Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Is Your Dictaphone Dragging You Down?

DictaphoneIf you still use a Dictaphone, your law practice is on the fast track to obsolescence.

In fact, you may already be a dinosaur but just don’t know it yet.

That’s according to Sam Glover, whose popular blog offers law office management and marketing tips.

At the September 2014 Clio Cloud Conference in Chicago, and some months earlier in this blog post, Glover identified six technologies every lawyer should have gotten rid of long ago:

  • Dictaphone
  • Copiers
  • Fax machines
  • Typewriters
  • Blackberry
  • Windows XP

And yet, are some of these technologies still in use in your office?

I’m guessing yes. Most of you probably have a physical fax machine. Ditto a copier (pun intended). And maybe even a typewriter or two lying around.

You’re not alone. Lawyers from Nevada to New Jersey wrote Glover defending their continued use of the maligned machines.

Some said they used typewriters to fill out forms required by banks and real estate companies. Others said physical fax machines were more secure and less vulnerable to hackers than e-faxes. One said his local court required hard copies of certain documents.

Time is Running Out on the Dictaphone

And then there is Brian Focht. The self-professed techno-geek and author of the Cyber Advocate blawg says he attended the Cloud Conference and sat squirming in his seat as Glover pronounced the Dictaphone deader than a dodo. Here is what Focht posted about the episode:

“[Glover] asked the crowd if anyone still used one. I didn’t raise my hand. Sure, I type or use voice recognition for most of my practice, but I have one plugged right next to my monitor (where it most often serves as a speaker). The senior partners in my firm all still dictate their letters, motions, briefs, and pretty much everything else into their handy dictaphone, to be transcribed by a legal assistant.

I knew that full-time use of a dictaphone was probably obsolete, and employing someone for the sole purpose of transcribing your dictation is far more expensive than the best voice recognition software available. Yet even I was surprised by what I found on my return to my office.”

What Focht found was that his dictating days were coming to an end – whether he liked it or not.

“I hadn’t been back for more than an hour when I spoke to our firm’s office manager, who informed me that we had been contacted by our IT company and told that they would no longer be supporting our dictation equipment. I didn’t understand. Our digital dictaphones were newer than our desktops (not saying much, but…). And it wasn’t that there was something to upgrade to. Apparently, she had been contacted by other local office managers about the same issue. They all called, wondering what solution was available. For us, apparently, it involved begging for another year of support, to which our IT firm relented. That’s it – one more year.

Ready, Set, Dictate

All of this reminded me of my very first law job way back in the early 1980s.

The New Associate Orientation process consisted of:

  • Getting taken around the office and introduced to my new colleagues (15 minutes).
  • Receiving a guided tour of the law library (10 minutes).
  • Learning how to use the copy machine (5 minutes).
  • Learning how to use the Dictaphone (3 full days).

The Dictaphone was a wondrous device indeed. There was a trigger-activated handset, a foot pedal, a black box straight out of Star Trek and a long wire that snaked across the floor and disappeared into a hole in the wall.

Amazing. I pulled the trigger. I spoke into the handset. Pretty soon a secretary brought me a piece of paper that contained the four words that I had spoken just minutes before.

They had been perfectly transcribed. They looked lovely on the page. They were: “Testing, one, two, three.”


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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