani, M. K., & Dewi, I. N. (2012). Comparing speech recognition and text writing in recording patient health records. In 2012 IEEE-EMBS Conference on Biomedical Engineering and Sciences (pp. 365–370). IEEE. doi:10.1109/IECBES.2012.6498100
Bryan, L. (2015). Error Studies in Speech Recognition. Retrieved from http://www.mededocs.com/displaytopic.aspx?TopID=604
Collins, M. (2014) Training the Dragon®: The use of voice recognition software in the legal writing classroom. The Law Teacher, 48(2), 181-195. doi:10.1080/03069400.2014.914732
Eversheds Goes with BigHand for Biggest Ever Legal Sector Speech Recognition Roll-Out. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.legaltechnology.com/latest-news/eversheds-goes-with-bighand-for-biggest-ever-legal-sector-speech-recognition-roll-out/
Geier, B. (2015, April 23). Google’s 3 most important projects, according to Eric Schmidt. Fortune. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2015/04/23/google-3-important-projects/
Teska, Kirk. (2015, March). Bypassing the keyboard. Retrieved from https://www.asme.org/engineering-topics/articles/technology-and-society/bypassing-the-keyboard
Cherri Brown obtained her BA from Mount Holyoke College ’01, MBA NYIT ’08, PhD-12/2015. She has been a Private Mediator/Life Coach since 2003. She has done extensive research and writing. Cherri has provided transcription services for 15 years.