especially for emails
By Bruce de Wert
(Reprinted, with permission, from the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers,
ognition has progressed enormously from the early days when you had to spell
everything using the phonetic alphabet, alpha, bravo, etc. It is now a very useful tool if
used in the correct way.
My views are shaped by what I do as a sole practitioner in a s
mall rural town offering the
traditional Scottish “man of business” service, but principally, conveyancing and estate
agency, agricultural law, partnerships, wills and executries, as well as fulfilling a fairly
significant social function for those who hav
e no other opportunity to air their personal
What to use it for
If you are dictating everything that you create at the moment, voice recognition is going
to add very little value as it is more time consuming than dictating onto a tape or solid
tate device. Clearly, whether it is cost effective for you to use voice recognition for your
major work depends upon the relative costs of yourself and the staff who will actually
type the work. If you are charging £250 per hour and you are having your wor
k typed in
India at £5 an hour, there is little point in voice recognition.
I have two paralegals, two full
time and one part
time secretaries which will give you an
idea of how little of my output is voice recognised. It is my view that voice recognition
should be used only for unique work. I never want to do the same thing twice and if I am
likely to say the same thing to another client in the future or produce the same
document, I take the time to add it as a template and use it again when needed. Not o
will it be correct and, hopefully, complete but I have saved myself a great deal of future
time and angst.
So, what do I use it for? Principally emails. Most emails are non
standard and 50 per
cent of mine are about office administration rather than c
lient communication. However,
for clients, the ability to provide instant feedback in between seeing clients is a great
boon. I certainly couldn’t produce as much with one
Purchasing a system
The two major providers of voice recognition s
oftware are IBM ViaVoice and Nuance
Dragon Naturally Speaking. I have tried both over the years and am currently working
with NaturallySpeaking Version 8 Professional. I recommend that you buy a system that
includes a microphone and don’t buy cheap: you wi
ll regret it. That said, prices for
standard software run from £20 to £160 for the mobile edition.
Incidentally, for those who work with solid
state recording devices, the software will
automatically recognise anything you have dictated out of the office,
when you come
back. I haven’t much experience of that but I have recently purchased one and will
experiment with it when it arrives.
Since my daily commute to the office is less than 100 m, I don’t foresee much use when
travelling but it might be that I
could dictate work in the office, have the software
recognise it and only then give the partially
completed work to my staff for them to top
and tail. Any thoughts and experiences from readers would be appreciated.
Learning to use it
The software learns t
o recognise your particular voice as a result of its mistakes and it is
essential that you correct these as they arise or the software will reinforce the errors.
The manufacturers claim 99 per cent accuracy but I’ve never experienced that.
love it as it gets the business done.
Correcting is very easy. I merely say “correct” and then the word or phrase to be
corrected, a box appears, you correct the word and that’s it. I don’t type the corrections,
merely say them. I have mastered the phonet
ic alphabet which makes it easier but you
can just say “r
h” which is quicker than typing. As a general rule, I avoid going
near the keyboard. The software allows you to jump about your document by voice
I recommend that you invest in a p
owerful computer with a significant amount of RAM. If
you take too much notice of the minimum specification found on the software box, you
will be will sitting waiting for ever for the words to appear on the screen. I have a
Pentium 4, 3 GHz with 3 GB of R
AM and, as I dictate this article, the words are
appearing on my screen instantly.
Installation has always been very simple and the training, these days, only takes a few
minutes. I work in my own room which is quiet (when the phone stops) and it might be
more difficult for those who don’t have that advantage. The software is quite sensitive
and is always listening. The fact that you can dictate virtually straight from the box would
appear to indicate that it will recognise all sorts of accents.
I do have
a problem in that whenever the phone rings I have to take the microphone
headset off and put my telephone headset on. (I have a Panasonic DECT portable
phone with a wired headset so that I can walk around the office and remain available.) I
have been sear
ching for a solution whereby I can use the same headset for the
telephone, Skype and voice recognition. Any ideas will be gratefully accepted!
Bruce de Wert is principal of Caithness firm Georgesons (