I think I've mentioned a bit about one of the dictation programs we use at work: Dragon Naturally Speaking. It's a handy little program that works with the computer. The attorneys speak into either a headset or a microphone and the words are magically transcribed into print. Cool, eh? What do they even need secretaries for?
As a secretary, our job is to at least put the dictated text into the correct format--usually a letter or a pleading. Some of us then return the documents to the attorneys for proofreading, and some of us do the proofreading ourselves and then return the documents to the attorneys for their signature or further editing. My practice is to do the latter--I think it saves the attorneys a little time and it's the same type of product they'd get from me if I had transcribed it from a recording. Old school, that's me.
Sometimes--a lot of the time--Dragon isn't quite accurate. And sometimes, if the attorney is interrupted in his or her dictation and forgets to tell Dragon to "go to sleep," the results can be amusing.
For instance, I was proofreading through a legal document one day and came across "manufacturers and distributors are not rea and is in an and Z you are a you and I and I and is a and I and I and you and I and is a a sonably necessary." Makes no sense, right? How about now: "manufacturers and distributors are not rea
and is in an and Z you are a you and I and I and is a and I and I and you and I and is a a sonably necessary"? This is a perfect example of when an attorney's dictation is interrupted for another conversation--it picks up a few things and seems to turn everything into short, easily identifiable words. Mostly. Sometimes, though, if the person dictating to Dragon isn't careful, it will pick up some interesting conversations!
Because attorneys have a bit of a specialized language that includes less common legal terminology and Latin words, Dragon will reinterpret what it THINKS the person is saying. Our use of medical terminology makes it even more complicated. I'll give you a couple examples:
In a medical record summary: "the deep patient was pruning and increasing his activities." No, the poor guy wasn't increasing his activities by getting out and pruning his garden! He was actually "improving" and increasing his activities. We have no idea where Dragon got "deep."
At the beginning of a trial, attorneys may ask the judge to make rulings about what evidence will be allowed and what will not. Those requests to the judge are called motions in limine. Dragon likes "motions in lemonade" better!
In another medical record summary: "20 percent of patients with winter arthritis can have naked server ologies." Sadly, I can't remember what it was SUPPOSED to say, but if you have winter arthritis, try to keep your pants on, okay? You have a 1 in 5 chance of succeeding. I don't even want to think about what you may be serving while naked!
When I took a week off work early in April, another secretary, Teri, helped out one of my bosses. Upon my return, I was surprised when that attorney sent me a Dragon document that said, "I’m sick on Teri's instructions, we will proceed as outlined above." Really? That's not very nice of Teri! What it should have said, though, was "Absent contrary instructions, we will proceed as outlined above." Teri and I thought it was pretty funny! Dragon turned that same boss's own name into "resourceful trolley." To protect her identity, I won't tell you what her name is, but it starts with an "r" and rhymes with resourceful trolley--still, it's really not that close.
I guess that even with a program like Dragon, there's still a need for someone to keep an eye on things. And isn't that pretty much what secretaries DO anyway?
It's a good thing we old school secretaries don't shock easily because yesterday Dragon started talking about sex! Yep! The letter was addressed to an attorney for the other side in a case and said, ". . . refills in up appropriate for you to have sex particles per stations . . . ." Can you guess what it should have said? No? I couldn't figure it out either, so I had to ask the attorney why she was talking about sex particles per stations. Turns out it was "we feel it is inappropriate for you to have ex parte communications . . . ." ("Ex parte communications" are when one attorney communicates with the judge or another official about the case without the opposing attorney being present.)
They say Dragon can be trained but I'm skeptical. At least it keeps us amused.