Speech recognition software designed for lawyers

By Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.

In February we highlighted Dragon Naturally Speaking’s speech recognition software, Premium Version 11. That version, aimed at lawyers and nonlawyers alike, received rave reviews from St. Louis personal injury lawyer Erich Vieth, who said that the software “worked like magic.”

Dragon Naturally Speaking Legal 11 Cover

Of course, Dragon also offers speech recognition software designed especially for lawyers. The price spread between the two versions is substantial, though, with Dragon Legal costing four times more than the Premium version. (Premium 11 for the PC is $199.99, Dragon Legal $799.99. For Mac users, Dragon Dictate is $199.99 and MacSpeech Dictate Legal is $599.99.) (Affiliate links.)

However, Dragon Legal has some added features, and a lawyer or law firm may be able to justify the expense not by comparing the different software packages but instead by factoring in support staff salaries. Automated, streamlined dictation and word processing could translate into lower labor overhead for a firm.

Lawyer Tech Review asked Alexandria Carstens, a software trainer with Vancouver, British Columbia, firm Speakeasy Solutions, to highlight some of Dragon Legal’s advantages over the Premium version. Carstens, a former legal secretary, has been training professionals on Dragon for more than a decade, and she writes the Speakeasy Solutions blog, which contains tips and tricks for Dragon users.

Carstens presents the pros and cons of the various software packages to her clients, but, she notes, “Every single lawyer whom I have shifted from a nonprofessional or legal product to Dragon Professional or Legal has been extremely grateful.”

Here are four advantages of Dragon Legal:

Advantage No. 1: Original dictation can be attached to the transcription.

Dragon Naturally Speaking Legal Boxed

If you’re a lawyer who prefers a dictate-then-delegate-proofreading approach, Dragon Legal can make your job — and that of your assistant — faster and easier. Once the lawyer dictates the document, using speech recognition software, Dragon will transcribe it. Then the task of proofreading can be assigned to a legal secretary or paralegal. With Dragon Legal, the secretary has access not only to the transcribed document but also to the original voice dictation.

For the proofreader, the opportunity to go back and listen to the original dictation can be a real time- saver — and subsequent correction by the proofreader of a word that is misunderstood by Dragon Legal will teach the software to use the correct word from that point forward.

Advantage No. 2: Dictation is automatically routed and transcribed.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Logo

With the Dragon Premium edition, a user who dictates on a digital recorder must upload the dictation and then manually initiate transcription. With Dragon Legal, transcription is automatic and seamless. Lawyers who like dictating into a digital recorder will find that the work is automatically transcribed and even sent directly to the proofreader, with the audio file attached.

Advantage No. 3: Export custom commands to newer software versions.

Legal allow users to create custom commands. Those commands are time-savers — especially for activities such as billing time, creating memos, logging into legal research and creating FYI e-mails. Over a long period, users can create hundreds of time-saving custom commands. When the software is upgraded, Dragon Legal allows those commands to be exported. Premium does not allow exporting of the text commands.

Advantage No. 4: Dragon Legal incorporates legal terminology.

When most students begin law school, they’re told that they are essentially learning a new language, and for the first semester a legal dictionary is often an essential survival tool. Dragon Legal comes preloaded with terminology commonly used in the U.S. legal system. When a lawyer dictates, the accuracy from the very start will be greater.

At a Glance: Dragon Naturally Speaking Legal

  • Original dictation can be attached to transcription.
  • Automatic routing and transcription of dictation.
  • Custom commands can be exported to new versions of the software.
  • Legal terminology is included in the Dragon dictionary.

In terms of disadvantages, Carstens notes that using Dragon Legal on an underpowered computer can have disastrous results. Speakeasy’s minimum suggested requirements exceed those of Dragon’s maker, Nuance. In addition, certain facets of cloud computer and remote desktops can interfere with some of Dragon’s features.

But price is generally the greatest concern to lawyers.

Carstens says, “I understand needing to cut costs, but there is much in the way of time and even monetary savings to be had in using Dragon Legal.”

Have you switched from Dragon Premium to Dragon Legal? What was your experience?

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