My name is Beth A. Dodson. I am a proud American, Pennsylvanian and Coal Region native.
I have been a licensed practicing attorney for over 17 years. I have argued cases in state and federal courts across the country on behalf of individual and business clients from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life. I have had the privilege of representing union workers, police officers, fire fighters, political figures, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and even a few celebrities. Some of my clients were unemployed; some owned private jets; some were homeless, and some had vehicles that cost more than my house. I have counseled and represented businesses of all sizes and in many different industries, from multi-national Fortune 50 financial institutions, to well known entertainment companies, to self-employed individuals operating their own beauty shops, accounting firms, and contracting businesses. While it may not seem like it on paper, they all had at least three things in common -- (1) each had a legal problem they did not want to handle alone; (2) they were generally unaware of how the court system actually worked other than what they have seen on TV (which is NOT accurate, by the way); and (3) they were stressed, anxious and upset. My point is, I understand that when anyone walks into a courtroom - its almost NEVER their best day.
Helping people navigate the court system, gather evidence, and prepare their cases for trial, has afforded me the privilege of appearing in courtrooms around the country and in front of judges, mediators and arbitrators at all levels of the local, state and federal court systems and before various governmental agencies. But I am getting ahead of myself…
Let’s take a quick trip back in time to 1996. I was a freshman at Panther Valley High School and wanted to get a second job (I already worked at the video store in town). The guidance counselor told me there was only one posting - for a file clerk at a law office in town. I had no legal experience except what I learned secondhand from hearing my dad talk about work - he was a prison guard, adult probation officer and then the Chief of Juvenile Probation at Carbon County for the majority of his career. I called the law office, went on an interview and then began working for Attorney Michael S. Greek who was an Assistant District Attorney at the time and also had his own law practice handling bankruptcies, divorces, business entity formation, and estate planning matters. I observed the powerful impact he had on clients. He was able to explain complex issues of law in terms people could understand and had the ability to help calm their anxiety by providing them with sound advice and information about the legal process related to each of their cases. I worked there for several years and developed an interest in the law. What I thought was a just a part-time job to help me buy my first car turned out to be so much more.
After high school, I obtained my bachelor's degree with honors from Elizabethtown College. I majored in Political Science, Political Philosophy, and Public Policy in Government and took courses in Constitutional Law, Business Law, and Criminal Justice. I was a member of the Women’s Varsity Volleyball team, the Mock Trial Team, the Dance Team, played intramural softball and badminton, and was on the Concert Committee. During my undergraduate years, I continued working for Attorney Greek part-time on breaks from school and also was a judicial intern for two Carbon County Court of Common Pleas Judges. These experiences prepared me well for a successful law school career at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.
After my first year of law school, I was so nervous to get my grade report because - unlike high school and undergrad - it is based on only one exam for each year-long course of study. I will never forget the day I received my grades in the mail. I was back home for the summer and was at work at Attorney Greek’s office. I opened the envelope and immediately started crying. He looked at me and didn’t know what to say because he thought I failed something. I told him, no I didn’t fail, I came in 4th in my class. I continued to violently sob. He was now baffled. I tried to explain to him, between my gasps for air, that the students who rank 1st, 2nd, and 3rd after the 1st year get to go to school for free for the next two years (I missed it by eight-hundredths of a point). But I digress. At my parent's insistence I forced myself not to dwell on impact of my grades and to keep moving on. The good news was that my grades did however earn me a coveted position on the Duquesne Law Review staff and my research/article on the Pennsylvania Retention Election process for Judges was chosen for publication in the 2007 Duquesne Law Review.
During my second year of law school, I became a professor’s assistant, a staff writer for Juris, was a volunteer mentor to two first year students, and also worked as a research assistant at the Law Library. My grades also provided the opportunity to interview with some of the best law firms in the world. During my second year, I accepted a coveted summer associate position at one of those firms – Kirkpatrick Lockhart Nicholson & Graham (now K&L Gates) who, at the conclusion of the summer, extended me an offer to join the firm upon graduation (which I accepted). During my final year of law school, I had the privilege of working as a legal intern at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh in the white collar and violent crime divisions. This was my first exposure to criminal matters in the federal court system and was quite an eye-opener for someone who grew up in a small town.
After law school, I joined K&L Gates, and focused my practice on civil and criminal litigation. My first year of practice was, what can only be described as, baptism by fire. Generally, at a large law firm, first year associates do not see the inside of a courtroom and mainly handle discovery and document review projects on large cases. So, when I told my office mate that I wasn’t about to be stuck in a room reviewing papers for 80 hours a week and that I was going to try and fight my way onto a team of attorneys I knew had a big trial coming up in federal court – he basically laughed in my face and said I was crazy. One month later, the partner in charge moved me out of my office to a new one on the floor with the rest of the trial team and the personal life I once had vanished in an instant. For the next four and a half months, I basically lived in the court room and my office. I did go home each day to shower and nap for a few hours. I remember taking off 16 hours so that I could drive home to see my family at Christmas for a few hours (it was a 10 hour round trip drive). But when we learned that, after a seven-and-a-half-week trial where the government offered dozens of witnesses and we made the decision to rest at the conclusion of the government’s case without putting up one witness of our own, the jury was deadlocked on all 84 counts of the indictment and the judge declared a mistrial – the thousands of hours were worth it because I knew my client was innocent. After several appellate arguments and motions to recuse the judge, the administration changed, a new U.S. Attorney was appointed in the Western District of PA and the Government did not re-file the charges against the client. Justice was served. It was then I knew for sure that I loved being a litigator.
After that case, things calmed down for a while until I was asked to do some work for World Wrestling Entertainment. The work was interesting, challenging and the best part was getting to learn from some of the best lawyers in the world.
After being in private practice for 7 years, I decided it was time for a new challenge, and I decided to seek a position as an “in-house lawyer” and landed back in Pittsburgh at BNY Mellon. I was hired to restructure and manage the bank's Civil Legal Process department, managed 15 people, and was in charge of responding to each and every third-party subpoena, discovery request, garnishment request, and deposition notice received by the bank, which at that time had about 50,000 employees in the U.S. and 2.5 trillion in assets under management.
Over 4-year period that I was with the Bank, I was promoted three times and, when I left in 2019, I had successfully managed cases in 47 states, was the attorney advisor to the Bank’s entire real estate and private lending and loss mitigation departments, and managed all related mortgage and loan recovery efforts, interviewed, vetted and selected outside counsel across the country who specialized in this type of litigation, and was appointed the Chair of the bank’s Pro Bono Committee.
Starting in law school, I have continuously been committed to doing pro bono legal work for individuals who did not have the means to hire an attorney. In addition to leading the efforts to increase attorney pro bono efforts at BNY Mellon, I also served as Secretary and then President Elect of the Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership, an extremely active non-profit organization committed to three main goals of (1) increasing attorney participation in pro bono work in the areas of greatest need by creating practical and efficient pro bono opportunities and programs based on the needs of county residents that would provide attorneys with a hassle-free way to be matched with clients; (2) ensure public access to information about available court programs, pro bono programs, and self-help resources dealing with the law and court system; and (3) advocating to the court for changes in established local procedures that are known roadblocks in particular types of cases that cause other legal problems for litigants. I have personally represented pro bono clients in cases dealing with domestic violence and abuse, resolving "tangled title " real estate matters, assisting job seekers with criminal record expungements related to removing information from their record regarding crimes for which they were charged and found not guilty, assisting seniors with writing wills and powers of attorney, assisting individuals who were victims of violence and hate crimes change their names, volunteering with Election Protection to resolve any legal questions associated with voters being denied access to the polls during elections, and many other initiatives. I also served on the Board of Directors for the Association of Corporate Counsel and led the organization's efforts in Western Pennsylvania f increasing pro bono participation of ACC members.
I was very active in the community, was a member of the Spring Hill Civic League, the Pittsburgh Sports League, and somehow found time to start a business and gain acceptance into a very exclusive entrepreneurship business incubator program. Through my interactions with people of varying ages, races, genders, professions, and income levels. I noticed that people of all walks of life often would ask me legal advice about topics related to money. From issues about their credit reports, to obtaining mortgage loans, to whether it was a bad idea to get an advance on a legal settlement or their income tax returns. One day it hit me. If people were asking me these questions at my bowling league, at networking events, and while volunteering to pick up trash in the neighborhood I lived in, I assume there is a heck of a lot more people with legal questions related to money matters that don’t have a lawyer friend or acquaintance to ask. And maybe I could somehow create a program where attorneys present on these topics and participants can ask whatever legal questions, they have either in front of the group or during one-on-one breakout sessions with an attorney. It was an uphill battle first trying to convince the head of our litigation department and ultimately the Bank’s General Counsel and Executive Board that this actually would qualify as pro bono work and also satisfy the banks CRM requirements. They initially rejected my proposal because there never before been a program within the Commonwealth that qualified as pro bono work that did not involve an attorney representing a client that had an existing legal problem. I contacted the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Pro Bono Director and presented the idea to him and asked for his opinion on the proposed program. He thought it was a great idea, but because it had never been done before, he said we would need to have it approved by the ethics board. He and I drafted a proposal and he submitted it to the executive board of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, Pennsylvania Bar Foundation, several judges, members of the ethics committee and others to see what feedback and reactions it received. I waited for several months and the response I received was more than I had even asked for. The overwhelming majority of the people from whom the Pro Bono Director solicited feedback praised the idea and provided their support to get it approved. The Pro Bono Director then prepared a formal approval letter stating that Financial Literacy Project volunteer time was approved as pro bono work. Armed with this letter, I revisited this matter with leadership within the Bank and they approved the program. I then brought it to the Board of the Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership and the ACC and they both voted to promote it to members of the bar as a pro bono volunteer opportunity. This program is the Commonwealth's first preventative pro bono legal assistance program and is something I am extremely proud to have helped create not only because of the positive reception and impact the program has had on participants, but also because it helped to pave the way for other programs that will be aimed at helping people identify issues at an early stage where they can avoid legal issues and court involvement.
In 2019, I moved to Maryland and began working as the General Counsel for a diesel engine repair and rebuild company. After a few months, I was offered the opportunity to become a part-owner of the business and I took it. I was tasked with restructuring the company's business model, internal processes and marketing strategy to make it function much more efficiently and to increase its profitability by attracting a more desirable customer base. The company’s profits doubled the first year and quadrupled by year three. I drafted all of the company’s employment agreements, customer agreements, service contracts, vendor and supplier agreements, managed outside counsel and also directly handled customer and employee disputes and drafted all legal complaints and represented the company in state court cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
In 2021, I moved back home to Summit Hill and started my own law practice, Dodson Law P.C. I represent clients in real estate purchase and lease transactions, business formation, contract drafting and negotiation, employment related matters, estate planning, debt collection, and other civil matters.
Outside of work, I love spending time outside with my two French Bulldogs, Aja and Arro and the newest edition to the family - Artemis – a 6-year-old English Bulldog. I enjoy refurbishing antiques, creating art from recycled materials, target shooting, traveling, singing, and spending time with my family and friends.
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