How to ̶W̶a̶s̶t̶e̶ Save $142,000 on Legal Services: A Better Way
Deposition transcripts usually come with a word index, but this index has become unnecessary in today's digital age. Countless tools now make it obsolete, yet you're still paying for it. Very few reporting services include it for free despite automated software, while most charge the same per-page rate as the official record for indices that require minimal manual effort.
Let's be honest—how often do you and your colleagues use the word index instead of simply relying on the Ctrl+F search function? You may be shocked to learn that in most cases, the word index accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the pages in a deposition transcript, sometimes even more. For a 150-page transcript, that's roughly 38 pages dedicated to the index.
Now, let's consider the costs. If your court reporting service charges $5 per page, in the above scenario, the index alone would cost you $190. If you have 25 transcripts for a case, just the word index will cost $4,750 for a stack of paper that you'll refer to less frequently than a toaster oven manual. Now, imagine you're involved in 30 matters per year. Multiplying $4,750 by 30 gives you a staggering $142,500.
Essentially, you’re throwing away $142,000 every year, like driving a shiny Porsche off a cliff, or setting fire to 2 ½ very expensive supply boxes filled with printed paper.
In the year 2008, a groundbreaking technology emerged in the legal profession offering a cost-effective solution to scan printed text and make it easily searchable. This technology, known as optical character recognition (OCR), allowed bulky stacks of papers to be converted into electronic documents. Although OCR as we use it has been around since about 1974[i], it became extremely affordable and widely accessible around this time. Additionally, by 2008 the portable document format (PDF) had been universally available for 15 years[ii].
Fast forward to 2023, and electronic formats have become the norm for all the transcripts you work with. Opening PDF transcripts in applications like Adobe Reader allows for quick and efficient searches. Even if someone provides you with a non-searchable "image" file, you can easily OCR it yourself. In 2023, the word index is a relic.
What should you do instead?
Inform your court reporting services that you no longer require indices and won't pay for them. The best reporters and agencies understand the importance of competition and strive to add value rather than pad their invoices.[iii] With transcripts being received electronically and properly backed up, paper transcripts become redundant because each party involved maintains its own digital copy. By taking this simple step, you can save $142,000 per year.
Better yet, embrace a new approach that allows you to extract more value and insights from testimony documents. Rather than searching through transcripts one by one using Ctrl+F, utilize a testimony intelligence solution (like Gibson). This tool enables you to combine multiple transcripts into a single view, extracting relevant topics and facilitating comparison of specific content instances across various transcripts and matters. Detecting testimony variances and uncovering forgotten or missed topics is more valuable than unlimited word indices.
If your firm or client frequently engages in litigation, leverage a testimony intelligence solution to create an institutional knowledge base. More than a decade ago, a court reporting service suggested combining word indices to expedite search processes.[iv] With testimony intelligence solutions, this becomes even simpler, as AI goes a step further. For example, Gibson's AI can extract a topic list that captures all instances of a related concept, not just individual words. Imagine generating a report that consolidates all topic instances across 20 cases where the same witness responds to a recurring question, or where multiple experts testify about the same topic, with just a few clicks.
Court reporters provide immeasurable value in understanding all the nuances of depositions and producing a reliable record. But as demand rises, their ranks are thinning and that’s driving prices up. Trimming out the fluff of the word index is an easy tactic to mitigate these rising costs. There's a better way to search transcripts AND leverage the content and hidden insights contained in them at the same time.
[i] Thank you, futurist Ray Kurzweil. Optical character recognition, Wikipedia. [ii] Adobe made the PDF standard free in 1993. PDF, Wikipedia. [iii] Here’s one example of a reporting service railing against other providers padding page counts with a word index: CornerstoneKC.net.
[iv] Kudos to this reporting service for suggesting a novel idea in 2012.