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Legal transcription is a lucrative career which gives you the freedom to work for yourself when and where you want to work.
There is a lot to know about how to become a legal transcriptionist, however. This discourages a lot of beginners, especially those who don’t have any degree. But don’t let it discourage you.
This legal transcription guide will tell you all you need to know about how to become a legal transcriptionist as a total beginner with no experience and no degree.
Legal Transcription Beginner’s Guide
What is Legal Transcription?
Legal transcription is the creation of written documents from audio recorded in civil and criminal legal matters.
In both civil and criminal matters, transcriptionists work on documents such as letters, motions, summaries, etc. These documents are typed up from audio recorded by lawyers, paralegals and other legal professionals.
In criminal matters only, transcriptionists may also do law enforcement transcription. This involves listening to and typing up body cam recordings, suspect interviews, dictated police reports and other recordings involving police and other law enforcement agencies.
All three types of transcription work are done all over the world except for medical transcription. Medical transcription work is no longer found in the United States, as doctors and hospitals in the U.S. now outsource almost all medical records to be transcribed as cheaply as possible in developing countries.
You do not need a degree or any type of transcription experience in order to do legal transcription.
Some legal transcriptionists work as employees of a company, but most work as freelancers.
Freelancing allows you to work for more than one transcription company, law firm or whoever hires you. It also allows you to work the hours you want to work. As a freelance legal transcriptionist, you’ll also be able to work in whatever location you want to work, whether that be at home, a coffee shop or even while traveling.
Legal Transcriptionist Salary
Legal transcriptionists currently earn an average of $65,000 per year, according to Transcribe Anywhere.
Legal Transcription Skills
When you’re working at a job like transcription, the faster you can do the work the more money you can earn. This doesn’t mean you should speed through transcripts as quickly as you can, though, at the expense of quality. The way to do the work faster is to know how to do the work well.
You may already have some of the skills you’ll need as a transcriptionist. If you don’t already have these skills, don’t worry. You can learn them with good transcription training.
Some of the skills you need are:
Transcription is not a hunt-and-peck kind of job. If you don’t know how to type, you will have to learn how before you become a legal transcriptionist.
Spelling and punctuation
If you’re not innately good at spelling and punctuation, study them and become good. You will be able to work much more quickly and efficiently and earn more money if you don’t have to frequently stop transcribing to look up spellings and punctuation.
You will have a much easier time if you have a completely solid grasp of the language in which you’re transcribing. You’ll also be able to produce higher quality transcripts so that you can develop a good reputation and get all the work you want.
You really should have a knowledge of legal terminology in the country or countries that you hope to do transcription work for. It’s also useful to have some understanding of that country’s legal system.
Earning money as a transcriptionist means you will be sitting and listening and typing for long periods of time, so you will need to have the ability to do this.
Legal Transcription Training
You cannot just jump into this freelance career overnight. Legal transcription requires training.
The businesses you’re transcribing for will almost certainly be able to tell if you were professionally trained or not. Most companies which hire freelance legal transcriptionists as well as employee transcriptionists require that you pass at least one test before you begin with them. A transcription training course is the best way to ensure that you can pass these tests.
Most transcription courses you’ll find are general transcription courses. You’ll want to take a course that focuses specifically on legal transcription, though. You’ll also not want to take just any course but the course that will give you exactly what you need in order to get started on the right path as a successful freelance legal transcriptionist.
A few good legal transcription courses are:
Transcribe Anywhere legal transcription course
This course was developed by and is taught by a veteran transcriptionist named Janet Shaughnessy. It’s a self-paced program which typically takes two to four months to complete. Learn more by taking the Transcribe Anywhere free mini transcription course.
Learn Legal Transcription
“Learn the skills you need to work with attorneys and court reporters from the comfort of your home in just 2-4 months.” Learn more about Learn Legal Transcription right here.
This six-month 80-hour course prepares you to enter the in-demand field of legal transcription. Learn more about Ed2Go here.
This medical careers training program offers a legal transcription course which typically takes their students three to six months to complete. Learn more about Meditec here.
Learn more about the most popular legal transcription training course, Transcribe Anywhere, in this short interview with its founder Janet Shaughnessey.
Transcribe Anywhere Legal Transcription Course – Interview with Founder Janet Shaughnessey
What skills and interests are important as a legal transcriptionist?
To be a successful legal transcriptionist, you need:
- an interest in the law
- to be committed to study and practice
- to love to work on own
- to be a fast and accurate typist
- proficiency in English grammar and punctuation
- an understanding of legal terminology and documentation requirements
- a mastery of Microsoft Word or other word processing software
- a mastery of transcription software
What is the Transcribe Anywhere legal transcription training course like?
The field of legal transcription is growing rapidly, and I designed this course to meet that demand. This course is packed with everything you need to start earning income as a legal transcriptionist, including:
- 14 full-length training modules
- typing drills for speed and accuracy
- over 100 pages of legal terminology (both English and Latin in a downloadable format)
- definitions and descriptions of types of law and the legal process
- how to find work as an employee
- how to find higher-paying work as an independent contractor
In fact, we’ve recently upgraded our legal transcription training as well as our general transcription training. Now people have the option to choose a total package where they learn both legal and general transcription plus receive everything they need to start working as a transcriptionist plus receive lifetime support.
Specifically, our upgrade includes everything in the basic training plus:
- the equipment (a transcription bundle including software, headset, and a foot pedal)
- priority email support
- lifetime access to live one-on-one coaching with our team
- a done-for-you professionally designed website (using the Transcriptionist Pro theme) + email support from our developer (upon passing the final exam)
How long does it take to complete your legal transcription course?
Our legal transcription course takes, on average, about four months to complete. There’s variance in date to completion and certification because our courses are self-paced and students’ schedules are all different.
Do Transcribe Anywhere graduates earn legal transcription certification?
Yes. students who complete our course and pass the final exam receive transcription certification.
About how long does it take for your graduates to find legal transcription jobs?
A. Our graduates, almost without exception, are working within a week or two of completing the course. There’s a ton of work for qualified transcriptionists!
Is it better to work as a freelance legal transcriptionist or as an employee at a company?
It’s definitely better to work as a freelancer. We can work with attorneys, court reporters, law enforcement, or obtain a variety of work from a larger transcription company.
Legal transcriptionists may work for a larger transcription company, but they’re still freelancers. We prefer to set our own schedules.
Of course, people are free to do as they wish, but there’s no such thing as financial security unless you have marketable skills. When you work with a variety of clients, even if you lose one, you still have others to work with.
Do most legal transcriptionists work at home, in a legal office or somewhere else?
Legal transcriptionists work from home. I suppose there are still some that might work in an attorney’s office if legal transcription is only one part of their job description. But the vast majority of us work from home.
Legal Transcription Equipment
Fortunately, you don’t need to invest much money in equipment in order to get started as a legal transcriptionist. There is even one transcription training program that will actually give you the equipment you need when you enroll in their all-inclusive course which teaches both legal and general transcription.
In addition to a computer and internet, the equipment you need for transcription is:
Many transcriptionists simply transcribe in Word. Many other transcriptionists transcribe using Express Scribe Pro, a professional audio play transcription available for both Mac and PC.
The better you can hear what you are transcribing, the more quickly and easily you can work and the more money you can earn. If you can afford it, high-quality noise-canceling headphones will really help you drown out everything in the background so you can hear, focus and work efficiently. If you need something more affordable, there are a huge number of regular headphones on the market.
There are so many headphones, in fact, both noise canceling and regular, that it can be confusing and time consuming to try to decide which ones to buy. You can narrow it down and more easily choose the transcription headphones best for you by using this info I compiled about the best headphones for transcriptionists.
This is an optional piece of equipment. Some legal transcriptionists use foot pedals, some do not. Basically 100% of those transcriptionists who do use foot pedals use the Infinity USB foot pedal.
This is also optional, but a text expander can really speed up your typing and save you time. I myself use and highly recommend the TextExpander brand. You can read what I wrote about exactly how TextExpander works here.
Also optional, Grammarly is the world’s number one software to help you compose error-free typewritten documents. They have a free version, and you can get that free version of Grammarly right here.
Legal Transcription Jobs
To become a transcriptionist, you will probably want to know where you can find legal transcription jobs.
The best way to know where to find good legal transcription work is to learn where other transcriptionists have found their work. You can learn the where transcriptionists themselves find transcription jobs here.
There are lots of other places you can find legal transcription jobs too, such as:
- Law firms
- Corporate legal departments
Legal transcription is a lucrative freelance career for people with the right skills, even total beginners. Now that you’ve read this legal transcription guide, are you Interested in getting started with your legal transcription training? Get started for free with Transcribe Anywhere and their free mini-course.
(This updated post was originally published in 2020.)
Sabina Lohr is a lifelong freelancer turned entrepreneur who created World of Freelancers to help others discover how to work for themselves online and live the freelance lifestyle. She’s always really enjoyed the freedom that freelancing brings, including several years on and off of working online while traveling and living abroad.