If you were born from about 1980 onwards, chances are high that you’re a pretty good typist.
There’s also a good chance that you are handy with computers generally – you know how to use the software, you know how to produce documents and letters.
And so part of you resists dictation.
Today I’m going to tell you why that’s foolhardy.
I Don’t Care how Fast you Are – Dictating is Faster
Guess what? I type pretty fast.
In fact I reckon I can match it with some pretty speedy secretaries around the place, although I admit some would put me to shame.
Yet, in all but the shortest pieces of email correspondence, dictating is by far the better way to do it.
You see, it’s not just the letter.
It’s finding the address.
It’s checking the style guide to make sure you’ve used numbers, headings and the like correctly.
It’s putting the right signing block on the letter with the correct partner.
It’s saving the letter to the correct file, in the right place, using the right format and description.
It’s printing the letter, going to the printer, waiting, clearing the jam, refilling the paper, and eventually (if you’re lucky) coming out with the product to sign.
So while you might be able to produce the contents of a short letter or a tiny document, those tasks make it much longer than you thought it was going to take.
In longer documents, I’ll bet that over time your otherwise fast typing slows right down and your word for word match with a typist becomes lackluster at best.
The short version: when it comes to the amount of your time required to produce the product, dictation is always faster.
Dictation Brings Clarity
I’ll be the first to admit that, at first, dictating longer and more complex documents can be challenging. This is a frequent objection I hear from young lawyers – they forget where they were up to, what they just said, they keep having to rewind and redo.
Sure that happens.
I’ll bet you couldn’t ride a bike that well when you first tried, right? How did your first Court document look? What about your first kiss?
As with most things, we get better with practice.
Because to be effective at dictation you must develop clarity of thought before producing any complex document. This means that you begin to structure your thinking so that your document can be done in a cohesive way. Each part flows from the previous and is linked to the next. That way you don’t miss things, you don’t get lost, and you can dictate without needless interruption.
This process comes with experience and practice, but it is one that allows a senior lawyer to dictate a complex document where a junior lawyer would struggle. But if you don’t start practising your thinking in that way, then you’ll never be able to nail that part of things.
Dictation Makes More Money
If there was only one reason that you need to learn to dictate properly, it’s this.
Dictation is a form of leverage, and leverage is a critical part of how law firms make money.
I’ve already mentioned that it takes less of your time to dictate. That means that you have more time. Your time (assuming your value your own time) should be spent doing valuable things. Typing is not as valuable a task as the many other options you have. Perhaps you should be networking? Calling clients? Developing relationships? Doing research? The higher value options are abundant.
Almost certainly your secretary (if you have one) costs the firm less than you do. That is not intended to be insulting, but it is a fact: you cost more. That means you have an obligation to be adding as much value as possible. Stuffing around with numbering, headings, signatures and formatting, checking addresses and the like – these things are not as valuable as the other options.
So Start Dictating Already
So if you at all have the option (I appreciate that some don’t), I strongly suggest you start dictating. Yes it will feel awkward at first – but you’ll get better. You’ll get faster. You’ll get more clarity.
And ultimately if you do it well, you will get more done and make more money for your firm.