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Justice is served: legal transcription

At Global Voices, our specialist legal transcription services provide multilingual translations and interpretations to legal authorities including police and court services, legal practices, global law firms and international government authorities.

With 7.7% of the British population using a language other than English at home, employing professional transcriptionists in the legal and law enforcement sectors is essential for ensuring justice for all.

What is legal transcription?

Transcription is the process of converting of spoken words into writing, sometimes called ‘speech to text’ services.

If you take a look back at our blog post on medical transcription, we explain the different types of transcription offered by our team of specialist transcribers at Global Voices: foreign language transcription and direct translation, which involves converting an audio file into a language document in the source language (foreign language transcription) or converting an audio file into a document in the target language (direct translation).

Legal transcription refers specifically to the transcription of legal documents, including suspect interrogation and witness statements, police reports and court proceedings, as well as dictated recordings made by attorneys, paralegals, and other legal professionals from any number of audio recordings or files. The material is often highly confidential in nature and demands a quick turnaround.

What roles to legal transcriptionists do?

Legal transcriptionists support law enforcement authorities in ensuring legal proceedings are carried out accurately, no matter which language they are being conducted in. As there are many diverse branches of law, legal transcriptionists have highly specialised knowledge in many areas of law, such as corporate, criminal, employment and family law, to name but a few.

Legal transcriptionists can work within police stations, courts or law firms, or perform legal transcriptions of documents that have been outsourced to professional agencies. Legal transcriptionists tend to listen to and transcribe audio recordings made during the process of witness or suspect interviews, but are also sometimes required to transcribe notes dictated by legal and paralegal professionals.

Legal transcriptionists can also perform a transcription of lease documents, contracts, wills and executry documentation with the utmost accuracy. At Global Voices, our expert legal transcriptionists and copy typists can also transcribe handwritten notes, reports and correspondence to save legal professionals valuable time.

Legal transcriptions are one of the most difficult branches of the translating and interpreting professions, not only because the translations produced must be flawless, but also because each country has its own unique legal system and legal terms. You can trust our specially trained legal transcriptionists to understand and account for these legal variants and provide a document that accurately serves its purpose.

Why are legal transcriptionists necessary?

Legal transcriptionists are necessary because of the heightened need for accuracy and precision in all legal dealings. That applies to legal interpretation and translation services too, particularly with regards to statements and testimonies that can be used to prove a person’s guilt or innocence.

The need for defendants to be able to understand legal proceedings, using an interpreter, translator or transcriptionist if necessary, was pointed out in no uncertain terms during R v Iqbal Begum Court of Appeal ruling that stated:

“It is beyond the understanding of this court that it did not occur to someone that the reason for her [the defendant’s] silence… was simply because she was not being spoken to in a language which she understood.”

In the courtroom, any testimony or sworn statement that is not interpreted or understood accurately is considered inadmissible, and errors in cases of legal misinterpretation benefit the party of the defense.

Back in 2016, Microsoft announced that it’s new speech recognition code was ‘just as good’ as a professional transcriber. Cited as a “major breakthrough in speech recognition” it was the first time software was able to achieve human parity for conversational speech, and techies wondered if transcriptionists’ days were numbered.

However, the best transcription technologies still report a 6.3% word error rate, which is too great a margin when it comes to ensuring justice is properly served. Software tools and even amateur transcribers unfamiliar with legal terminology can easily confuse and misinterpret terms.

Some specialist legal terms, such as mens rea, which is latin for ‘of a guilty mind’, and colloqualisms like ‘wobbler’, which means a crime that cannot easily be defined, can be particularly difficult for an untrained ear to understand, let alone translate. Given the large volume of legal terms and police jargon, only trained and experienced human transcriptionists should be sought.

The service offered by expert legal transcriptionists who are familiar with both legal systems and legal professionals allows them to manage the problems associated with obscure and difficult to decipher notes and terminologies. Choosing an highly trained legal transcription will see to it that justice is served.

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