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What is Legal Transcription?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Feb 07, 2024
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Legal transcription is the act of transferring spoken dialogue into written documentation. A legal transcriptionist will listen to dictation from an attorney, and write that dictation into the form of detailed, word-for-word accurate legal documents. A courtroom clerk or court reporter is technically a type of legal transcriptionist, as they transcribe spoken word in real time, but they are not typically referred to as such.

Legal transcription can be an excellent career choice for many people. Though there are certification programs offered, formal training beyond a high school diploma is typically not required. Many law offices ask their transcriptionists to have some background in legal terminology, which can make legal transcription more accurate. In addition, it is often possible for legal transcriptionists to set their own hours and work from home, as long as they consistently meet deadlines and deliver high-quality, error free work.

It is necessary for anyone who wants to work in legal transcription to have excellent typing and computer abilities, as well as a firm grasp of the English language and proper grammar. Transcriptionists are often freelance workers, and will need to be able to proofread and edit their own documents for correctness. When a transcriptionist works for a transcription company, the company may have editors who can check the documents for errors; it is still important, however, to be able to deliver work that is reasonably correct and proofread.

When working in legal transcription, a transcriptionist will typically receive a digital dictation recording which may be listened to using a transcription program on the computer. Most transcriptionists invest in items such as a foot pedal to stop, start, or speed up and slow down the recording, as well as a headset to carefully listen to the recording. The transcriptionist will then begin listening to the recording and transcribing; he or she will need to use context clues to decipher unclear words, or may need to eventually contact her employer for clarification if the recording is too jumbled.

After the legal transcription is finished, it will be necessary to format the document into a legal report as desired by the attorney. Most attorneys will generally specify the way the reports should be formatted. Legal transcription is just one type of transcriptionist job; medical transcription is also a very common job, but this usually requires extra training due to the unfamiliar terminology that is consistently used by physicians in medical reports.

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