YouMail’s fee-based digital secretary service is a boon to busy lawyers

Voicemail to text service

By Geri L. Dreiling

Some docket calls never seem to end. Waiting your turn for a few minutes with a judge may take hours. Though many judges now allow lawyers to discreetly use their phones to check e-mail and text messages, actually talking on the phone or checking voice mail is strongly discouraged or banned outright. For lawyers with hectic practices and numerous court appearances, unchecked voice mails remain a major source of stress.

As a result, attorneys are increasingly turning to voice-to-text transcription services such as YouMail and Google Voice as a way to monitor voice mail messages. The services transcribe messages and then send them to by way of e-mail.

Google Voice is a free service that Google openly admits is “not perfect yet.” The accuracy of the transcription depends on the caller, background noise and microphone use.

YouMail is an alternative that some lawyers are using for voice-to-text transcription. Although the Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based YouMail offers a free app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry smartphones with free services such as visual voice mail and custom greetings, transcription is “primarily a premium service.” In other words, transcription costs money.

Patrick M. Kiernan, a criminal defense and entertainment law attorney in St. Louis, has been using YouMail’s premium services for more than six months to have his voice mails transcribed and sent to him by way of e-mail.

His assessment?

“It is an extremely efficient way to stay on top of messages. Though the transcriptions aren’t foolproof, I estimate that they’re accurate 95 percent of the time.”

Productivity Boost

The average person speaks between 140 and 160 words per minute, but the average adult reads between 250 and 300 words per minute. Therefore, reading a transcription of a voice mail is often faster than actually listening to the message.

At a Glance: YouMail Voice-to-Text Voice Mail Transcription

  • Our user reported that the YouMail transcriptions were quite accurate.
  • Reading a voice mail transcription is much faster and less disruptive than listening to a message.
  • YouMail’s monthly premium service for voice-to-text transcription is fee based.
  • Apps for the free services, such as visual voice mail and custom greetings, are available for the iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry.

This assumes that listening to voice mail is an option. For many trial lawyers, such as Kiernan, it isn’t — at least while they’re in court. And though Kiernan was aware of the free transcription services, he was concerned about their accuracy after friends began sharing some of the transcription errors with him. “‘l’ll call you back’ was transcribed as ‘I’ll scratch your back.’”

Another problem: Transcription can be pricey. Although new users may start with a free seven-day trial, monthly premium voice-to-text transcription packages range in cost from $4.99 to $34.99.

The $4.99 monthly fee covers only the first 30 seconds of 20 messages per month. For $17.99 per month, the subscriber can expect to have the first 60 seconds of 120 messages transcribed per month. For those who routinely receive more than 120 messages per month, the unlimited package of $34.99 is available.

Although the cost is a disadvantage, Kiernan says that he likes the flexibility of being able “to see who’s calling and what they’re calling about without logging into voice mail.”

Like the free service, the premium YouMail account allows him to customize greetings by the caller — a family member won’t hear the same greeting as a colleague or client. A variety of prerecorded greetings, including bilingual messages, are also available for your voice mail.

Now it’s your turn. Have you used YouMail, Google Voice or any other voice-to-text transcription service? Tell us about your experience with the software.

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