The Transcript as the Attorney’s Tool


The Transcript as the Attorney’s Tool

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By Sheila Atkinson-Baker


Here is an interesting view of the subject of transcripts, seen through the eyes of the attorney, our client.

The reporter’s transcript is the official record of legal proceedings.  Deposition transcripts are used 1) for nailing down witness testimony for trial, and 2) for trial preparation.  Court transcripts are used for preparation of motions and briefs.  They are also read by appellate judges to review testimony and lower court rulings.  They are a verbatim record of a legal proceeding.

We all know this.  So why mention it?  The answer is to give an orientation to a specific point:  Transcripts are official, legal documents, and so must be given the necessary attention to detail and care that they merit.

Once scoped and a spellcheck run, proofreading is the action which puts polish on the product.  Transcripts are proofread from the viewpoint of an attorney who is reading it for the first time.  How does one accomplish this?

Be in a distraction-free space where you can fully focus. Read for content and understanding. Does it make sense? If no, why? Is there a word you don’t understand? If so, look it up and make sure it fits in the context. Is it the wrong word? If so, what should the word really be? Is some research needed? If something doesn’t seem quite right, double check your steno or audio.

Some real examples:

Transcript: I started with them as an in-charge director for headquarters.
Actual testimony: I started with them as an HR director for headquarters.

Transcript: The qualifying indications that are required
Actual testimony: The qualifications that are required

In the first example, “HR” and “in-charge” could sound very similar in a roomful of people, yet only one makes sense. The second example is an obvious “misstroke” which was not caught in proofreading, yet only the correct one makes sense.

Video’d transcripts are viewed by the client on a computer, following along the testimony next to the witness’s image. There are several legal computer apps which facilitate this. These apps display a split screen – the video’d image of the witness on one side of the screen and a scrolling transcript which is synchronized to the video on the other side of the screen. Because of this, transcripts must match the video exactly. This requires transcript preparation with an even higher level of precision.

When preparing transcripts, keep in mind that they are a tool for the client. Take the care to back up our legal system with the high quality transcripts that our attorneys and judges deserve and require. We can then feel great about our products, and by doing so we also maintain a perception of respect for our profession.