For Dikla Dolev, It’s All in the Family (and Job)
A career in some type of public service always figured prominently in the life plans of Dikla Dolev. How that vision finally saw her through the doors of Boxer & Gerson last year as its newest workers’ compensation attorney is a tale that no amount of planning could likely have brought about.
Dolev’s launching pad to her Boxer & Gerson office on the fifth floor of Oakland’s iconic Rotunda Building began in her native Haifa, Israel, in 1980, when she was born as the second of eventually four children to two electrical engineers. Haifa is a northern port city of over a quarter-million people.
Contrary to media impressions of Israelis living under a constant cloud of Mideast upheaval and discord, Dolev remembers a genteel childhood of a closely knit, densely populated neighborhood that offered no shortage of playmates and notably cooperative relations between Haifa’s Arab population and Israelis.
When she was 5 years old, her parents decided to take a sabbatical year in the United States. Their destination was a faraway place called “Silicon Valley,” where they both landed jobs.
The year was 1985, and this “valley” they were moving to became Ground Zero for a technological revolution that would transform the world over the ensuing decades. So stimulating was the environment, actually, that the Shenhav family in San Jose would never again call Haifa home.
‘No one thought a thing about it,’ she says. ‘They said to take my time, to join them when I was ready. It feels important to point out how rare this still is in the working world.’
Dolev’s parents became U.S. citizens a decade later, thus bestowing automatic dual citizenship on Dikla, her sister and two brothers. That status continues to serve the entire clan well, since many remaining family members in Israel means that its U.S. contingent return regularly for extended visits.
After graduating from the University of California, San Diego with a communications degree, Dolev, a career in human services long in her mind, joined AmeriCorps, the volunteer public service organization that functions as a sort of domestic Peace Corps helping fill critical human needs around the country. Dolev’s job was to do community outreach for First Five, a state-run project focused on helping children under 5 years old from disadvantaged backgrounds become better prepared for kindergarten.
The experience led her to wonder how much more of an impact she could make with additional education and professional credentials, so it was off to law school at UC Hastings after her year with AmeriCorps.
Law degree in hand, she returned to her passion for service when she signed on in 2006 to represent abused and neglected children in the foster care system for Sacramento Child Advocates. Three years later, she came face to face with the reality that her job was profound, challenging—and exhausting.
“It was really hard emotionally,” she says, reflecting back on the tragic circumstances surrounding virtually every child who comes into the foster care system. “I had to take a step back and get some perspective. It was hard to think about leaving, but hard to stay, too. I realized I had to restore some focus on intellectual matters in which I didn’t have such a strong emotional stake.”
It was then that an unexpected opportunity presented itself to pivot to a completely different area of the law: workers’ compensation. And it just so happened that it was on the defense side of the table—representing insurance companies against claims filed by injured workers.
“I just fell into it,” she says. “I learned a lot, and one of the lessons was I ultimately did not want to be working for insurance carriers.”
The prospect of a switch to Boxer & Gerson several years later initially made her nervous, as she was planning to expand her family at the time. Her concerns were greatly soothed, however, when she was offered the job, and she disclosed she was four months pregnant with her second child.
“No one thought a thing about it,” she says. “They said to take my time, to join them when I was ready. It feels important to point out how rare this still is in the working world.”
The firm’s commitment to making room for both work and family has never wavered in the time since, says Dolev—and she has never been happier in her work.
“A big question was whether I could bring emotion back into my career again. I found that I could, and that I have the perfect balance here. I came back to helping people, which felt important to me. I can take time to talk to my clients and get to know them as people, without rushing. But I also have these two wonderful girls and a wonderful husband at home. Here, I’ve never had to make that choice between my children and my job. If I have a sick child, no one thinks twice about me going home—matter of fact, they’re the ones insisting that I do!”
And just in case circumstances require some additional support, Dolev points out that her parents, enjoying an active retirement in San Jose, are always happy to see their granddaughters, 3 ½ and 1, come down the highway to spend time with them.
It all adds up to a sense of great contentment at this not-quite-mid-career point for Dolev. After 15 months at Boxer & Gerson, she says she has rediscovered something essential about herself: “I really do love to work, but I also love being a mother and wife. Having a job that supports all of that in equal measure is something I didn’t know I would ever find. I’m in a place now where I could be for a very long time.”