What is legal transcription?

Legal transcription is the process of typing any type of legal proceeding from the spoken word (including audio files) into a written text document that’s been carefully formatted so you can easily find the information you need.

Lawyers and everyone who works alongside them typically have a lot on their plates, no matter what industry and specialty they’re working in. Many end up working long hours while they go over essential documents, interviews, and even court recordings.

Finding ways to streamline that process is essential, especially if you want to scale and potentially take on more clients.

Transcription services can help with this, letting you hand over audio files of interviews, court recordings, and getting an easy-to-read and fast-to-scan text document back in return. And if you’re worried that transcriptionists wouldn’t have the experience needed to do the job well, we’ve got good news: legal transcriptionists specialize in your industry and can offer top-tier, accurate transcriptions.

Already know you’re in need of legal transcription services and want to get started?

Today, the legal transcription industry is growing rapidly. Services can include transcription of depositions, testimonies, official court hearings, interrogations, client letters, legal briefs, and general legal correspondence. This is all done from audio recordings– including physical tapes, digital files, and video– and will result in a perfectly formatted document in return.

This can be a game changer for lawyers, especially since they have such a large scope of information to review and document that occurs at different points of time.

Many lawyers in the past have relied exclusively on court reporters and the transcriptions they provide without realizing that there were more options available to them in addition to these specific services.

Traditionally, court reporters (also called stenographers) are licensed workers who will attend a court proceeding and create a transcript of what occurs during the session. This happens live and in real-time, requiring a fast pace of work. Fortunately, stenographers are able to type in shorthand, which their computers later convert into full words and sentences before the stenographer proofreads the entire document before sending it to courts and attorneys.

what exactly is legal transcription

Legal transcriptionists are different from court stenographers. Most aren’t able to certify a transcript (though here at Ditto Transcripts we can because we carry the necessary insurance), and transcriptionists don’t have the ability to swear someone in. Our legal transcriptionists are also all 100% remote, which ultimately saves our clients a significant amount of time and money. We’ll talk about this more in a minute.

The legal transcription industry is booming, and that’s because it’s a solid time and financial investment for law firms of all shapes and sizes.

One of the biggest and most obvious reasons to use legal transcription services, of course, is that it will save you an incredible amount of time. Instead of trying to listen through audio files for snippets of information that you need or hiring someone else to do so, you’ll get a single easy-to-scan document containing everything you need.

And since you’re outsourcing this instead of having a paralegal or an assistant handling this task for you, the transcriptions will come faster, be more accurate, and improve your overall office’s workflow since your team can tackle more important tasks that require their immediate attention.

In addition to saving time, you’ll also be trimming overhead costs along the way. The average cost of a legal secretary may be around $20-25 per hour, and the cost for a paralegal is around $25-32 per hour. They’re undeniably valuable members of your team, and you pay accordingly, so it makes sense to get the most value out of their work possible by working on tasks that you can’t outsource. Since law firms are always busy, these team members can work on more crucial day-to-day administrative tasks that you’d have to handle yourself otherwise (or hire someone else to do).

Since transcription costs are much cheaper than hiring one of your team members to handle it (costing between $1.50 and $5.00 per minute of recorded audio), you’ll be saving significantly along the way.

You can see the full breakdown of our legal transcription pricing here

Experienced transcriptionists will also be fast. They’re used to transcribing documents quickly, and have the right tools in place to help them do so accurately. Agencies like ours offer particularly quick returns on your files, offering turnaround times of as little as four hours if needed.

And since legal transcriptionists are specialized (many of our people have a background in law giving them an understanding of the source material), they’ll be as familiar with what you need as in-office assistants or paralegals, and can even format the documents according to your firm’s personal preferences.

Simply put, legal transcription services will save you money and time while guaranteeing accuracy, allowing you to focus on the most important parts of your job. You and your team members have specialized skill sets, so don’t waste time doing anything else during the work day.

When law firms and other legal professionals are looking to find a transcriptionist, it’s essential to choose an agency that actually specializes in legal transcription and offers it as a unique service instead of simply hiring a generalist.

Someone with specialized experience will be familiar with your industry, leading to significant increases in accuracy. They’ll understand exactly how you want your documents to be formatted, they’ll know the legal jargon that’s being used, and they’ll be able to get your transcriptions to you quickly.

Agencies with this specialized service are also going to have more protective measures in place to keep the files they’re working on confidential. Since many lawyers regularly handle sensitive information that is required by law to be kept confidential, this is a major factor to consider.

You need an agency that can be discreet and protect your information. They’ll do this by hiring trusted agents, and they’ll also have measures in place to keep the files and documents safe from breaches and security risks.

At Ditto Transcripts, for example, we’re CJIS compliant, following all practices currently recommended to keep the audio and text files we’re working on secure as they travel to and from your firm. This isn’t something that all agencies do, which could potentially leave you (and your clients) open to major security risks.

Legal transcription is a pretty simple and straight-forward process, broken down into three key steps. This is your “How to transcribe a legal document” cheat sheet.

  1. We Receive & Transcribe Your Audio File(s) 

Once you’ve found the agency that you want to work with, you send them an audio or video file. Agencies like ours will accept the majority of file types available, flexible to how you need to work. Let us know up front what turnaround time you need, and we’ll make sure we can guarantee that.

The first thing the legal transcriptionist will do is to carefully listen the source material. They’ll copy it verbatim into a written document, formatted exactly as you’ve specified in the initial call and taking into account what source material they’re transcribing.

If, for example, the audio file is of an interrogation or court proceeding, nuances of speech patterns and grammatical inconsistencies will remain. If, however, the end product is a legal document or letter, grammar, syntax, and correct wording and phrasing will be used to create the professional documentation.

  1. The Document is Reviewed

After the transcription is complete, it will be reviewed and proofread by at least one additional person to ensure that both accuracy and grammatical integrity guarantees are met. Here at Ditto Transcripts, we guarantee a minimum of a 99% accuracy rate, and we strive for (and regularly reach) that perfect 100%.

  1. We Send the Transcription Back to You

Once everything has been proofread and double checked, we send the document back to you in your desired format. If requested, we can send the transcription in multiple digital formats as well as (or instead of) a printed version. We securely archive the transcription so that it will be available if your files are ever lost or damaged for whatever reason.

We offer a variety of turnaround times for our legal transcription services. In most cases, legal files are completed within twenty-four to forty-eight hours. We even offer rush options for select projects that can guarantee turnaround in as little as four hours.

Some projects, however, may require a longer turnaround time. This is often the case for larger projects or bulk files, especially if they require more resources to transcribe. In these situations, it’s common to see a turnaround time of around one to two weeks.

We touched on legal transcription costs above.

Here at Ditto Transcripts, you can expect to pay $1.50-5.00 per minute of the audio recording. At our agency, costs will vary depending on the type of transcription you need and what turnaround times you want.

Transcription Rates Chart

Rush rates, for example, will cost more if you need the file within one to two business days, while extended rates will earn you a discount if you can wait up to six to ten business days.

You’ll also pay more for more or less depending on how complicated the audio file is. Single-person interviews or standard one-on-one interviews, for example, both fall under “category A” in the chart above and will come in at the cheapest rates. Audio with four or more speakers, however, or those that deal with scientific terminology, thick accepts, focus groups, or panel discussions often fall into “category C,” and will come with the highest per-minute rate.

How to Find The Right Transcription Company

When you’re hiring an agency for legal transcription services, there will be a few things that you want to look for to ensure that they can meet your expectations.

Here’s what you need to look for:

  • A high guarantee of accuracy. If they won’t guarantee at least a 99% accuracy rate, you don’t want to hire them.
  • They have turnaround times that work for you. While you likely won’t need or even want most files turned around in one or two days, it’s good to find an agency who can do so if you think you may ever need them to.
  • They’re an American-based company. American companies have a tendency to follow stricter protocols when it comes to legal transcription and American clients. They’re also typically only going to hire experts and native English speakers who know and understand legal terminology. Critical when you need 99% accuracy.
  • They have high security standards. Look for agencies who are CJIS compliance and can inform you about their encryption and security practices. If they won’t answer any questions about how they can protect you, move on to someone else.
  • They have clear contracts and insurance. They should have insurance that protects both them and you, and clear contracts that detail the scope of the work and what’s expected from both parties. Do they have cyber liability and general liability insurance policies?
  • They’re established. Look for reviews, for testimonials, and for signs that they’ve been around for a while (like a long-standing business license). You don’t want to take a risk on a new agency who may not be able to live up to what they say they can deliver.

Services Offered

We offer a variety of legal transcription services. A few of the specific options we offer include (and are definitely not limited to) the following:

  • Administrative hearings
  • Arbitration Proceedings
  • Client letters
  • Client tapes
  • Conference calls
  • Conference proceedings
  • Seminar Proceedings
  • Correspondence
  • Court proceedings
  • Court tapes
  • Court transcripts
  • Depositions (taped)
  • Evidence/Legal argument
  • Examinations under oath
  • Federal agency investigations
  • Fire reports
  • General correspondence
  • Government think-tanks
  • Indexing of records
  • Interrogations
  • Interviews, Speeches, Lectures
  • Judgments
  • Jury instruction
  • Legal examinations
  • Legal pleadings
  • Legal Briefs
  • Licensing Appeals
  • Mediation briefs
  • Mediation proceedings
  • Memorandums
  • Minutes of Meetings
  • Public hearings
  • Teleconferences and Calls
  • Telephone conversations
  • Wiretaps


Law firms have so much going on that being able to outsource time-consuming tasks will save you time, money, and a lot of energy. Legal transcription services are fast, cost-efficient, and so reliable. We understand that a single mistake could derail an entire case in certain situations, and this is something that we take very seriously. Hiring a reliable agency with specialized services and high security standards is the way to go, and we’re happy to offer that to all of our clients.

Interested in learning more about how our legal transcription services can benefit your firm? Get in touch for a no-obligation call and see what we can do for you (720) 287-3710.


  • “Court Reporter” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_reporter
  • “Stenotype” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stenotype

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