Bypass your voice mail and preserve a paperless record of messages
By Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.
For most lawyers, managing voice mail is a daily chore. Law firms with paper files are often littered with messages scribbled on pieces of paper, or the files are stuffed with memos summarizing or transcribing voice mail messages. Preserving a paper trail of communication is an important part of tracking the evolution of settlement talks, documenting client phone calls and return calls and creating a time line of events in any legal matter.
I find reviewing voice mail bothersome, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Listening to spoken words is slower than scanning text, many judges frown on lawyers with phones to their ears in court and conducting a quick review of voice mail during a deposition or meeting is difficult.
There’s a solution, though, one that allows lawyers to preserve voice mail messages, extract their content and avoid listening to the actual message: the voice-to-text transcription service.
For the past few weeks I have been testing TalkScribe, a service offered by Tallahassee, Fla.-based Line1 Communications. TalkScribe transcriptionists quickly transform voice mail messages into text. The text message and the audio recording are sent to your email address.
This week, Lawyer Tech Review explains how TalkScribe can be incorporated into a paperless office and tells you about the advantages and disadvantages of the service.
How TalkScribe Works
Taking advantage of the free trial offered by TalkScribe, I worked with a representative to determine the best approach for me. I rely heavily on my iPhone for all of my business calls, and all of my voice mail messages are routed to it.
I was given a TalkScribe voice mailbox telephone number that received voice mail messages. I was also provided with detailed instructions on how to set up my iPhone to have my voice mail messages forwarded to the TalkScribe mailbox. This arrangement allowed me to answer my own phone when I was able and rely on TalkScribe when a voice mail message was left.
Configuring the iPhone was fairly straightforward — it’ll take 10 to 15 minutes for a lawyer with average tech skills.
Once a message was received in the TalkScribe voice mailbox, the message was transcribed and sent back to me via email along with the original audio recording. The range of the attachment sizes in my trial was typically between 20 KB and 100 KB. TalkScribe offers real-time transcription services in English only, but the company website notes that under certain circumstances Spanish transcription, Spanish-to-English transcription and English-to-Spanish transcription are available. The company also notes that it is open to adding additional languages if demand is sufficient.
Advantages of Using TalkScribe
There are several advantages to using TalkScribe’s transcription services.
Quick transcription: The voice mail messages left in my TalkScribe mailbox were transcribed quickly during my test and emailed back to me promptly. One short message was left at 4:27 p.m. and arrived as an email four minutes later.
Bypasses voice mail: During the time I tested TalkScribe, I was able to avoid listening to my voice mail. The transcriptions were accurate enough that I was able to decipher who was calling and why.
Searchable email database: Receiving the voice mail messages in an email allowed me to create a searchable database in my Outlook program.
Adding paperless messages to the legal file: TalkScribe is a great tool for lawyers with paperless offices. Both the email message and the audio recording can easily be saved to a file contained on a hard drive or stored in the cloud. If a dispute involving a message arises later, the attorney has not only the transcript but also the original recording.
Disadvantages of Using TalkScribe
Like many transcription services, the major downside is proper nouns. The names of people and companies were sometimes a struggle for the transcriptionist, who would flag such instances with question marks.
Despite this drawback, I did not find it difficult to work around the problem. Because the caller’s phone number is included in the message, I was often able to identify the caller quickly. If I didn’t recognize the phone number, the transcription was often close enough for me to determine the identity of the caller. Although I never needed to listen to the audio recording to extract the content of the message, I found that not only was the message easy to play, the quality was also very good.
Comparing TalkScribe’s pricing plan to the one offered by YouMail, which we reviewed in February, is not straightforward.
At a Glance: TalkScribe Voice-to-Text Transcription
- Transcription turnaround is quick.
- The user can skip listening to voice mail.
- The program allows the user to create a searchable email database.
- Preserving messages in a paperless office is easy.
- Accurate capture of proper nouns is sometimes a challenge for the transcriptionist.
YouMail’s cheapest service is $4.99 per month for the first 30 seconds of 20 messages. TalkScribe’s least expensive plan is $10 but covers 40 messages. However, each message unit is measured in 30-second increments. Therefore a one-minute voice mail message would be counted as two messages under the plan.
In addition to the basic package TalkScribe offers four additional packages, ranging from $24 per month to $250 per month. Each package also has a price per message when the message units for the particular plan are exceeded.
Overall, I was pleased with the service. I set out to find a way to avoid listening to voice mail and discovered a system that allowed me to search my messages and keep them all organized in email.
Have you used TalkScribe or any other voice-to-text transcription service? What was your experience? If you found this article helpful, please consider forwarding it to a colleague.