Do You Need a Specialized Qualification to Be a Legal Transcriptionist?

With companies relying on vast quantities of accurate data that help them in all spheres of operations and analysis and provide them with important business-related inputs, the need for quality transcriptionists is increasingly becoming an essential service for a wide range of professions today. 

The surge in its demand is evident by the latest data available that put the U.S. transcription market size at USD 25.98 billion in 2022. The market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% by the end of the decade.

Like other industries, the legal profession has benefitted from transcription service which are now being extensively used by court reporting firms, paralegals, and attorneys. Legal professionals are often inundated with work that includes attending court sessions, referring to multiple documents, and reviewing important interviews and court recordings among others. 

What Is Legal Transcription?

Legal transcription is a process that involves converting an earlier recorded audio/video file into a written legal document. The transcribed document is a written record of a recorded legal proceeding which can be:

  • Live and closed court hearings
  • Depositions
  • Witness statements
  • Legal memorandums
  • Pleadings
  • Motions
  • Correspondence and dictated notes by legal professionals
  • Interviews in a legal setting
  • Minutes of meetings and negotiations at a law office

What Does a Legal Transcriptionist Do?

As a legal transcriptionist, you are required to transcribe important legal audio recordings into written records. You have to listen to the recordings dictated by legal professionals and transcribe them verbatim into documents that may be admissible in court. You have to proofread the completed transcribed document to ensure that your transcript is free of any grammatical or spelling errors. Accuracy of content and presentation of the document in the proper format is an essential requirement.

Do You Need a Specific Educational Degree to Work as a Legal Transcriptionist?

Though you don’t require a specific educational qualification to work as a legal transcriptionist, having a good understanding of judicial proceedings and prior legal transcription experience can help you get a job. 

With the rising demand for trained transcriptionists, several vocational schools, technical schools, and community colleges today offer online certificate programs in legal transcription which include:

  • General overview of the country’s legal system
  •  Familiarization with legal terminology
  •  Valuable inputs on a range of aspects from proofreading to formatting 

How to Become a Legal Transcriptionist?

Among the thousands of legal transcriptionists in the country today, you need to establish yourself as a transcriptionist, your clients can rely on you to deliver a superior standard of work each time. For this, learning the skill sets needed to perform your job with higher proficiency and accuracy can give you an edge over the others. You may consider selecting the following options:

1. Professional Certificate Course for Legal Transcriptionists

Typically, these certificate courses are offered online where you can complete the program at your own pace. They include:

  • The working of the Federal and State courts
  • Legal terminology
  • Legal templates to understand the specific legal transcription formatting rules
  • Samples of different types of legal proceedings for practice to hone your skills
  • Interacting with clients and sending and receiving files
  • Widening your client base

For enhanced credibility as a legal transcriptionist, you can earn nationally-recognized certification as a Certified Electronic Transcriber from the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers which consists of a set of two exams:

  • Multiple-choice test: It covers legal practices and procedures, legal vocabulary proficiency, proofreading, and formatting
  • Practical assessment: You have to transcribe a pre-recorded proceeding into a 15-page written document

2. Additional Legal Transcription Skills for Legal Paralegals or Legal Assistants

As a paralegal or a legal assistant, you already are acquainted with various aspects of the legal profession such as:

  • U.S. legal system
  • Different types of law such as business and corporate law, contract law, insurance law, family law, and others
  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Law office procedure
  • Legal document drafting
  • Legal research strategies

Completing a certification in legal transcription not only adds value to your resume but also offers you added skills and experience that can help you to achieve greater heights in your chosen field. 

Other Skills and Tools Required to Be a Legal Transcriptionist

While you may become a certified legal transcriptionist after qualifying in a professional certification program, there are certain skills that you must have to prove your credibility as a quality transcriptionist. They include:

1. Superior Typing Skills

As most transcription jobs come with a fixed deadline, your typing speed is a crucial factor. The standard typing speed for a transcriptionist is 60-85 words per minute. According to the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT), it takes 1 hour to transcribe a 15-minute-long audio recording. However, along with speed, accuracy is another vital prerequisite for a legal transcriptionist.

2. Grammatical Proficiency

The document must be free of spelling, grammatical, and syntax errors to maintain the accuracy of the content. Since, in many instances, the transcriptions may be used in court hearings, even the slightest error can damage the credibility of the document or alter how the content is perceived. Your ability to proofread the document to remove any errors is important. This requires a higher level of proficiency in your grammatical skills.

3. Listening Skill

Your listening skill plays a significant role in delivering a high-quality transcript as a major part of your job involves hearing audio recordings and deciphering them correctly. 

Picking out relevant details from among the background and other extraneous noises, understanding softer or barely audible voices, and differentiating among speakers in a multi-speaker audio recording are some of the challenges that a legal transcriptionist has to successfully overcome. 

Your ability to focus on the recorded source and interpret it with accuracy, pay attention to the smallest of detail, and observe subtle nuances in speech can help you to create a document of the highest quality.

The equipment you use as part of your work must be of good quality to ensure that you maintain the highest work standards. You must have the following equipment set up:

1. Good-Quality Computer

Your computer must have a good-quality keyboard for a seamless typing experience, high-standard audio quality, and a word processor, most preferably Microsoft Word.

2. Strong Internet Connection

A high-speed internet connection is an important requirement as the net speed and connectivity can affect your speed, output, and your reputation as it impacts your ability to maintain deadlines.

3. A USB Foot Pedal

A USB foot pedal is a key tool for a legal transcriptionist. It allows you to control the audio flow with your foot while not needing to break your typing rhythm if you need to stop or pause, rewind, or fast-forward the recording. This helps you to save time that otherwise would be spent taking a break from your typing to control the audio source. 

4. Superior-Quality Headphones

Your listening skills can be enhanced and enable you to create a transcript with maximum accuracy if you invest in superior-quality headphones with noise-cancellation features. Besides high-quality sound, your comfort is equally important as you spend long hours at your job which is an assured feature of a quality headphone.

5. Comfortable Seating Arrangement

Investing in a comfortable ergonomic chair may be an expensive expenditure but can be a wise decision in the long run. As you will sit at your computer for extended hours, your comfort must be your priority. It improves your performance and protects you from several health-related issues.

Final Word

With the constant rise in demand for legal transcriptionists, a career in this field can be both challenging as well as lucrative. To your advantage, you can pursue it from the comfort of your home with flexible working hours. However, for maximum career growth, you must have the required industry certifications and take all opportunities to hone the skills needed to deliver the best results, to perfection. This is important to establish yourself as a notch above the rest among other legal transcription services.