By Maxine Park, Solicitor and Co-Founder of transcription and office support services provider, DictateNow
It would be fair to say that there is a generalisation that barristers are resistant to change.
However, generalisations can be sweeping, and can fail to address the bigger picture of change when it comes to barristers and with outsourcing that is certainly the case.
Indeed, the whole legal profession is rooted in tradition, however in our modern, 24-7 fast-paced world, technology has impacted on a much more fluid world of work, and there are many barristers who are increasingly looking at more efficient ways of collaborating with others to lessen their workload.
For that reason, outsourcing their transcription work is becoming something many barristers are investigating.
Despite this though, the first tentative steps into delegating others to take this on can seem fraught with uncertainty.
Hiring the wrong person or company may seem too big a risk when facing a formidable judge ready to explode at poorly put together legal documents allowing the incredibly precious commodity of court time to be wasted.
This factor is probably the strongest reason why overworked barristers toil long into the night, often tapping away on two fingers to ensure they can escape the humiliation of being given a dressing down in a courtroom.
Sadly though, it’s this not letting go, which is the reason why barristers are now experiencing levels of stress never seen before.
Indeed, this very magazine presented an in-depth and worrying picture of how the stressful life of the modern barrister is placing health at risk in an article in 2017 following the Bar’s 2015 health survey.
Of course, stress can be counteracted in many ways, but without going off message, it surely seems obvious that lessening workloads can only improve mental well-being.
So, outsourcing one of the most time consuming tasks in a barrister’s work is a very sensible place to start.
The little time taken to initially do your homework in outsourcing transcription, is something which many with sufficiently large workloads will feel is well worth the time. It is, one of those simple to do things, which are vitally important, but seldom urgent.
It is also more cost-effective utilising experienced legal secretaries whose hourly costs, needless to say, are a small fraction of a highly trained barrister’s rate.
It needn’t be littered with danger either.
After all, barristers need assurances and good businesses will give them this. After all, the legal world is particularly sensitive and dictation specialists, such as us have worked hard to attain ISO standards in confidentiality, security, quality and business continuity. We believe this is vital as there can be no room for error in such areas.
Established dictation specialists, like ourselves at DictateNow should be able to present a compelling case - after all, it is these outsourced firms who have taken on the learning curve, as we did when we started in the early part of the 2000s.
For instance, employing qualified legal secretaries who have specific areas of expertise in niche legal specialisms meaning they have extremely high levels of efficiency. Formatting, presentation, the correct layout for the right document, is something that should be expected. If a dictation outsourcer can’t give you these kind of assurances, then it’s time to move on.
Of course, it is worth pointing out that legal secretaries are human and, of course, errors are made. Misinterpretation of words for instance happens, and examples are Walsall in the West Midlands being mistaken for Warsaw. However, these problems can be intercepted as good dictation specialists should have a quality assurance team who painstakingly pore over every document as soon as it is written.
It is a part of a process that irons out almost all errors.
Also, despite our country being a very cosmopolitan place, regional accents can still present difficulties.
That is why we decided that it made sense to have people who understand accents. As much as possible we match dictation requirements with people who are familiar with that accent. For instance, a dictation from someone with a Scottish accent would be done by someone in our Glasgow team.
Little things like this can make a difference.
Barristers also need to be aware that turnaround from dictation specialists is quick. Once a standard document is transcribed it is checked and then can be back within an hour. Of course, it tends to take even the best legal secretary roughly three times the length of time it takes to dictate to type, so it means it would take an hour long interview three hours to type up. However, for a barrister who has had a gruelling day of interviewing is that three hours spent better elsewhere than in front of a laptop?
Good legal secretaries are also adept at handling multi voice conferences too. So long as it is made clear by the barrister who the various parties are, at the start of the interview, this is very straightforward.
A vital point, which hasn’t been covered, is, of course, the very fact that dictation machines are not even needed today when conducting interviews.
It can be done on a quality mobile phone, and, for instance, there are apps, which can be installed on mobiles, which makes the experience so much easier.
This is especially worthy of comment as there are some barristers who still use analogue dictation machines. Whilst some barristers will be unwilling to change, there are some sufficiently fed up with the old way of doing things to explore a change. Maybe they need a little more convincing, or a demonstration, but once they see the benefits, we’re sure they will rue the wasted time of the old school ways.
There are so many reasons why it makes sense to look at outsourcing for this particular component of a barrister’s life. It is one of those tasks that once you’ve done it, you will wish you had many moons ago.
Maxine Park, Solicitor and Co-Founder of transcription and office support services provider, DictateNow
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