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Bighand user conference report: Dragon takes off

We couldn't attend last week's Bighand UK user conference in London however one of our elves was there and took this note for us…

Hosted at the newly refurbished 5-star Renaissance Hotel in St Pancras, London yesterday [celebrity watch in the foyer quickly became a conference sport with Sophie Ellis-Bextor spotted early on] the 260 delegates at the BigHand European Legal & Professional User Conference witnessed the unveiling of BigHand4.2, and with it – it seems – the genuine restoration of speech recognition as a practical business solution for law firms. Just as the breakthroughs in art and literature sparked a cultural revival in the 15th century from which the conference venue took its name, a seriously improved engine from Dragon gracefully leveraged for lawyers and secretaries by BigHand appears to have now led us to a moment of enlightenment for speech recognition in legal.
The conference heard that since the last release of its server-based speech recognition integration with Dragon, BigHand has surveyed a pool of 2000 server-based speech recognition users in legal (out of 145,000 BigHand software users in total) and have introduced several user-led advanced recognition features (see last week's Orange Rag blog and newsletter coverage for more details) that have the potential to make the technology as ubiquitous a choice for law firms as digital dictation workflow has now become. A key note from Peter Mackinnon, SVP & GM at Nuance (manufacturers of the Dragon engine) on the future of voice highlighted that Dragon now has 21 million desktop users worldwide and that, alongside the rise of Siri on the iPhone which Peter was more than happy to reference, is proving that the quality of the technology is not now the barrier “but it is all about adoption”.
Several early adopter firms present reported the recent leap from Dragon version 10 to version 11 has proved significant, and a case study by a partner at Hammonds profiled his use of Speech Recognition technology to write all 250,000 words for his new legal book within 6 months. The mid-morning Speech Recognition Panel discussion saw Kay Oliver at Maxwell Winward and David Bason at Shoosmiths discuss success rates within their own server-based speech recognition installations. The consensus was that while BigHand’s treatment of the engine is now making it the transformative legal technology it has long been promising to be, a minority within any firm will still resist its usage and that widespread uptake will pick up momentum over a period of 12-36 months.
Transformation and innovation were as ever a central theme for Ari Kaplan in both his CIO Forum and his post lunch Conference sessions [a book signing during the coffee break was so popular it saw Ari run out of copies of his new book]. Ari’s dynamic themes led perfectly into a lively Panel discussion on the changing mobility landscape within law firms, and specifically the challenges of supporting increasing numbers of personal devices within the work environment.

Karen Jacks at Bird & Bird outlined their approach to a new fleet of iPads, and Angela McMahon of Mishcon de Reya outlined her belief that the increased interest in smartphone and tablets from partners should be embraced, wherever possible, given how long we have been trying to get them interested in technology full stop. Downloaded apps rather than device choice, it was concluded, now presents the next significant challenge in fleet management and security.
A post-conference Speech Recognition and SpeechMike3 promotion is being offered by BigHand, those interested were invited email before the end of December for more details.