By Tonya L. Johnson
Tonya L. Johnson is a research specialist in the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center in Chicago and can be contacted at
Despite the DIY philosophy prevalent in this uncertain economy, dictation is still an efficient use of a lawyer’s time and resources. If you talk faster than you type, then dictation still makes sense. Until speech recognition software becomes more reliable, digital dictation offers an easy and efficient solution for busy attorneys.
Digital dictation consists of hardware, such as a portable handheld digital dictation unit or a microphone connected to a PC to record the dictation and software to receive the recording. The user uploads the recording to a computer typically as a .wav or .wss file and makes it available to a transcriptionist. Using similar software and headphones, the transcriptionist listens to the recording and can play, stop, rewind, and fast forward using a foot switch to create an accurate document.
Ideally, your digital dictation solution will accommodate a variety of input devices in case your primary recording device is unavailable. Digital dictation gives you the freedom to record dictation while commuting to work, traveling for business, or during any downtime. Some personal digital assistants (PDAs) and smartphones can serve as digital dictation devices and allow users to immediately upload files to a transcriber.
A comprehensive digital dictation system has reporting and workflow capabilities for managing large or widely dispersed teams of transcriptionists. These enterprise systems often require a dedicated server and software to manage and distribute work and may integrate with an existing document management system. You can completely outsource this type of system or hire a firm or consultant to develop an in-house solution or administer a remote solution with third-party hardware and software. There also are pay-as-you-go options ideal for the solo/small-firm practitioner or occasional dictation projects.
Digital dictation applies the best of modern technology to a proven medium and frees up your time without adding a lot of overhead to your law practice. To find software and hardware service providers and to learn more about digital dictation, please see below.
Scalable digital dictation software solutions
  • BigHand Digital Dictation
  • Crescendo
  • DictaNet Software AG
  • DPS Software plc
  • FLOvate
  • G2Speech
  • Lexacom
  • nFlow
  • Peapod Solutions Ltd
  • Quikscribe
  • V7 Technology Ltd
  • Verdatum
  • WinScribe Inc.
  • Digital dictation consultants
  • HDI Technologies Inc.
  • SRC
  • The Speech Centre
Remote dictation and transcription services
  • Quiksek, Inc.
  • SpeakWrite (formerly Cybersecretaries)
  • idigital
  • Work in Progress
Dictation and transcription hardware
  • Grundig Business Systems
  • Olympus
  • Philips Speech Processing
  • “Beyond Digital Dictation,” ABA Law Practice Management Section’s Law Technology Today (Amy Clevidence, Apr. 2007)
  • “Voice Productivity Comes of Age,” ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division’s Technology eReport (Steve Butterworth, May 2007)
  • “Legal Dictation Needs to Talk Digital,” (Enrico Schaefer, Sept. 12, 2008)
  • “‘Auld Lang Syne’” for Dictation,” (Michael Barnas, Jan. 2, 2008)
  • “Whyte Hirschboeck Raises Its Digital Voice,” (Alan Ciochon, Oct. 12, 2007)
  • “Digital Tech Cures Dictation Blues,” Hawkins & Parnell (Bob Elliott and Ted Gerber, Aug. 24, 2007)
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