April 14, 2020 Practice Points

Tips for Leveraging Dictation Apps

A sampling of apps to help you leverage the powerful features of today’s smartphones.

By Jonathan W. Lounsberry

As we all adjust to the “new normal” with social distancing, it is helpful to find ways to make working remotely effective and efficient. One way to leverage technology is to blend tried and true methods with the ever-evolving machines we carry in our pockets or sit on our desks—our smartphones. Today’s smartphones allow for dictation and voice memos, and while using either not a new technological advancement, having the ability to do both in a single, always-accessible device is convenient and productive. Learning to leverage these features following hearings, trials, mediations, depositions, arbitrations, and client meetings is invaluable. Do you need to remember the demeanor of a witness during a deposition and want to make a voice memo about it while driving back to the office? There’s an app for that. Leaving court after a hearing and need to dictate instructions to your staff or the beginnings of an order? There’s an app for that. Using a smartphone’s built-in capabilities and available apps creates limitless possibilities of productivity. (In fact, I used a speech-to-text app to write most of this article.) Below is a sampling of apps for leveraging the powerful features of today’s smartphones.

  • Native Speech-to-Text Feature (Free): Both Android and iOS offer the ability to create voice-initiated emails, SMS messages, and notes. By tapping the “microphone” icon (when available), you can dictate information to the phone, which is then translated into text. (Note: There is a time limit when using this feature, and you may also need to have an internet connection.) Practice Tip: If you have the ability to enter time and billing via a smartphone app, you should also be able to use the native speech-to-text feature to dictate your time-and-billing entries.
  • Voice Memos (Price varies depending on app): Voice memo apps are available for both iOS and Android devices. These apps can be used to record client meetings (check your jurisdiction’s laws regarding such recordings), memos regarding a case or witness, reminders, or regular dictation for staff to transcribe. The basic built-in or free apps are not as robust as a handheld digital recorder but are capable in their own right. These memos can generally be shared via email, Bluetooth, or MMS messages.
  • Dragon Anywhere (Subscription): Available on both Android and iOS, this is a speech-to-text app that has a more robust recognition of commands and punctuation than the native speech-to-text feature. The more you use this app, the more it will recognize your voice. The dictated text can be sent directly from the app as an email or an SMS message or you can copy the dictated text to the clipboard, pasting it via any app that allows you to paste from the clipboard. The iPad version also allows you to create notes that can be viewed, managed, and saved directly in the app.
  • Dictate+Connect ($16.99 version): Available on both iOS and Android, this app turns your smartphone into a more robust digital recorder, including such features as rewind, overwrite, insert, and voice activation. (The app will pause the recording when you stop speaking and continue recording when you speak again.) Each dictation is limited to 24-hours. This app also allows you to share your recordings via email, download, FTP, WebDav, SFTP, and some cloud-based storage systems (e.g., Dropbox or Box).
  • Dictate+Connect (Free version): Available on both iOS and Android, this app offers all of the features of the pay-for app (discussed above), but each dictation is limited to 30 seconds, and only five dictations can be stored at a time.

Many other speech-to-text, dictation and voice memo apps are available for both iOS and Android. This sampling only scratches the surface. Taking advantage of such apps can increase productivity and retention of information.

Jonathan W. Lounsberry is a senior associate at The Stevens Firm, P.A. in Spartanburg, South Carolina.


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