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How Legal Technology Improves Courtrooms and Legal Practices

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The technology revolution has firmly taken hold, impacting virtually every industry. From medicine to retail to education, advanced technology has fundamentally changed the way organizations run, and the legal industry is no exception. Like in many sectors, law firms have had to adapt in order to thrive in this new paradigm and maintain a competitive edge. Courtrooms are also going digital, moving away from traditional tools and adopting more advanced technology to streamline processes. While the legal sector is, traditionally, a conservative one, many organizations are recognizing the benefits of legal tech tools and adapting by incorporating them into their day-to-day operations.

Like with any major change, the emergence of legal tech is not without its challenges. Financial barriers preclude many organizations from finding the budget to add these tools. There is also some resistance from the old guard of the legal industry, who may be hesitant to change the way they’ve done things for decades, for fear of various jobs and tasks being replaced by automation.  

Innovative legal tech startups and increased financial investment in the field have propelled the evolution of cutting edge legal technology. These advanced tools have made their mark on legal organizations by lowering operational costs and boosting efficiency through process automation and optimization. They offer the opportunity to revolutionize a number of legal processes while saving time and money, all while enabling more analytic capabilities and allowing lawyers to focus on more strategic – not to mention profitable – tasks.

As the field continues to change, a number of legal technology trends have emerged for both law firms and courtrooms.

 

Legal Technology Trends for Law Firms

 

Cybersecurity

The need for increased cybersecurity is a prominent trend in the legal world that has received a significant amount of attention due to a number of notable breaches as well as the enforcement of the GDPR regulations. Law firms handle a large amount of sensitive data, putting them at risk for cyber attacks.

Implementing a cybersecurity solution is the best defense against attackers who themselves are growing more sophisticated as a result of evolving technologies. Because of this increase in digital threats, legal organizations are beefing up their cybersecurity budgets going forward, to secure their networks and confidential information.

 

Productivity-Enhancing Tools

The main advantages of legal technology for law firms are increased efficiency and reduced costs. In recent years, a number of tools have emerged that are changing the face of the traditional legal organization. Legal tech companies are providing options for firms to improve agility and ultimately win more business from both new and existing clients. Some examples of these solutions include:  

  • Document management
  • Financial/ERP systems
  • Analytics/BI
  • Case management
  • CRM
  • eDiscovery

 

The Rise of AI in the Legal Industry

The development of AI technology has revolutionized the world of legal tech. Organizations that leverage the enhanced capabilities that come with AI technology will edge out their competitors going forward. AI technology is at its best when it is accomplishing narrowly-defined tasks and completing time-consuming, repetitive work. But, while machines can process, store and recall information much faster than people, human professionals still need to apply critical thinking to that information. Therefore, by leaving the mundane or tedious tasks to the machines, AI has immense potential to allow law professionals to take on a more strategic role.

AI is positively impacting on a number of different legal technology solutions, including eDiscovery programs, chatbots, and cybersecurity software. Legal transcription technology, in particular, is an area that benefits greatly from developments in AI.

The legal sector heavily relies on audio and video files, as all processes are typically recorded for use in cases – including depositions, evidence-gathering, and court proceedings. All of these files must be transcribed or captioned to maintain accurate records that have the power to make or break a case. An AI-based solution drastically speeds up this notoriously inefficient process, giving legal professionals faster access to precise information so that cases can be solved with greater speed and ease while saving money.

 

Legal Technology Trends in the Courtroom

 

Evidence Cameras

This is one of the most important elements in the technology-enhanced courtroom. An evidence camera enables the conversion of physical documents or exhibits into electronic images for display on video monitors in the courtroom, with the ability to enlarge and reduce the image as needed, for better examination of the evidence in question

 

Legal Transcription Solutions

Due to the trend of increased court workloads, the demand for qualified court reporters has now far surpassed the supply. Since all court proceedings—including hearings, trials, and depositions—must have a reporter present, the most notable effect of the shortage is the delaying of legal processes.

A legal transcription solution, particularly one that is enhanced with AI technology, is quickly emerging as a viable solution to the growing court reporter shortage. When applied to automated speech recognition (ASR) technology, AI has the potential to improve speech-to-text engines to the point that they can transcribe jargon-heavy legal proceedings highly accurately. AI transcription can help court systems with their chronic backlogs by filling in the gaps where there aren’t enough court reporters present, to ensure the speedy delivery of justice.

 

Digital Recording Technology

 

The adoption of digital recording technology has become common in courts across the country. Alaska, Indiana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, and Vermont use audio digital recording in all or most of their general jurisdiction court sessions, while many other states are not far behind. This speaks to the positive shift of tech adoption across the board.

The adoption of emerging technology disproves the idea that courts are conservative when it comes to legal tech. It also speaks to the positive trend of adoption of legal technology solutions in all areas of the legal system. While trained professionals, such as court reporters will always remain an integral part of the process, teaming up with legal technology offers long-lasting benefits for the entire court system.

The legal technology market is developing at a rapid pace and it’s clear that we can expect even more innovation in the very near future. All of this boils down to one key conclusion: legal tech isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Organizations that recognize the benefits and incorporate legal tech tools into their day-to-day operations will maintain a competitive edge over others in the field who may be stuck in the past.

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From Shorthand to Artificial Intelligence: The Evolution of Transcription Technology

Millions of audio and video files are produced every day by businesses and organizations in virtually every industry. In fact, the sheer volume of unstructured data has increased to the point that analysts at Gartner estimate that upwards of 80% of all organizational data exists in these types of formats. In this context, where there is a clear shift from written content to audio and video, the need for transcription technology has never been more critical.

 

When is Transcription Required?

For many businesses, transcription of audio files is a necessary element of the core process, further enforced by a variety of legal regulations. For example, in higher education, Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act mandate that all videos be captioned for complete accessibility. In entertainment and media, the FCC Closed Captioning Regulations and 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act require that captions be highly accurate so that individuals who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing can consume content without any barriers. In the legal industry, all court proceedings, as well as activities that take place in law firms, must be accurately documented via legal transcription. Therefore, in these industries especially, speech transcription software is essential.  

 

How Transcription Technology Has Changed

Before the advent of digital transcription software, the task of converting speech to text was accomplished manually. Individuals who were charged with transcribing audio had to listen to the speaker and type out what they heard. This presented a number of challenges, as prior to the development of recording technologies, the transcriber had to be physically located where the service was required. Due to the manual nature of the work, advanced skills, like shorthand, were required to get the job done. Once basic recording tools, such as cassette tapes and portable recorders, were developed and made more available, the work became much more flexible and new possibilities emerged. Transcribers could now work remotely and take on more jobs for various types of businesses.

As the field developed further, specialized transcription equipment began to emerge. One such example is the transcription foot pedal, a device that allows a transcriber to control the playback of the audio, and advance or rewind the recording with their foot, leaving their hands free to keep typing.  

With the evolution of modern technology, including speech recognition, the task of transcription became even easier and more accessible. Audio recordings can now be made using more sophisticated tools for clearer sound, and files can be converted to different types and then stored locally on a device, or in the cloud.

With the advancement of technology came more advanced digital transcription software. Today’s state-of-the-art speech digital transcription equipment includes a variety of sophisticated features, including text expanders, term search, built-in spelling and grammar checks, and even audio equalizers to reduce background noise and control bass/treble.

Despite these advancements, most professional transcription providers today continue to rely on manual methods, resulting in expensive service costs and long turnaround times. This approach also limits scalability, operating at smaller volumes for lower profit margins.

Furthermore, the few organizations that do utilize digital transcription software only reach an average accuracy rate of 70-80%, falling short of the quality standards for many industries, where, in some cases, even 95% is insufficient to convey complex material. What separates the leaders from the rest of the pack? The answer lies in AI technology.

 

AI-Powered Transcription Technology

Propelled by the advancement of sophisticated AI technologies, the speech-to-text market is currently experiencing a boom. In fact, the $55-billion speech recognition industry has been forecasted to grow 11% from 2016 to 2024.

AI-driven speech recognition technology works using algorithms through acoustic and linguistic modeling. Acoustic modeling refers to the connection between linguistic units of speech and audio signals, while language modeling matches those sounds with word sequences to differentiate between similar-sounding words.

A key innovation that has spurred the evolution of dictation transcription software is the introduction of context-focused algorithms. It can often be hard to differentiate between two similar-sounding phrases without any background information. However, if the speech-to-text engine is fed with data about the particular subject matter, it can accurately convert the spoken words to text with minimal errors. Going forward, more available data and context-focused algorithms will result in better predictive models and even higher accuracy levels, with minimal need for human intervention.

 

Although speech recognition technology has come a long way, there is still room to grow. One area that offers significant room for improvement is in accent recognition. Speech analytics is another field that holds a lot of promise for future advancement. Turning unstructured data such as audio and video files into structured, text-based information will enable greater pattern recognition and the extraction of practical insights which is sure to have a great impact on many industries. As the amount of unstructured data continues to grow, digital transcription systems that are powered by AI technology stand to revolutionize the speed and accuracy of workflows in a variety of industries.

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