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Imagine knowing that your role in a court proceeding could either make or break an individual. How distressing would it be? That’s the price you pay for being a lawyer. Modern-day attorneys are smart, but smartness is a too relative term to substitute experience.
It takes flexibility, consistency, and efficiency to become an excellent lawyer who can demonstrate an exceptional mastery of legal concepts. But even then, strict deadlines, constant pressure, ever-changing legal concepts, long hours of work, and extremely demanding clients all add up to make a lawyer’s job quite unbearable at times. Towards this end, many lawyers find the role of legal transcriptionists increasingly important in helping them deliver their services effortlessly.
Accurate documentation of legal transcripts allows for effective case analysis and future reference, and may also impart important knowledge to legal professionals. Today, let’s focus on the details of legal transcription including what it is, how to become a legal transcriptionist, the required training, the available roles, and the expected salary package among the rest. Is it the best option for work from home moms and dads looking for a new challenge? Let’s find out shortly.
What is a Legal Transcriptionist?
Legal transcriptionists are professionals tasked with listening to dictated notes and recordings from paralegals, attorneys, and similar professionals and converting this information into legal documents. Satisfying the competitive qualification requirements will go a long way towards helping you launch a successful career in this field.
As a legal transcriptionist, some of the documents you will be expected to work on include motions, legal memorandums, time entries, agreements, pleadings, discovery, and correspondence.
Do I Need a Certificate to Work as a Legal Transcriptionist?
While general transcription requires no experience or a proven background in specific fields, legal transcription takes a job-centric approach, where candidates must fulfill the competitive prerequisites before building a career around this niche. This includes satisfying the work experience requirements, and educational qualifications such as attaining a college degree, diploma, or certification.
Generally, most of the hiring managers prefer to work with respectable professionals who have already attained the required certifications, also known as career diplomas. Other employers even make certifications a mandatory requirement for filling the vacant job roles. Certifications are revered because they give you the best chance of landing your first job in the field by helping you stand out from the crowd.
Types of Legal Transcription Certifications
Currently, there are no specific legal transcription certifications offered to legal transcriptionists. However, students can opt for online programs and classroom-based courses that focus on key aspects of legal transcription.
As part of the professional training for legal transcription, candidates may want to attain the required certifications to gain invaluable skills for more advanced jobs. Instead of spending a fortune on college degrees and associate programs, most of the aspiring legal transcriptionists choose to start with certifications.
In many instances, such courses are offered by community colleges and vocational schools in as little as 6 months. It should be stated that the skills you gain from certification training will not act as a prerequisite for earning a college degree when you finally choose to do so. Still, they give valuable hands-on experience with transcription equipment and software and comprehensive mastery of a wide range of legal concepts.
Types of Legal Transcription Jobs
Legal transcription covers a wide range of services, all of which may be tailored to suit specific needs. Some of the most popular types include the following;
- Sworn statements
- Subpoenas and Summons
- Phone calls and wiretaps
- Dictations, conferences, and meetings
Pleadings refer to legally written statements that a specific party submits in their defense or to make their claim about a case. Usually, these statements are submitted at the early stages of a case mentioning and form a critical part of the case proceedings. Virtually all legal transcription companies have transcription services for pleadings as part of their key areas of specialty.
In the legal field, sworn statements refer to documents that provide factual details about a case. These documents are a creation of the statements made by the defendant or the plaintiff during a legal proceeding. For years, attorneys and other legal professionals have used transcripts to get sworn statements which are also one of the hardest to obtain. Let alone their costly nature.
Conversely, depositions establish the witnesses’ account of the legal proceeding. Attorneys find this form of transcription quite helpful in getting the required facts to help them build their case. If such transcripts are done by a qualified transcriptionist, depositions become an essential part of legal proceedings and one of the most reliable sources of information that give valid arguments.
Interrogations are exactly what they sound like, recordings of witnesses or the respondents being probed to help with an ongoing case. Interrogations are more than just a way to monitor the suspect’s actions. They can provide vital information about the case. Thus, the constant need to work with qualified transcriptionists who can give clear, concise, and factual transcripts to support the probe.
Phone Calls and Wiretaps
Of course, monitoring and interrupting phone calls would be illegal on any day. But that’s not necessarily the case when legal proceedings are involved. Like interrogations, this form of transcription services focuses on monitoring speech patterns and other critical details that may facilitate an investigation. Transcription services that involve the use of phone calls and wiretaps usually command lucrative rates and are among the most coveted forms today.
Memorandums refer to informal notes that may provide vital evidence relating to a legal proceeding. A memorandum proves the validity of an agreement and may also confirm if a contract between two parties exists. Memorandums allow for easy retrieval of crucial information which can help in making proper judgment relating to a court proceeding. The attorneys will require the services of legal transcriptionists to compile these documents.
Dictations, conferences, and meetings
Legal professionals are constantly working to beat deadlines, striving to get their facts right while also having to contend with the demands of a court proceeding. The last thing they would wish to do is engage in time-consuming meetings and conferences amid a challenging court proceeding. Thus, they rely on legal transcriptionists to not only capture dictated notes to be used in legal proceedings but also have the accurate transcripts ready for in-depth analysis. Conferences and meetings can be transcribed into text documents to give accurate information which can either make or break a legal proceeding.
How Much Does a Legal Transcriptionist Make?
Generally, legal transcriptionists are paid per audio hour transcribed, with the recent estimates stating that these professionals make anywhere between $20 to $45 per audio hour.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not give specific figures about the legal transcriptionist’s salary. However, similar professionals report earning an approximate salary of $20 000 to $60 000 per year. Of course, a lot of variables will determine the average income including the following;
- The specific company you choose to work for
- Your speed
- Skill level
- The volume of task to be completed
- The nature of the task
This means that most of the recruiters will be willing to pay more to get the services of seasoned transcriptionists who can guarantee accurate results while meeting the scheduled deadlines. As a beginner, you may want to start by gaining valuable first-hand experience as you slowly climb the corporate ladder by adding more skills to your resume.
How to Become a Legal Transcriptionist
A high school diploma or its equivalent diploma, certificate, or an associate program is usually the accepted prerequisite for earning an entry-level job in legal transcription. Besides, many vocational schools, technical institutions, and community colleges also offer training programs that are aimed at expanding your skills to increase your employment options. You can complete such courses in less than 6 months or so and gain valuable experience to widen your career prospects.
Legal transcription career diplomas or certifications as they are commonly known, are also available through online platforms such as the CourtReporterEDU and TranscribeAnywhere if you are not fond of classroom learning. These courses focus on indispensable legal concepts to help you build and maintain a career as a legal transcriptionist.
Generally, they will emphasize effective communication and time management skills, jurisdictional laws, and basic legal terms. Other key areas they may address include court reporting theory, editing as part of transcription jobs, dictionary building, typing, and word processing to mention just a few.
Regarding the equipment requirements, students should be familiar with the software and tools listed below which will also form a critical part of their professional journeys as legal transcriptionists;
- Express scribe
- Foot pedal
- Freemake audio/video converter
- Ergonomic chair
- Slice audio file splitter
- Reliable internet connection
- Text expander
Legal Transcriptionist Training
Legal transcription is well-paying but hey, don’t get it twisted here. You can never jump into a new role overnight. Of course, you don’t have to attain a Bachelor’s degree to start a career in this field. But it’s always important to attempt the recommended courses before you assume a new role. Generally, candidates can either opt for face-to-face training through classroom learning or online training.
One of the best options for online learning is the TranscribeAnywhere online course which is formally endorsed by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) and can be completed in less than 6 months. Another online program that AAERT recommends is offered by BlueLedge and its details can be found here.
On classroom learning, community colleges, vocational schools, and technical institutes are known to offer tons of career diplomas to help students gain valuable transcription skills and prepare them for future roles as legal transcriptionists. By opting for these courses, you can become a legal transcriptionist in 6 months or so, having satisfied the basic requirements.
However, some jobs will require the completion of 1-2-year programs before you can flex your creative muscles in the field. So, be sure to satisfy the qualification requirements before rushing to take on such roles. What’s more, if you are going to work in the insurance or corporate fields, you better start by understanding corporate procedures and policies. Conversely, individuals looking to work in law firms must have a good grasp of law procedures and legal documentation.
Companies that Offer Legal Transcription Jobs
Now that you understand most of the details about legal transcription and how to become a competent transcriptionist, you may want to know where to get these jobs. Without much ado, listed here are some of the top companies that offer online legal transcription jobs.
Additionally, you may like to check these two other companies that focus on legal transcription:
The following options are not transcription companies but also provide reliable opportunities to qualified candidates;
- Corporate Legal Departments
The Bottom Line
It takes time, passion, and consistency to build a career as a legal transcriptionist. But the effort is worth it in the end. So, if you are willing to be part of a first-rate team of legal transcriptionists working for a legal office, a consulting firm, or a government agency, this is the perfect time to flex your creative muscles. It’s one of the most convenient forms of home-based employments that assure exceptional work-life balance. And now, the ball is in your court, as they say!