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PROFILE: Donna L. Linton, RMR

Currently resides in: Ashburn, Va.

Position: Freelance Court Reporter/Agency Owner

Member since: 1984

Graduated from: Herkimer County Community College, Herkimer, N.Y.

Theory: Stenograph

How did you learn about the career?

While in high school, I wanted to go to nursing school for half the day in what they called BOCES, like a trade school, but my guidance counselor encouraged me to find a career utilizing typing, Gregg shorthand, and English skills, which were my strong points. And then here is the unique part of the story. Let’s just say a close relative was wrongfully accused of committing a crime, thought about what my guidance counselor was pointing out, had observed some of those court reporting invoices, and suggested I might look into being a court reporter. I had no idea what it was. I thought I’d be writing newspaper reports and drawing caricature drawings for press releases. So I was quite surprised to be handed a weird-looking machine and a pad of paper.

What has been your best work experience so far in your career?

There have been so many. Just getting asked back to any case I worked on makes me feel like that was my best work experience. I would say being able to report The White House Preservation Committee Meetings in which the First Lady is always chair was a highlight, circa Hillary Rodham Clinton.

What was your biggest hurdle to overcome as a new reporter, and how did you do so?

Traveling all over to the little municipal courts on Long Island. At night, lawyers would become judges, and we would be working on that docket until 2 a.m. sometimes. The bottom of my old Gremlin literally fell out of the car on my way to one assignment, so I had to call a taxi to take me the rest of the way and have someone pick me up at midnight. So getting a new car was how I overcame that hurdle.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Actually, providing CART. Writing for hearing-impaired or deaf recipients is the most rewarding thing I have done. They are so over-the-top appreciative. Even if a word doesn’t translate properly, they tell me it’s more than they ever get with even lip reading or sign language. I am very proud to be volunteering in church to help parishioners, and I was a bit nervous to do it because it is so different from litigation writing. Now I can’t imagine not being there for them.

What advice or tips would you offer to new reporters?

I have so much advice. Keep your poker face on. No emotions. Another is to attend your state annual convention and NCRA annual convention. The boost of confidence and networking that being with your fellow reporters gives you, as well as gaining advice on ‘how-to’ or venting, is more valuable than you can imagine and worth every dime. If you are going to take any certification test or your RPR, for example, don’t take a break! Life happens. Just keep practicing. If you really want it, you will get it.

Did you overcome a challenge in your career?

Can you believe I resisted the computer? I would dictate into a reel-to-reel Stenorette machine, and a typist would type multiple copy transcripts with carbon paper. Even though five years prior I learned the first computer-compatible theory and even changed some of the writing to avoid conflicts on my own, I still resisted change. Embracing change was the hardest thing to overcome. It’s much easier to embrace it.

Have you accomplished something not related to your career that you would like to relate?

I recently watched all the Harry Potter movies with my daughter before she left for college. I also took an 8-mile-long hike up my first very difficult mountain – it’s called Old Rag in the Shenandoah Valley. I’m not a big fan of heights, but I did it!

Favorite tip:

I always seemed to be better writing everything out if a brief didn’t stick with me in school. As technology progressed to realtime translation, there were too many risks of writing it all out and having untranslates. When briefing on the fly, I just use the first syllable of the word or name, and hit it twice, then define it as soon as I can.