O’Brien & Bails isn’t just another court reporting firm. We are made up of individual people who happen to be Michigan court reporters. We thought we would take some time to let you get to know our court reporters.
Dawn Houghton is the owner of O’Brien and Bails Court Reporting and Video. She is also one of our court reporters in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Michigan.
How long have you been a court reporter?
How long have you been with O’Brien and Bails?
Before becoming a court reporter, have you ever worked in other jobs or fields?
I grew up on a farm so every summer I would look forward to baling hay. In 8th grade, I picked strawberries at a local farm. In high school, I worked at a snack bar in a bowling alley. My daughter’s favorite story about my growing up, though, is I used to pick rocks from the fields.
Where did you grow up?
Ravenna, Michigan, pronounced Ra-van-na by those who grew up there but Ra-ven-na by everyone else.
What changes have you seen in the industry since you became a court reporter?
We have gone from pen writers who wrote down every word in steno notebooks, to machine writers who dictated their notes and a typist would type up the transcript from the dictation, to the advent of computers where reporters could edit, correct and print their transcripts themselves, to realtime reporters who can take down the testimony while the attorneys watch the testimony on their computer, to internet streaming where reporters’ transcripts are remotely viewed by parties in the case in different parts of the country.
What is the best part of being a court reporter?
I really like writing and knowing I am preserving the record of testimony.
What is the most challenging part of being a court reporter?
Finding our voice. We are always in the background, patiently taking down every word that is spoken, sometimes working in very difficult, emotional and trying circumstances, but we must always protect the record, even if it means speaking up.
As a court reporter, what is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is we won’t be valued for what we do. Most reporters I know are incredibly conscientious and professional, and even though we make it look easy, it is an awesome skill that we have.
What has been your most challenging deposition?
My most challenging deposition was a patent infringement case over electrochromatic mirrors where the witness was from India. It was a four-hour deposition and I did end up with a migraine after that one. I still remember writing “ax’-ler-rate-ing,” which is how the witness pronounced it, but I knew he was saying accelerating from the context. There is a lot of concentration we bring to bear in those circumstances.
Have you ever had funny things happen to you in a deposition?
I don’t know if it was funny, but I was taking a video deposition of a doctor with two attorneys from Louisiana, and part way through the deposition, they became so angry with each other, they got up and started chasing each other around the table. I had to keep moving my machine while still writing as they were running past me because the video was still going and I didn’t want to miss anything that was going to be on the video! Thank goodness the doctor finally stopped them. To this day, years later, when I walk into that doctor’s office, he says: You’re the reporter that was at that deposition.
Do you have any tips about work/life balance?
I just do the best I can. I am always juggling work and family life – I have two teenage girls and that takes a lot of work in itself. But I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I love challenges.
If you would like to schedule a court reporter in Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo, Michigan for your next deposition, go to our online Deposition Scheduler found here.