For attorney Julia Dunlap, her love of legal education happened almost by accident.
Dunlap, director of Legal Education for UC San Diego Extension, first began teaching law at the request of a colleague. While she was reluctant at first, the experience in the classroom quickly changed Dunlap’s mind.
“I learned more about the law by teaching than I ever learned in law school,” Dunlap says.
It is Dunlap’s love and knowledge of the law that contributed to the San Diego Daily Transcript naming her one of San Diego County’s Top Attorneys for 2015. Dunlap was the only one of the ten finalists honored in the Academic category who did not work at a law school. The Transcript made its selection from more than 1,200 applicants.
Dunlap credits the honor with her approach to teaching the law, which moves beyond theory and analysis into the practical, real-world applications of the law.
“In law school, the professors were always talking theories and ideas. While I understand the emphasis on teaching people how to think and analyze, there’s more to the law than theory,” Dunlap says. “I tell my students that I’ll never hide the ball from them. I’ll show them how the law actually works.”
Dunlap put that mindset to work and helped create Extension’s nationally recognized ABA-approved Paralegal certificate as well as certificates in Intellectual Property and Litigation Technology Management. For more than 20 years, she has played an active role in the education of law students, paralegals, and legal support staff.
Dunlap, who has an undergraduate English degree from Berkeley and her law degree from University of San Diego, says she takes great pride in the legal professionals her programs have helped produce. Recently, she received a letter from an attorney extolling the legal skills of a paralegal she hired who had graduated from UC San Diego Extension’s program.
“She was able to do more than a first-year associate,” Dunlap recalled the letter saying.
Dunlap also has enlisted many active and prominent attorneys of the San Diego legal community as instructors for the UC San Diego Extension certificate programs so students can learn from the very best the profession has to offer.
“When I started teaching, I thought it could be done differently,” Dunlap said. “It’s not my intention to get rid of the bottom 30 percent like in some law schools. My goal is for everyone to succeed.”