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(UPDATED SEPTEMBER 1, 2020)
Legal transcription is an excellent way to earn money as a freelancer or as an employee in 2020 if you have the right skills to do the job well and enjoy it at the same time.
Specializing specifically in legal transcription can make you an expert in this niche, and you could see your income grow faster and easier than as a general transcriptionist or as a transcriptionist who does both general and legal.
Like everything, the work-from-home job of legal transcription has changed a bit due to the pandemic. In August 2020 I spoke to a transcription expert on what’s changed and how things are going with legal transcription now. You’ll find what she says later in this article.
Legal Transcription – What You Need to Know in 2020
Here is what you need to know about how to earn money in the field of legal transcription in 2020.
What is Legal Transcription?
Legal transcription is one of three types of transcription. The other two are general and medical.
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.
Legal transcriptionists listen to audio recordings – usually dictations of legal documents such as letters, motions, summaries, etc. – made by lawyers, paralegals and other legal professionals and type up the audio into written documents.
You do not need a degree or experience to do legal transcription.
Legal Transcriptionist Salary
According to the online transcription course Transcribe Anywhere, legal transcriptionists currently earn an average of approximately $60,000 per year.
According to the Transcription Certification Institute, depending on your skills and expertise, you can earn anywhere from approximately $20 to $45 an hour as a legal transcriptionist.
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 at the expense of quality. But it does mean that if you innately possess the knowledge and skills to do the work, it will naturally come pretty easily and quickly to you.
Typing – 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.
Language fluency – You will have a much easier time being a legal transcriptionist 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.
Legal terminology – 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.
Patience – 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 and the Pandemic
I spoke to Janet Shaughnessy, founder of and educator at the number one online transcription training program, Transcribe Anywhere, in August 2020. I asked her how the field of transcription in general, and legal transcription in particular, has changed, if at all, due to the pandemic. Janet still does transcription work herself and understands freelance transcription inside and out. Here is what she said.
“At the very beginning of the pandemic, the legal field slowed for a bit. But it didn’t last long after the legal community realized that most matters could be handled virtually. It seems like everybody’s back in business.”
“We’ve transcribed a lot of Zoom meetings,” Janet says. “This is, fortunately or unfortunately, a trend that I see continuing.”
“We’ve also enrolled many students who’ve either lost their jobs completely or are on unemployment with an uncertain future. They’re very wise to acquire skills, and transcription is certainly one of those, that will help them move forward with confidence, knowing that they’re securing in-demand transcription skills.”
Legal Transcription Training Programs
You cannot just jump into this job overnight. Legal transcription requires training. Formal training is best. The businesses you’re transcribing for will almost certainly be able to tell if you were professionally trained or not.
I personally like to know what I’m doing, especially when it comes to work, so I do recommend taking an official legal transcription course before you try to find work as a transcriptionist. 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.
I recommend the Transcribe Anywhere legal transcription training online. This program is one of only two legal transcription training programs that are recommended by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT). This is a self-paced program which typically takes two to four months to complete.
You can get excellent insight into legal transcription and Janet Shaughnessy’s Transcribe Anywhere legal transcription course by taking her free four-lesson mini course here.
The other online transcription program recommended by AAERT is BlueLedge. You can learn more about BlueLedge here.
Legal Transcription Certificate
There is currently no legal transcription certificate offered or necessary for legal transcriptionists.
Legal Transcription Equipment
Fortunately, you don’t need to invest much in equipment to get started as a legal transcriptionist. In addition to the obvious computer, there are a couple pieces of transcription equipment you will need as well as a few optional tools.
Transcription software – 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.
Transcription headphones – 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.
Foot pedal – 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.
Text expander – 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.
Grammarly – Also optional, Grammarly is the world’s number one software to help you compose error-free typewritten documents. They have a free version, which you can get right here.
Legal Transcriptionist Jobs
Now that you know all about how to become a transcriptionist, you will probably want to know where you can find legal transcriptionist jobs. You can learn the 12 most popular transcription companies where people who are already transcriptionists find legal transcription jobs from home here.
There are also places other than transcription companies where you can look for legal transcriptionist jobs once you have training, such as:
- Law firms
- Corporate legal departments
If you want to learn even more, you can get Janet Shaughnessy’s free Transcribe Anywhere mini-course all about legal transcription right here.
Now you have what you need to know about how to earn money in the field of legal transcription in 2020. Let me know if you have any questions for myself or Janet Shaughnessy in the comments below!