The release of the New Zealand edition of Dragon Legal (Dragon Legal NZ) has helped revolutionalise legal practice through the enhanced power of the new software, embracing artificial intelligence to add a major addition to the lawyer’s armoury.
The powerful software is well advanced and specifically tailored to the New Zealand accent, as well as containing a comprehensive database of New Zealand legal terms and phrases obtained by analysing a bewildering array of New Zealand legal documents.
Apart from the standard legal phrases, Dragon Legal NZ contains terms, phrases and content from NZ Statutes, law firms, local place names, Government entities and even commonly used Te Reo.
LawFuel spoke with Keegan Alexander lawyer Rachel Enderby, a Dragon user and commercial lawyer, to find some ‘coal face’ experience of what the new software is like in practice.
Rachel works on high level commercial leasing and property acquisitions and disposals for the Auckland-based firm, which specialises in property, commercial and commercial litigation.
The six partner practice is busy and growing, with a roster of local, national and international clients.
Rachel has been using Dragon Speech Recognition for a year, having been part of a pilot test at Keegan Alexander. It didn’t take long to show its magic.
“After the first day of trialling the product, I was hooked.”
Initial scepticism that may have existed among partners and staff dissipated, notwithstanding the range of work the software was being used for, which included commercial property, corporate and litigation departments.
The key selling point for the upgraded software is its accuracy, which is touted as being as within a hair’s breath of 100 per cent, together with a 30-second setup time (compared to original versions) and its overall time-saving and associated benefits. Rachel Enderby agrees.
“Looking back, I struggle to recall how I operated without it. I still on occasion marvel at the accuracy and speed of how the dictated word appears on the screen almost instantaneously in front of you. I would also add that I do speak very quickly and combined with this, Dragon has had to deal with my English accent but it has coped admirably.”
Ease of Use & Strong Support
The ability to use the software easily, with minimal down time for training and upskilling is a key requirement for many practices, particularly smaller firms that have limited capacity to handle the necessary training.
One of the major advantages of the Dragon Legal NZ product is the support offered by the long-standing local representatives, Sound Business Systems, who are particular about their ongoing support service for all Dragon users. Rachel agrees.
“I like the fact that Dragon has an accessible user support phone line so that if you do encounter technical difficulties, you can readily speak to one of their tech support team who will access remotely and sort out the issue.
“That the Dragon response is almost immediate is really helpful, and they are very diplomatic even when dealing with basic user error issues,” she says.
However, one of the key advantages of DragonDictate is that those who are not particularly IT-savvy can pick it up quickly and deploy it effectively.
The software itself integrates seamlessly with the entire MS Office suite including Win 10/Office2016 and with any Windows compliant software package, as well as being fully supported within a Citrix environment and a Remote Desktop environment.
Simple & Easy to Use
The Dragon software operates by simply using a pause button to switch on and off and using the mouse the same way as with manual typing.
“In terms of the software it is very easy to use; my IT skills leave much to be desired as the long-suffering support staff at KA will confirm.”
” I now use a wireless headset which means you are not tethered to your PC and the distance range is surprisingly good so that you can be looking at documents in your office, checking a file or undertaking other multitasking while still being able to dictate at the same time.”
Training the Dragon
One of the key advantages of Dragon is that it can literally learn as it goes. The artificial intelligence means it can correct any mistakes in words or phrases that might be made.
The usual tendency is to simply correct any errors on screen, but by ‘educating’ Dragon the words will be remembered for future use, negating the need for time-consuming manual corrections.
Rachel acknowledges that it was not her top priority in the course of a busy day to ‘teach the Dragon’ rather than make any corrections herself, but now she has done so, the dictation process has become even more plain sailing than it was to begin with.
“You do still have to check dictations when using Dragon to make sure nothing strange has occurred in the translation process but I would do this anyway whether I was typing myself or checking work prepared by my secretary.
“You also have to be careful when dictating words that could be construed as an instruction; so for example on occasion I have dictated the word ” send ” and have then watched with dismay as the email disappeared out of my draft box as Dragon thought I was instructing it to send the email.
“Thankfully that has only happened a couple of times and again, I suspect there is a setting I could activate to stop this happening.”
The learning curve with Dragon however is short. The time spent making minor corrections is reduced over time as the software not only learns the vocabulary with uncanny speed and accuracy, but the sheer speed at which Dragon translates dictation to the screen is impressive.
“That is probably the greatest advantage,” Rachel says.
“In a busy day when things can become very hectic, Dragon has become an invaluable tool on which I rely heavily in my day-to-day practice.”
So what does she typically use Dragon for?
“I use Dragon Dictate for a range of tasks: from drafting brief emails to longer notes of advice, preparing draft clauses, recording key attendance notes and providing narratives for invoicing.
“You can equally use Dragon for drafting lengthy documents but as a matter of personal choice I prefer to use traditional dictation but would then would use Dragon for making subsequent edits and amendments.”
Unexpected Benefits of Dragon
There have also been some unexpected benefits with Dragon that Rachel had not anticipated, beyond its speed and accuracy.
One is the focus it has developed in identifying any errors or corrections that are immediately apparent on screen and can be quickly corrected.
But there is also another, key benefit.
“Whilst I switch Dragon on as soon as I arrive in the office in the morning, and use on and off throughout the day, perhaps one of the biggest advantages is the support function it provides after hours when secretarial support may not always be available.
“On the basis that working late seems to be an occupational hazard of being a lawyer, the availability of Dragon when working in the evening and/or at home, has proved invaluable, and has meant that advice can be provided to clients without delay and urgent work turned around more quickly than may be the case if the work had to be left for the next morning or if I typed the work myself. “
“Time is King”
“On the basis that time is king, I have found that anything which can speed up the process and minimise time spent on administration is really helpful in delivering client service.”
As someone who can recall the days when computers did not occupy desks, let alone the mobile devices so ubiquitous now, Rachel had never quite acquired the touch typing skillset that others might enjoy.
“I have always been heavy on dictation since my early days in London and so Dragon certainly helps spread the load, leaving my secretary free to focus on the more complicated work.”
As Dragon becomes so adept, there have been numerous suggestions that it would replace secretarial staff and certainly its deployment in law firms can sharply reduce secretarial costs.
However, secretaries are not doomed to distinction by Dragon. As a commercial and property lawyer, Rachel agrees.
“I cannot see that happening and particularly working in commercial property, where we still rely heavily on our tirelessly patient secretaries to deal with often very lengthy and complex leasing documents, I see the function of Dragon as supplementing our support systems rather than being a substitute.”
Final Word & a Christmas Bonus
In summary, Rachel Enderby is a Dragon convert.
“I am a convert so much so that I cannot imagine working in a practice where Dragon was not available as a backup tool.”
There is another unexpected bonus she discovered also.
“As an unexpected bonus it has also proved very handy in other areas-for example, drafting increasingly lengthy round-robin Christmas letters which I can now effortlessly continue to inflict upon my family and friends back in the UK each year thanks to Dragon – outside of business hours of course.”
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