Legal transcription services cost evaluation

How can I compare costs when considering outsourced transcription providers?

If finding an outsourced transcription provider is on your to-do list, then you are likely to have a long list of questions that need to be answered.  Fee earners, partners and in-house secretarial staff may all have raised different points of concern and will be looking for reassurance that the transcription cost will match the savings that can be achieved.  So where to start…

How transcription service providers charge

You may have received quotes from transcription companies that are difficult to compare. This is because there are two different charging models available in the market, the first being a rate per minute of dictation, and the second being a rate per line of transcribed text.   The first model, (per minute of dictation) tends to be indicative of an onshore UK based company.  This is the most up-to-date and transparent charging structure as it allows a customer to work out a fee before a dictation is sent to the transcription pool.  This makes budgeting far easier and allows a Practice/Ops Manager to calculate what spend would be in comparison to the current solution.

The second option (a rate per line of text) is based on a character count and tends to be the model used by offshore providers.  If you receive a quote on this basis be certain you understand how they calculate their line count (do they include spaces etc).  Your transcription service provider should be able to tell you how their quote would compare against a quote using the alternative charging model.

How does the cost compare to recruiting?

Recruitment is always time-consuming and typically very expensive. Advertising in traditional printed media is expensive and often yields very little response.  Web advertising on job sites, while cheaper, can often involve sifting through lots of applications that are not right for the role, taking valuable time within the practice. To hire a secretary in London will cost a firm approximately £37,500. It is likely an average size firm with 20 to 30 fee earners will need to four secretaries to manage document production. With savings in the region of 40% to be achieved through outsourcing it is easy to see how the decision not to replace a staff leaver can quickly reduce your fixed overheads.

I’ve always used temporary staff to cover holidays, why change now?

Hiring a temporary medical secretary to cover staff absences or peaks in workflow is rarely a straightforward process.  Often practices have to work with more than one recruitment agency to source candidates who may then secure permanent work elsewhere without fulfilling the assignment.

Legal secretaries juggle a range of duties while trying to keep on top of the typing list. They need to answer the phone, liaise with clients and other lawyers and deal with fee earner’s queries. On average, because of the interruption to typing time, a legal secretary will get through 15 minutes of dictation each hour they work.  It is easy to see how quickly a backlog of typing can occur when staff take holiday leave or the firm is particularly busy.  Transcribers working for a transcription provider work in an uninterrupted environment which allows their productivity to create even higher savings in comparison to the cost of the recruitment agency secretary.

What are the hidden costs of transcription?

Be extra vigilant about hidden costs when sourcing a transcription provider, such as: –

  • Set-up costs can be charged – look for free set up;
  • Software costs – ensure the software is free;
  • Clarity of charges – is the cheaper charge rate based on a long turnaround time? Will you be charged a premium for next day turnaround?
  • Cost of offshoring – ensure your work isn’t being sent offshore (read more about this point in our data security blog here).

Is your chosen typing provider already integrated with your firm’s digital dictation system (Lexacom, BigHand, Crescendo, Olympus etc)?  If so, this will make the set up even quicker.

Costs of data security and breaches

One of the most important considerations is where the transcription provider is sending data to, and what are they doing to ensure its security? A UK transcription service provider offering a price that seems too good to be true is likely to be using an offshore resource to produce the documents.  However, a UK service doesn’t necessarily cost more when you factor in the quality of the document being produced.  A letter that comes back from the transcription company full of errors because it has been produced offshore will need to be corrected and edited either by the inhouse secretary or the fee earner, making the end price of the document production actually higher than the UK provider.

UK based transcription companies will also have to adhere to GDPR standards when it comes to securing your client data.  It is the responsibility of the law firm (as data controller) to ensure their chosen provider has all the relevant security practices and policies in place to meet SRA guidelines.  Failure to do so leading to a data breach can be damaging and expensive and have a real impact of the lives of the data subjects involved.

What next?

Here is a quick list of questions to help:

  1. Is my quote on a rate per minute of dictation or per line of text?
  2. Can I work out how the outsourcing cost compares to the cost of my current resource?
  3. Is my chosen provider keeping my client data in the UK?
  4. Am I paying a premium for a next day service?
  5. Are there any hidden set up costs or costs to integrate with my digital dictation system?

More information can be found on our legal transcription page.  Alternatively if you would like to ask us some questions give our team a call today on 01565 748000 or via our contact us page. We’ll be happy to help.

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