Blockbuster used to say, "Be kind — rewind."
Is it as simple as putting the shopping cart back in a corral, leaving a big tip for a frazzled waitress, paying for the order of the car behind you at the drive through? What about holding doors open, letting cars merge in front in traffic, or waving at neighbors you haven’t met?
This has been a challenging year for attorney Michele Antoinette Dobson — her home was severely damaged in a fire just before the COVID shutdown where the family lost just about everything. She has chosen to take the kindness route, starting with waving enthusiastically to the neighbors around her temporary rental house, and instead of thinking of what she lost, her focus is on the outpouring of love from the community.
Dobson has devoted her life to righting the wrong, giving back and making a meaningful difference. She has served or is serving on a dozen volunteer boards or organizations in Long Beach, and she coaches her children’s sports teams. It is no wonder that she is the first recipient of the CSULB Black Excellence Award for Alumna of the Year.
Her law practice, opened in 2005, was in the news recently as she fought for-profit lawsuits using the Americans with Disabilities Act against restaurants and shops. Under Dobson’s leadership, the businesses came together and fought the nuisance suits.
Countless reviews commend her for estate and trust work, successfully navigating “nasty” divorces, and helping nonprofits in tricky tax situations. One reviewer wrote, “Michele A. Dobson is a fighter who will fight for her clients rights every day, all day.” Reviewers consistently note Dobson is compassionate, yet ruthless in the courtroom.
Dobson is a proud Long Beach Poly Alum, a mom who multi-tasks by bringing her family along when she volunteers, creating teaching moments for her children. Dobson rarely says no to an invite to join a board and she takes on cases in her law practice that have a positive impact.
“With my kiddos, I started with trying to give them as many experiences as I can during their childhood to make them ‘curious,' ‘brave' and ‘adventurous',” she said. "From when they were babies, if they were interested, I would find a class, a school, a teacher or a tutor to encourage their curiosity.
“With my daughter, she is a techie and excels in the sciences," she added. "She loves that we travel to a new destination a couple times a year in our attempt to see the world over their childhoods."
Leading by example is a mantra — for parenthood and for life, she said.
"What I tell the kids is how I try to live my life as well," Dobson said. "It is from a continuing education class I had when I first became a lawyer. The instructor told us why professions burn out, end up abusing substances or become alcoholics. She explained that many times we throw everything into one or two things, (career and family), and if either or both fall apart, the person’s life crumbles (unemployment, business fails, divorce).
"She recommended, and this is my parenting style and how I live my life, look at your life like a pie divided upon among many things, as many slices as you can get in that pie so if one slice is taken away, your entire life does not fall apart," she added. "I take my kids with me when I can so they can see who I am, what I value and what my interests are."
Life can't all be fun and games, Dobson said she tells her children — it takes work to create space for good times. It sometimes takes work to be kind too.
"Also, (I bring them) so they can see how much work is necessary for us to live and enjoy things like our travels," she said. "Also, I told them my primary goal is to give them a childhood. We are adults for a long time, but the things you get to do when you are figuring yourself out from 0-18 is my responsibility.
"It’s my job to create the space, and make sure everyone else does too, so they can be kids. Then, it is my hope that I am launching well-adjusted, confident, brave, citizens upon the world that will add to their community and not be a drain on it.”