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.
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.