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Legal Transcription Training Programs and Education Requirements

A legal transcriptionist transcribes and edits spoken or recorded proceedings involving classified testimony, subpoenas, depositions and legal notes. Legal transcription services are used primarily by law firms, although banks, corporate legal departments, insurance companies and government agencies might also employ legal transcriptionists. Preparation for a career in legal transcription involves educational courses and on-the-job training.

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Training Requirements and Recommendations

In some cases, a high school diploma and some experience in an office or legal setting might be sufficient for one to earn an entry-level position in legal transcription. However, taking at least a few courses in legal transcription, legal terminology and law can increase one's chances of employment. Some employers require completion of a 1- or 2-year program in legal transcription. Those working in corporate or insurance legal transcription might have to learn corporate policies and procedures, while those in law firms focus more on legal documentation and law procedures.

Formal Education

No formal degree in legal transcription currently exists. Those seeking a career in legal transcription generally opt for a legal transcription or legal assistant diploma or certificate. They might also pursue a 2-year legal secretarial or legal office administration degree. Certificate and degree programs in court reporting or stenography also provide courses in transcription, shorthand, computerized transcription, legal terminology and legal documentation.

Certificate or Diploma Programs

Some community and technical colleges offer a 1-year diploma or certificate program for legal transcriptionists. In these programs, students develop computer, communications and business skills. In addition to legal transcription courses, the curriculum typically addresses such topics as keyboarding, legal procedures, courts, criminal law, legal research and legal terminology.

Aspiring legal transcriptionists can also choose to enter a diploma or certificate program designed for legal assistants. Some of these programs offer courses in legal transcription, law and legal terminology.

Associate's Degree Programs

An associate's degree for legal office administrators or legal secretaries can prepare students to become legal transcriptionists. These programs generally include introductory and advanced courses in legal transcription and transcription techniques, legal word processing and legal terminology. Other courses include business law, business communications, legal office procedures and legal records management.

Job Experience

Experience as an administrative assistant or secretary is helpful for those seeking a career in legal transcription. A background in typing, dictation or word processing might be required by some employers since legal transcriptionists are expected to type 65-75 words per minute with a high degree of accuracy. Some employers might prefer up to one years' experience in a related field, such as medical transcription.

Licenses and Certifications

While there are no required licenses or certifications for legal transcriptionists, some working in this field might choose to obtain voluntary certification. The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) offers the Certified Electronic Court Transcriber (CET) credential for court reporters and legal transcriptionists working in courtrooms (www.aaert.org). One can choose the basic CET certification for analog transcription systems or the CET**D credential for those using digital systems.

Those who perform legal transcription duties as legal secretaries also can choose to become certified. The National Association for Legal Secretaries (NALS) offers the Accredited Legal Secretary (ALS) certification (www.nals.org). Completion of a legal course, a NALS training course or one years' experience as a legal secretary is needed to take the exam for this certification.

Additional Professional Development

Books about legal transcription and terminology used in legal transcription can be purchased at online and retail booksellers. Some titles include a CD-ROM containing practice exercises. Online courses in legal transcription are offered by a small number of colleges and technical institutes.

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