Break the legal letter backlog with speech recognition


• Successful, long standing legal firm
• Business booming
• Prepared to embrace technology


• Letter backlog
• Letter turnaround times of up to three days

• Letters now only take 15 minutes to prepare, down from an hour
• Backlog cleared

While it is important to maintain traditions – like delivering exceptional and attentive service – it’s equally important at times to embrace what’s new, not least if what’s new ensures traditions are not lost. This is the approach taken at Newstead & Walker Solicitors, a legal firm based in Otley, West Yorkshire. For over 200 years, it has become synonymous locally for providing excellent service when advising clients over legal matters including commercial property, buying or selling residential property, litigation and dispute, resolution, family mediation, family, children and divorce, wills and estate planning.

Looking ahead and keeping ahead

As part of its ongoing commitment to progress, the company has kept ahead of technologies designed to capture dictation. Over time, tape-based recorders were replaced by digital voice recorders, while today one product that’s playing a role helping Newstead & Walker Solicitors continue to deliver the calibre of service that its customers have come to expect, is Dragon. Developed and published by Nuance Communications, Dragon is the world’s best-selling desktop speech recognition software and helps legal practitioners create documents, search the internet or compose and send emails, simply by using their voice. Capable of transcribing up to 160 words per minute and offering accuracy rates of up to 99%, Dragon can drive a dramatic increase in a legal firm’s productivity. This is one of the key reasons Dragon is in use at Newstead & Walker Solicitors, as Michaela Bruszniewski, the firm’s Practice Manager, explains: “We have even more clients than before, which is great for the firm of course. However, this only added to our letter backlog. We needed to find a way to deal with the backlog and the extra clients without the expenditure that comes from increasing head count.”

Backlogs banished with Dragon speech recognition

Part of the backlog dilemma was the process the firm formally used for creating documents. The firm’s fee earners would dictate to their digital recorders and send the files to be transcribed. It could take up to an hour for each letter to be typed up once it had made its way out of the backlog. This resulted in letters being created up to three days after they were dictated. Having decided that this situation was untenable, the firm looked to modern and proven speech recognition as an effective alternative, as Michaela explains: “One of the managing partners had seen a demo of Dragon some years back and we knew we had to move with the times and that things were moving on from digital dictation. We wanted to see how much potential speech recognition had in terms of unlocking productivity.”

newstead and walker picture

To that end, Newstead & Walker Solicitors met with VoicePower, who has been supplying speech recognition solutions and dictation products for more than 20 years. Following VoicePower’s demonstration of Dragon, the decision was made to initially purchase seven licenses with training and support provided by VoicePower. “The training was very good indeed and we were impressed by VoicePower. It was conducted in two stages, over two half days. VoicePower then came back again after a few weeks to see how we were getting on with Dragon,” Michaela said. A further licence for Dragon was purchased this year, bringing the total number of users to eight.

After a gradual roll-out to enable the company’s long-serving secretaries to become familiar with Notifier – VoicePower’s bespoke software that enables the secretaries to seamlessly manage the transcriptions created by the fee earners – Michaela states that today Dragon is working well with its case management system, while one of the four partners equipped with Dragon chose to take advantage of the extra flexibility provided by using the wireless microphone option. This enables the partner to keep dictating within a certain distance while away from their desk, so searching for paper-based files or grabbing a coffee doesn’t hamper their productivity.

Dragon delivers

Now that Dragon is an integral part of the document workflow at Newstead & Walker Solicitors, Michaela is in a position to reflect on the changes it has made. “The secretaries love it, thanks to Dragon managing the transcription. Now, they simply copy and paste the text into the right document template. This means Dragon helped to completely clear the backlog, while the time it takes to create a letter is down from one hour to approximately 15 minutes.” It has been well received by the company’s fee earners too, as Michaela explains: “It’s very easy to use when transcribing dictation. A further benefit they are enjoying is that Dragon enables them to dictate and send emails, and given that much more correspondence these days is via email, that capability is another bonus.” In this case, emails are automatically tagged to the firm’s case management system.

Of the three things that have most impressed her about Dragon, Michaela includes the tangible boost it has given to users’ productivity, its accuracy and ease of use. Asked whether she would recommend Dragon to other legal professionals, Michaela stated: “Yes. Everybody’s work is so much better when using Dragon,” and asked who she would recommend for the training and installation of Dragon, she replied: “VoicePower. They are excellent and they have always been there for us.”


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August 21, 2015
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