Livescribe: Note Taking Magic for CPAs

By Charles Hall | Accounting and Auditing

Apr 22

Have you ever interviewed a client, feverishly taking notes, and straight away forgot critical facts (that you did not have time to write down)? You wish you had a recording of the conversation. Better yet, you wish you could magically touch a particular word in your notes and hear the words that were being spoken at that moment. What if I told you, you can?

Livescribe: Note Taking Magic for CPAsThink about what you could record:

  • CPE class lectures
  • Walkthroughs of transaction cycles
  • Board or committee or partnership meetings
  • Fraud interviews

How? Livescribe.

What is Livescribe? It’s an electronic pen/recorder. As you write on special coded paper, you simultaneously record the conversation (the recorder is built into the pen). Once done, you touch a particular letter in a word (with the pen) and you will hear, from the pen, the conversation that was occurring at that moment. No more forgetting and not being able to retrieve what was said. And it’s efficient since you can go to any particular part of the conversation using your notes as signposts.

To start a recording, you press the tip of the pen to the “record” icon at the bottom of the page.


To stop the recording you press the “stop” icon above.

Once the recording is complete, you simply touch the tip of the pen to any letter and the audio recording will start playing–from the pen–at that point.


You can upload the pen notes and the audio to your computer desktop Livescribe software using a USB cord that connects to the pen. (Yes, you can play back notes from your uploaded desktop copy just as you can with your pen; click a letter with your mouse and the recording will play.)

IMG_0003I was surprised at the clarity of the sound from the pen and at the amount of audio that the pen will hold–200 hours (for the Echo version that you see above).

There are different versions of the pen; I bought the Echo version due to price–only $115. You can review the available pens on Amazon. I also bought additional Livescribe notebooks (they come in packs of four) and a portfolio (binder) to hold the notebook and pen.

Another Option 

If you have an iPad, you can buy the Notability app for $2.99 and record conversations with your notes (which play back similar to Livescribe); this is a new feature that Ginger Labs (maker of Notability) just added. You will need a stylus to take notes since you will write on your iPad screen.

One More Thought

If you are performing a walkthrough of a complex transaction cycle, consider using your phone to take pictures of what you are seeing (e.g., computer screens, documents). Between your notes (with audio) and your pictures, you will have an excellent understanding of what you have seen and heard.

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About the Author

Charles Hall is a practicing CPA and Certified Fraud Examiner. For the last thirty years, he has primarily audited governments, nonprofits, and small businesses.He is the author of The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention and Preparation of Financial Statements & Compilation Engagements. He frequently speaks at continuing education events.Charles is the quality control partner for McNair, McLemore, Middlebrooks & Co. where he provides daily audit and accounting assistance to over 65 CPAs. In addition, he consults with other CPA firms, assisting them with auditing and accounting issues.

  • armando balbin says:

    Charles, again, this is “cool”. I will implement it. Thanks

  • Charles Hall says:

    You will enjoy the product. I know I have.

  • gail egan says:

    MAKE SURE YOU OBTAIN THE CONSENT OF THE PERSON RECORDED. It is against the law in many states to record conversation without the specific consent of the person recorded

  • ronald says:


    Is the one (livescribe 3) on amazon all you need to get started?

  • Armando Balbin says:

    I like it. My question is if we are required by law to warn the client about recording, and this me scare the client

    • I agree. I would think more people would refuse permission than grant approval. I see approval as a real listing factor in using this tool.

      • Mark, I have been surprised. I thought, in the beginning of using Livescribe, that many people would object, but this has never happened. I always tell people they are being recorded (and I generally tell them that only I will listen to the recording).

  • Heather says:

    I like the idea for the CPE, but I am curious have you found any electronic note taking tools that you like? I like to take my tablet, and would love to use it to hold all my notes, but I am still working kinks out of my system.

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