By: Autumn On: September 26, 2019 In: Legal Transcription Comments: 7
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Verbatim transcription is an important service within the legal industry. Transcribed recordings are often preferable to the recordings themselves, as it’s easier to reference printed materials than it is to play back recordings multiple times.

However, there are very specific rules that govern verbatim transcription for legal purposes.

Before you have any conversation transcribed for legal purposes, make sure you understand the requirements of verbatim transcription.

1. You Can’t Correct Grammar with Verbatim Transcription

It can be tempting to correct improper grammar when transcribing legal conversations. But the purpose of verbatim transcription is to transcribe exactly what each person said — not how they should have said it.

So if someone uses slang or incorrect grammar, such as “wanna,” “gonna,” “ain’t,” or “cuz,” it must be included in the legal transcription.

2. Nonverbal Communication and Background Noise Should Be Noted

Another verbatim transcription rule is that transcriptions must include all sounds in the recording. This means that beyond words, transcriptionists also need to take note of sounds.

For example, when transcribing what’s going on in the courtroom, legal transcriptionists need to include the sounds of someone clearing their throat, coughing, or talking in the background.

If the person who is talking laughs, cries, shakes their head, or nods their head, this should be noted in the transcribed document, as well, whenever possible. These nonverbal cues may be just as meaningful as words, which is why they need to be present in the final product.

3. Don’t Forget to Include Filler Words

Some types of transcription – such as intelligent transcription — encourage the exclusion of filler words, such as “um” or “uh.” But with verbatim transcription, these sounds are required to be transcribed.

Like nonverbal communication and background noise, filler words can say a lot more than you think. Some lawyers might use them to help determine how nervous, prepared, or hesitant a person was when speaking in the courtroom or during interrogations.

This can obviously have an impact on any legal case, which is why leaving out even the smallest sounds and pauses is strictly not an option.

4. False Starts and Stutters Must be Documented, Too

Verbatim transcription rules state that stutters and false starts need to be transcribed. Examples include “I…I…” or “I didn’t, I mean, I did…”

These parts of speech might not mean much to some people, but to legal professionals, they can be telling. That’s why it’s important to leave it up to the experts who will be reading the document to decide if the false starts and stutters are meaningful or not.

Trust the Professionals

It’s best to leave the job of transcribing legal documents to professionals, like those at Legal Language, who have done this before. A general transcriptionist might not understand that they need to use verbatim transcription when it comes to legal material.

And if you neglect to get the proper help from professionals, you risk missing out on important legal information. This could have far-reaching consequences.

Contact us today for professional legal transcriptions you can count on. Call 1-800-788-0450 or or simply fill out our free quote form.

Do you have experience with verbatim transcription for legal purposes? Are there any important rules you think we missed? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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4 years ago

What are the specific state statutes that govern transcription of audio recordings in Missouri? Thank you.

Gaye Laing
2 years ago

2 and 3 will depend on your employer. We aren’t allowed to do that.

semantics evolution
2 years ago

Helpful 🙂

1 year ago

2 and 3 depends on the employer. I’ve never worked for anyone that wanted us to do it like that and most courts have instructed us not to. 4 as well, I’ve always been instructed to use “I — I –” and not “I… I…”

Rosario Santiago
1 year ago

Hi, do you know where I can find a full list of the legal requirements for legal transcription and translation?

8 months ago

#1 – This one, much like #3 and #4, is up to your client. But #1 also confuses “slangy sounding” words with grammar. They are not the same.

First and foremost, while you cannot correct grammar, you can correct what appears at first blush to be “slangy”. We’ve grown use to texting and sometimes even speaking in a sort of shorthand. So while what any individual may appear to sound like they’re saying, all they are doing is verbally rolling one word into another.

Having had dozens of different clients, I can tell you that not a single one ever accepted “gonna” or “wanna” or “shoulda” or, God forbid, “should of.” Because that’s not what they’re saying. They’re saying “going to” or “want to” or “should have” or “should’ve.” Ones lazy diction does not mean you type it with lazy diction. That’s lazy transcribing.

#2 – Is flat out false, UNLESS you’re instructed to be doing “100% verbatim” (and not “clean verbatim” which is much of what I’m describing). And I guarantee you that you’re not likely to find one single legal client who wants to see (cough)… (laughing)…. (sneeze)… (clearing throat)…

It’s a legal proceeding. It’s not closed-captioned for the hearing impaired. It serves ZERO useful purpose. No judge, no lawyer, no client is ever going to tell you that there is any legal or any other value that is derived from transcribing every sound in the background.

#3 – With the “unless you’re specifically instructed to be doing 100% verbatim” caveat, this is also overwhelmingly not true. Again, having worked with many different clients across a wide swath of the U.S., I have not had a single client who wanted “uhh, umm, uhh, ugh, duhhhhh…” or any such thing. Further, the notion that the any legal professional would be reading a transcript to decipher cues from written text having not been in the room with the witness during questioning is, at best, spouting wild conjecture and would carry no legal weight whatsoever.

Ever wonder why we are never instructed to use demonstrative punctuation, most specifically an exclamation point? One would think people would want to know when someone started screaming, right? Wrong! Evidence is on the content of the speech. The number of stutters, stammers, uhhs, ahhs, ohhs, is 100 percent, completely, and utterly irrelevant and holds no legal weight/value.

#4 – One final time with the “unless you’re specifically instructed to be doing 100% verbatim” caveat, this, too, is far from reality. I have exactly ZERO legal clients who want to see I, I, I… and, and, and, but, but, but in any way, shape, nor form. Zero legal weight/value, and makes it far more difficult for the legal reader to decipher the facts of the case as the oral evidence/record is produced.

The bottom line, these are ALL issues that you hash out with your prospective client (along with any template guidance) before you start hammering out the pages for them!

I mean no disrespect, but this article is far, far off the mark based on my approximately 15 years of experience in the field.

8 months ago
Reply to  Anthony

Hi Anthony,

Thanks for your comment. We believe you’re representing a legitimate point of view that dominates among professional court reporters.

We’ve done work in that area and agree with you that court reporters transcribing depositions are not hired to provide verbatim transcription but a cleaned up representation of what was said “in the room with the witness during questioning.” After all, no court reporter wants to embarrass a witness let alone a client who may have misspoken. Moreover, in most circumstances the sanitized version is more than sufficient to serve the purpose of the deposing attorney.

However, that is not the purpose of verbatim transcription, which is the subject of this article. The purpose of verbatim transcription is to deliver an exact reproduction of an audio (or audio-visual) recording – typically an evidentiary intercept or consensual wire. This is doubly true when a foreign language is involved.

At LLS, we’ve been engaged by thousands of attorneys on both sides of the bar and in many cases it’s exactly those “umms” and “ahhs” that supported critical arguments of fact and intent. Indeed, while we have been asked to sanitize transcripts, that is the exception that proves the rule where evidence is concerned.