One of the interesting things about the adoption of new technology in law firms is that it is frequently small firms that lead the charge. An innovative lawyer running a smaller practice can make a decision without the delays that can accompany large firm practice.
So it is with Auckland boutique practice Thomas & Co where principal Don Thomas makes it his business not only to serve a wide range of personal and business clients, but to also ensure the firm’s IT systems are there to assist in the delivery of top flight legal service.
Case in point is voice recognition technology, which Don Thomas says has delivered the three essentials for the firm:
- Cut costs
- Built efficiencies, and
- Saved time.
Thomas & Co has nine staff currently, down from 15 a short time ago. However the reduced numbers do not reflect reduced profitability or productivity. To the contrary the firm has increased turnover and profits.
“This reduction has been through attrition as our use of technology including Dragon (voice recognition) has improved our productivity so staff leaving have not been replaced,” Don Thomas says.
His introduction to the voice recognition software occurred some years ago when he “played with it,” being Dragon v1 software but gave up because it was too hard.
However he was seeking a change to deliver far more efficiency than was being employed by his firm, as with most others.
“We were all still using a system where the documents we authored were recorded on dictaphones and then queued to be typed up by a dedicated resource. The process was both time consuming and frustrating. Dragon’s capability could free us from this laborious and archaic process.”
Times and the software however have changed radically. The voice recognition software of yesteryear bears little resemblance to the current technology which is both hugely efficient and also user-friendly.
This is the age of a new, highly efficient and super-smart “Dragon”.
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Voice recognition is now almost 99 percent, including the use of technical terms, Maori language and a recognition of the user’s own voice, accent and any other idiosyncrasies. For instance, it permits fast adaption to any new or corrected word, correctly identifying the word at the next instance.
Being user-friendly was a key to Don Thomas’s decision to employ the software in his practice. As a small but busy law practice he had no time for lengthy and frustrating training sessions.
Because the latest Dragon software is intuitive, with users or ‘authors’ speaking into their computer rather than a Dictaphone, the one-on-one training provided by the software’s supplier Sound Business Systems was easy to implement and deploy.
The New Generation Dragon
The latest Dragon v12 software is a hugely efficient and clever dictation system, worlds away from its earlier iteration as trialled by Don Thomas.
“As with anything new there has been resistance. In the end though people come to accept the change once they realise how much easier and efficient it makes their working life,” Don says.
“It would be a rare author in any legal practice that does not already use dictation equipment. Once you come to realise this is exactly the same, with the benefit that you can see your thoughts appearing in front of you, the rest becomes easy.”
The ability to easily edit work with the words appearing instantly on the computer screen meaning documents could be more readily created and edited, leading to greater productivity.
“The work product is created directly in the correct file and immediately accessible to anyone else working on that file,” Don says.
As Don Thomas points out, even the fastest and most accurate speed typist cannot type as fast as they can talk. When the document authorship is combined with accuracy of close to 100 per cent the combination is one that delivers huge efficiencies for firms.
“Also being able to verbally express thoughts as they come to mind means fuller, more accurate documentation as you do not lose your train of thought waiting for your hands to catch up,” he says.
Thomas & Co have been able to produce ‘on the spot’ documents, freeing up typists to work ini other areas of the practice. “With the need for typing now defunct, we redirected them into more productive areas as true personal assistants and authors in their own right.”
The firm changed from having four authors and six assistants to having seven authors and two support staff.
Increased turnover and profits followed for the firm.
A Passionate Prophet
Don Thomas never intended to become a prophet for the benefits of using modern technology, including voice recognition software, in a law practice.
However the software has seen him recognise the benefits to deliver not just better bottom line figures but also a more efficient, user-friendly result for employees, he is keen for others to take up the tool.
If he can assist even one “lost soul” practitioner he is anxious to help.
“Voice recognition is an important component in the technology that has enabled us to reduce staffing overheads and work in a “paperless” environment.”
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