Smartphones and Digital Dictation

March 30, 2010

The use of the Smartphone has become indispensable in the legal business. Its adoption has been driven by the need for mobile and remote but collaborative working, timely client communication and access to legal systems such as customer relationship management, time recording, document management and practice management.  2010 will see the widespread use of mobile devices such as the BlackBerry for digital dictation in its evolved role as an instructional messaging tool. This is because using enterprise-level workflow-based digital dictation for instructional messaging is flexible, more effective and less time-consuming than email-based communication when directing support staff for client related work.  

Using digital dictation for instructional messaging enables users to use their voice to record instructions, make notes, create spoken text for documents and capture information. The diagram illustrates the digital dictation tool’s position – it sits between the devices that help capture and record data and those that are used for data entry for further input into other technologies used by businesses such as practice management systems (PMS), customer relationship management (CRM), document management systems (DMS) and time recording (TIME). 

diagram illustrating digital dictation's role in a work flow










This trend of using the BlackBerry for digital dictation and as an instructional messaging tool has already come to the fore in 2009. For instance, fee-earners at Johnston Carmichael, a top 25 UK accountancy firm, use the BlackBerry to relay digital dictations and instructions on client deliverables to back office staff. It ensures clarity of instruction, reduces document turnaround time and enables them to demonstrate client responsiveness, whilst saving the fee-earners having to draft elaborate emails or returning to the office to give instructions. Similarly, Devonshires Solicitors, a leading London City law firm, is also using the BlackBerry extensively for digital dictation and instructional messaging.  

Furthermore, the overall economic outlook for 2010 is more positive, but firms will remain apprehensive of a rising cost base as output increases, in fear of the touted ‘double dip’ in the economy. This will take the adoption of cloud computing-based technologies to critical mass as firms strategically resort to embracing the hosted model, including digital dictation-based instructional messaging solutions. Consuming such solutions from mobile devices will be the logical option, given the growing prevalence of Smartphones in the legal sector. In addition, to further abet administrative cost reductions and greater efficiency, the ease of application adoption offered by the hosted model will trigger the extension of instructional messaging technology into speech recognition tools accessible via the same mobile devices.  

Because these solutions can instantly enhance firms’ agility and response times to business situations, it will represent an easy win towards their drive for productivity and efficiency, not to mention the high rate of return on investment. The capital investment in hosted digital dictation solutions is practically negligible, which makes it an attractive option as cashflow control remains a priority for the foreseeable future for most law firms. 

As an example, Devereaux Solicitors has made a strategic decision to adopt enterprise Cloud technologies because they offer cost effective access to latest solutions, are easy to deploy and easily scale with business requirements. When the firm implemented Dictation-as-a-Service, it did not have to incur any expenditure to purchase additional servers. All it needed was a PC and an internet connection to deploy the solution firm-wide. Now Devereaux Solicitors has also deployed a BlackBerry solution as part of its hosted digital dictation system, further enhancing the firm’s mobile working capability.   

With the legal market opening up as a result of reforms under the Legal Services Act, firms need to be able to maximise cost and time efficiencies and demonstrate agility to meet customer needs. Seamless Smartphone access to key systems, including digital dictation via the cloud, makes business sense. In following this route, law firms will maximise their technology investments all round and give them themselves the ability to adopt the latest technologies, as they become available.  

Working smarter is the call of the hour.  

Rob Lancashire is Managing Director of nFlow: