Legal transcription is one of the most important aspects of legal work. It’s also one of the most complicated due to all the different rules about what can be said, how it should be said, and who has permission to say it.
There are four major rules that every legal transcriptionist should know before starting a transcription service for students.
This is one of the most important rules that transcribers should know. Along with federal courts and agencies like the FDA, many states have strict confidentiality laws about what can be said in a courtroom or other legal setting.
All transcripts must be marked with the words confidential or attorney-client work product and can’t be shared without written permission. Not even with other lawyers and your own employer. If you’re caught violating these rules, it means serious trouble for yourself and the company. You could be fired, and the company could be fined or shut down.
The rules about confidentiality are in place to ensure that all parties involved get a fair trial. If people were allowed to talk freely about what was said during court proceedings, it would make it much more difficult for attorneys and witnesses to put their best case forward.
- No Interjections
If you’re transcribing a deposition, hearing, or other legal settings, there are certain words and phrases that can’t be included in the transcript, such as the names of individuals involved in the case. Also, any form of profanity, such as “Oh my god!” or sexual language like “He touched me inappropriately” should not appear in the transcript. Instead, you should use “Inaudible” in these places.
Sounds and other noises that don’t have any words in them, like coughing or sneezing, should be marked with an asterisk. You can also write “Unintelligible” if you’re unsure what the noise is supposed to mean. It’s better than leaving out important information that someone might need later on.
This rule about no interjections is supposed to ensure that no information is left out of the transcript. Someone can say something important or interesting, even if it doesn’t seem like they’re trying to do so at first. So, including these parts could give attorneys and judges all the evidence they need.
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- No Opinions
All legal transcripts need to be completely objective. This means that you can’t tell what someone is thinking or use any words on the transcript that indicate your own opinion in a situation. It’s not uncommon for people who’ve been through a difficult time to say things like “I’m so mad at him” or “I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”
Instead of writing down exactly what people say during their deposition or trial, write something like “unintelligible,” you can include those phrases in your transcript if they’re present. Still, you have to change the words slightly. You can also write “unintelligible, but it’s clear from their tone of voice that xxx is what they were trying to say.” That way, the attorneys on both sides will be able to work out exactly how someone was feeling during a deposition.
The rules about no opinions are in place for good reason. If you tell people what they’re thinking or feeling at any given moment, it can change how they act later on. Also, it can completely change their case, depending on what you think about the situation. It’s much better for everyone involved to leave your personal opinions out of a legal transcript and focus on what you can hear.
- No Repetition
One of the most important rules about legal transcription is that you’re not allowed to repeat things. If someone doesn’t understand a question, for example, or makes a mistake when answering it, you can write “Inaudible” where those words would go and come back later once they’ve finished speaking their mind. This ensures that attorneys can work out exactly what someone is saying, even if they didn’t do it on the first try.
If you write down something that’s wrong or could be taken in a different way than intended, both sides will have to go back through important parts of their testimonies again until things are clear enough for everyone involved. It’s a lot of work, and it takes time away from what’s important – building up a case.
Also, the grammar and spelling need to be perfect. Transcribers often double-check their work for errors, but there may still be mistakes in the transcript. Still, clients need to know that they’re getting an accurate, professional transcript of what happened.
Before and during any legal transcription, you should keep these four major rules in mind. This will ensure that you are relaying the correct information about the case to everyone involved.