Are you a true crime junkie? Do you love watching shows like Law & Order or CSI?
Perhaps you’re obsessed with details and have perfectionist tendencies. Or maybe you love the potential freedom of remote work from home. Of being your own boss. Of building a business you can be proud of.
Bringing all that together is this: Legal transcription jobs.
A profession that involves listening to recordings from legal professionals — lawyers, paralegals, law enforcement, or criminal justice agencies.
Typing them up, working remotely on your own time, getting paid, and feeling like you’re a part of the system.
If that sounds like you, here’s everything you need to know about legal transcription jobs in the United States.
What Are the Daily Responsibilities in a Legal Transcription Job?
Starting out, your first transcribing job will usually be part-time. This means you can gain experience alongside a full-time job.
You’ll work using a regular keyboard, and reproduce audio recordings into the written word. You can use a foot pedal to pause the recordings, making the job easier. Some companies will make the foot pedal required, and some will make one available to you.
Legal transcription jobs are unique to other transcriber jobs — they focus only on recordings for people in the field, which can be heavy in jargon and involve unfamiliar vocabulary.
These can include depositions, meetings, conferences, and any other form of legal proceedings.
Confidentiality is one of the most important parts of being a legal transcriber.
Most of your day will be spent on the main part of the job: transcription. You will spend minimal time on administrative tasks. This might include organizing the transcription files and backing them up.
The length of the recordings varies. Some will take hours to complete and accurately type while you use your meticulous attention to detail the entire time.
Legal transcription jobs allow you to work part-time as an independent contractor, and most include digital delivery of the audio recordings. This provides the freedom of remote work.
Regardless of the company you work for, the procedure is pretty standard — they will deliver recordings, usually pay by the audio hour, and will establish deadlines for finished transcriptions. You are generally free from oversight when you work in a legal transcription job.
- Have an eagle eye for detail, never miss punctuation, and review your work for 100% accuracy
- Are passionate about the legal field and system
- Want the freedom and benefits that come from working from home
- Are self-motivated when working part-time, with little to no oversight, and work well under important, concrete deadlines
You can find immense satisfaction with legal transcription jobs.
So, What Are the Challenges of a Career in Legal Transcription?
Finding Legal Transcription Jobs Can Be Tough When You’re Starting Out
The most direct way to find jobs is the freelance route — you can try to find clients by contacting different firms about their needs.
But most clients require transcription experience. And when you don’t have years of it in the field, it can be tough to get your foot in the door.
There are many freelancing websites that have remote transcription jobs, and most of these are available in the United States. It might be more helpful to find a company that helps you get started without years of experience.
In places like this, you can sign up with little to no experience. You’ll be required to verify your ability to work with various word processing software, and they’ll also test your command of the English language.
Then, they’ll provide you with remote job opportunities.
They can be competitive, but they’re a great place to get started doing transcription work and earning some money.
Another great option is to enroll in a remote training program. Search for one that specializes in legal transcription jobs. Most of these won’t guarantee employment, but you can look for a program that features its students on a verified job board, such as Small Revolution.
This gives you authority as you look for your next legal transcription job — potential employers will know you’re properly educated. It also helps you verify the potential company, as they’ve asked for membership to the job board.
It’s a bit easier if you have one to two years’ experience in the field, such as a legal secretary or court reporter. You can reach out to those you’ve worked with before to source potential clients and part-time jobs.
On top of that, you’re also more familiar with United States legal vocabulary and the system. You have verified your ability to accurately transcribe recordings, and you understand the importance of accuracy in legal proceedings. This translates to respect for accuracy in the transcriptions.
Transcription Work Can Be Challenging
Some of the recordings can be dry, long, and dull to someone who isn’t truly passionate about the law. It’s important work, and your accuracy might suffer if you’re not willing to listen to a recording a few times through.
The most important part of legal transcription jobs is to create court-ready written documents. If your accuracy suffers, you’ll be ineffective.
The job can be monotonous — it is hours sitting at a computer, listening to legal talk, typing, and staring at a screen.
Some software can help streamline the process, but you need to be dedicated and ensure you complete the work with the highest quality.
If the pay rate is by the audio hour, one hour of audio recording could potentially turn into 2 to 3 working hours.
If the legal jargon and system are new to you, your inexperience might cause many errors — even if you can listen and type quickly. And since there are many legal terms that are Latin words, inexperience can lead to errors there as well.
Experience can be helpful in overcoming most of these challenges.
As you get more experience, you’ll make fewer context and jargon mistakes and you’ll start typing faster as you practice more. If you’re passionate about the legal system, you’ll be able to overcome whatever obstacles stand in your way.
The Pay Rates for Part-Time Legal Transcription Jobs Can Vary
ZipRecruiter lists the salary range for legal transcription jobs between $23,500 and $45,500 per year. It does not specify the time or experience required to earn those rates.
On Glassdoor, the average base pay for part-time transcriptionists is $10 per hour.
TranscribeMe! lists their starting rates as $15–22 per audio hour, with specialized remote legal transcriptionists getting paid a premium, higher rate. Their general transcription top monthly earnings are $2,200 — this puts their contractors in the $26,000 annual range.
The earnings potential is even higher if you can find private, freelance clients for a better rate.
Many part-time opportunities are for independent contractors. Keep in mind that taxes, healthcare, and other benefits are not included when paid for freelance work in the U.S.
You Have Little Oversight and Extreme Autonomy When Working in a Legal Transcription Job
Most of these jobs are remote. Some people love the office, love the camaraderie, and enjoy having a direct supervisor pushing them forward. If that’s you, the self-starting, remote nature of a legal transcription job might not be the best fit.
If you want to adapt to remote work, here are four essential tools for online working success and productivity.
Most of the job boards and membership sites will have a job and deadlines clearly defined. This gives you some structure in that regard. But, you’ll be responsible for motivating yourself to get the job done on time.
If you know you can produce 100% accurately written documents of legal audio recordings; if you can spend hours at your computer listening and typing; if the work excites and motivates you every day, even while remote — then you’re ready to start a legal transcription job.
How Do I Get Started as a Legal Transcriptionist?
So you’re sold; you’re reading to get started. What do you need?
The qualifications for these positions can vary, based on the platform you’re working in.
Most companies in the US have basic citizenship requirements, and you’ll be required to pass a background check.
There are remote programs that teach legal transcription. They last 5 to 12 months, and offer certificate programs for potential employers.
Other qualifications include:
- Outstanding grammar skills — you should be a native English speaker or have a near-native grasp of the English language and its grammar.
- The ability to to type fast — at least 75 words per minute (wpm).
- Confidence in transcribing these legal recordings into accurate — close to 100% — faithful documents, including filler words like “um” and “uh.” These can become legally binding documents, and this ability is vital to you and your clients’ success.
- Familiarity with legal jargon and vocabulary — making your work better and more reliable.
- Some companies will prefer you have one to two years working in legal transcription.
If you’re certain you meet these requirements, and if you’re excited to dive into the legal field, you can start applying right away! You’re on your way to a new remote job.
Are you interested in learning about different potential online job training courses, as well? Perhaps legal transcription doesn’t quite sound like the right fit? Check out Small Revolution today, where we have 100+ courses designed to train you for an online career.