TOP 5 skills to become a Legal Transcriptionist: A Complete Guide

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Posted: 20th December 2022 by
Lawyer Monthly
Last updated 16th July 2024
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Are you looking to become a legal transcriptionist? If you have a passion for writing, but don’t want to be confined by the four walls of an office, becoming a legal transcriptionist may be the perfect career option.

Legal transcription is a career that has proven to be rewarding for transcriptionists. It is a great career that opens doors to endless opportunities in the legal world. However, starting a legal transcription company can be very overwhelming, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you are unfamiliar with the process.

The following guide will introduce you to the work and training requirements needed to become a legal transcriptionist, as well as provide you with some helpful tips on how to get started.

What is legal transcription?

Legal transcription is the process of converting the spoken word into written text. This can be done for a variety of reasons, including creating legal transcripts or converting audio files into text files.

A typical legal transcriptionist will listen to recordings or video files of testimony or depositions, then transcribe the information into written documents. This type of work requires attention to detail and good listening skills.

Legal transcriptionists are responsible for transcribing the spoken word into written documents. They must be able to understand what is being said and write it down in a way that is easily understood by other people. This can range from business contracts to depositions or testimony in court cases.

Why legal transcription?

Legal transcription is a hot job for many reasons. The main reason is that there's so much demand for it. Many individuals, companies, and government agencies need their audio files transcribed as quickly as possible.

This is a very specialized profession, so it's not something that most people can do. Therefore, there's a lot of opportunity for those who are willing to get into this line of work.

Last but not least, legal transcription is a lucrative profession. The average salary for transcriptionists is about $67,000 per year. And the field is expected to grow by 17% through 2026.

Required skills

If you want to become a legal transcriptionist, some skills are required. The first thing is a good knowledge of the English language. You will have to be able to understand the legal terminology and use it correctly to make accurate transcriptions.

You also need to be able to transcribe the spoken word without missing anything important or making any mistakes in spelling or grammar.

Below you can find the list of skills you need to master if you want to become a legal transcriptionist.

1 - Confidentiality

As a legal transcriber, you will be working with sensitive information that is not intended for public consumption. It's your job to make sure that this information remains private and secure. Your clients put their trust in you, and it's up to you to keep their secrets safe.

Transcriptionists are privy to highly sensitive information, and therefore must be 100% trustworthy. A legal transcript can contain information about anything from a sexual harassment case to a murder trial, so transcriptionists mustn't disclose any of this information to anyone not authorized to receive it.

This is essential for maintaining the reputation of your company, as well as protecting your clients from any possible legal issues that could arise from sharing information.

2 - Proficient in listening and typing

Transcriptionists need to be able to listen very carefully and accurately. You need to be able to understand what is being said even if there are background noises or if someone speaks too fast or too quietly.

You will also need excellent typing skills because most of your time will be spent typing up the recordings that you have made.

You should be able to type at least 70 words per minute without errors to keep up with the pace of dictation by lawyers as well as their clients on the phone or in person.

3 - Understanding of legal terms

If you want to become a legal transcriptionist, you don't need a law college diploma. However, having an understanding of legal terms will help you in your career as a legal transcriptionist. 

Legal transcriptionists need to be able to quickly research new terms and concepts, including how they work within the context of the case at hand. This is especially important because most cases are complex and involve many different parties with varying interests.

You will also need to be familiar with the different types of documents that are used in court. These documents can include briefs, motions, and orders.

4 - Outstanding grammar

Legal transcriptionists must have a keen eye for detail, and they need to be able to pick up on even the slightest grammatical errors in the documents they transcribe.

This is because, when you're working as a legal transcriptionist, you're not just transcribing audio files—you're also creating a document that will be used in court or as evidence in legal proceedings.

If there are any mistakes in your transcriptions (even if it's just one misspelled word), then it could put someone at risk of getting charged with perjury or another crime.

5 - A certificate of Legal Transcription

A certificate of Legal Transcription is not mandatory but will help you to differentiate yourself from other competitors and allow you to charge higher rates.

You can get certified by taking an online course or by attending an accredited school. You can also gain the necessary skills by working as a legal secretary and learning on the job.

Several different organizations offer certification programs for legal transcriptionists, including the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) and the American Association of Professional Legal Transcribers (AAPLT).

Final thoughts

To sum it up, legal transcription falls into the category of a profession that can give you plenty of freedom and flexibility. Work hours are flexible, you can work wherever you want as long as you have a laptop and internet connection.

You can fit it around your lifestyle if you have dependents. If saving money is important to your future and not just paying bills each month then becoming a legal transcriber is a smart move.

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