23 Jan 2020 Danielle Chazen
5min read

The Digital Continuum: Transforming Legal Processes

Artificial Intelligence is helping to make current legal processes run more efficiently. Currently, with the growing shortage of court stenographers available to lend their services, courts, legal agencies and clients are experiencing delays and increased costs. One area where AI is being employed most successfully is the production of admissible transcripts of legal proceedings.

Yet AI-based speech-to-text based transcripts are not going to completely eliminate stenographic transcripts overnight. Alex Hewitt, Director of Operations at vTestify, said he sees it as a ‘digital continuum.’ He believes the transformation will be systematic and a phased approach over time.

“There will always be attorneys who would still have the traditional stenographic-based reporters… but I think what you’re seeing is a phase shift over time.”

Hewitt views this phase shift through three different methods beyond the traditional capture and transcription method still employed by many.

“There are three methods that attorneys are adopting that are shifting toward and moving the percentage more towards digital,” Hewitt said.

Phase 1: The Remote Stenographer Method

This first method still uses your classic stenographer, but they are able to service more depositions using remote technology such as vTestify and other providers.

“Some of the major players, they’re realizing we have a limited number of stenographers in certain markets, such as Chicago is a big market that’s seeing a significant decrease in the amount of stenographers. So what they’re doing is setting up a stenographer in a central location or even from the comfort of their own home,” he said.

When remote, stenographers can service more depositions. They are connected remotely and typing while listening into the deposition room. In these situations, all others involved can either be in the same room or each participating individual may be remote as well. Hewitt said he sees this as one logical step that moves us towards the digital future – the AI speech-to-text system.

Phase 2: The Digital Reporter Method with Stenographic Transcript

This phase is where the unbundling of the workflow begins – when one separates the digital capture from the production of the transcript. This phase involves a digital reporter who does digital capture of audio or audio-video, but they are not producing the transcript.

This phase presents a separation of labor to service more depositions with a higher population of digital reporters that you can deploy into the field. A digital reporter requires much less training to become proficient, so they are more numerous. Then, stenographers can stay focused on transcripts instead of traffic.

“What we’re seeing in the industry is unbundling the workflow [with] digital reporters servicing more and stenographers at home. Then, once you unbundle the workflow, that is what really opens the door to this futuristic bleeding-edge method, which is what Verbit offers, in my humble opinion.”

Phase 3: Digital Reporter and Digital Transcript

This phase, which is already being enlisted by many legal agencies, involves hiring digital court reporters and utilizing automatic speech recognition machines to receive digital transcripts quickly. Companies who provide human editors to check the work of the ASR machines provide the extra edge in terms of accuracy. Accuracy is of the utmost importance when considering legal proceedings and the repercussions of their results.

Pick A Provider That Treats Data & Self-Learning like Tesla

Hewitt said when jumping in and selecting a provider for a digital transcript solution, pick one that specializes in legal specifically, but also puts data first.

From a legal standpoint, Hewitt said he was impressed by Verbit since it was “the only company that was willing to go the extra mile of actually having their own Scopist in-house” to provide a final transcript to legal clients that is as close as possible to perfect due to its data.

“I think a good analogy is Tesla in cars right now. Why did Tesla just recently become, in terms of their stock value, one of the most valuable car companies ever? I think that’s largely because of the artificial intelligence and the data that is being collected. Within the 21st century, data is king, in my mind,” Hewitt said.

Tesla’s self-driving technology is light years ahead of any other car company because they’re collecting data from every single Tesla car sold to advance their AI and self-driving model for the future, and so it’s getting better and better over time, Hewitt said.

“A big reason of why I think Tesla is a huge success right now, I think that also applies to Verbit. That same thinking is that [Verbit] started with the concept that ‘we are AI,’ and every single transcript that comes through here is enhancing the model for the future. If you’re going to look for a transcript company that you think in the long run has a winning model, you can look to other industries that are using AI models too. As you guys grow and grow and grow, the model only gets better and better and better. I think that’s a winning model. I think that’s something that if you’re looking at a company that you want to stick with for the long run, that’s a good indicator of success,” Hewitt continued.

Applications and Where to Begin

Hewitt suggests a good place for companies just getting into digital to start are cases such as family law where one encounters long depositions. Often, individuals involved in these cases do not have significant resources to spend on legal services and can truly benefit from adopting technological methods for capture and transcription.

“A good way to think about it going into the future is above-the-line cases and below-the-line cases or what in a way is maybe higher value and lower value,” Hewitt said. “As the resource pool of stenographers is shrinking, it makes more sense for lower-value cases to start adopting these new technological advances, such as Verbit and vTestify, in order to help save you money.”