CLEO, Inc.


Classical Dance Provided Discipline Needed for Law School

Alexandria, VA —December 12, 2022— CLEO Alumna and Attorney, Veronica Dunlap, lives in two worlds—one, the powerful and passionate legal advocate; the other, a classical dance enthusiast with a penchant for a “mean Salsa.”

The subject of the CLEO EDGE Podcast #4, Dunlap beamed, “I had a unique childhood.” She began classical dance training at the age of three. By eight years old, she was studying at the Baltimore School for the Arts, where noted Black entertainers, Tupac Shakur and Jada Pinkett Smith, also attended. In the mid-90s, the 17.5-year old aspiring dancer moved from Baltimore to New York where she trained in classical ballet. For the next 12 years, she would dance around the world, touring in 44 states and 11 countries, including France, Germany, Israel, Mexico, and the Caribbean. She performed with the Dance Theater of Harlem for three years, as well as off-Broadway.

By 2010, Dunlap had decided to attend law school. “While performing in dance companies,” Dunlap related, “I usually found myself advocating for better wages, more substantial insurance, and other labor-related benefits for me and my colleagues.” It was her college advisor who suggested she channel that energy into a law degree. That summer, during the multi-week CLEO Pre-Law Summer Institute, the dancer cum law student attended Florida International University College of Law in Miami to study in a bootcamp-like experience with dozens of other entering 1Ls. One of the things she vividly remembers was visiting Dade County Jail, where she was able to speak with some of the inmates. The experience resonated so much with her, because she recalls that she got the opportunity to speak with them “up close and personal.”

And how did she make the leap from ballet dancer to law school? Once she understood that her classical training was a transferable skill, she became focused on the journey before her. Upon reflection, she recognized the necessary traits for success between law school and classical dancing to be:

  • highly competitive
  • self-disciplined
  • strong work ethic
  • ability to “drown out” the noise

So, by 2014, Dunlap had graduated with a dual degree:  a JD from Fordham University School of Law and an MBA in Finance from Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business.

Today, Veronica Dunlap is living and working back in her hometown of Baltimore at a job she says is her “dream job.” “Securing civil rights and social justice for marginalized people has been something that I worked toward on my career journey. By working at the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] in my hometown, under a Black woman who is a demonstrated champion on these issues, I am free to bring my ‘whole self’ to work and to strive for strategic outcomes that directly impact people who I care about deeply.”

“This is the story of a phenomenal lawyer, Deputy Executive Director of the ACLU of Maryland… and a fellow Fordham Law JD – MBA,”  replied, J.C. Polanco, CEO of CLEO and the podcast’s host.  “[She] is an incredible attorney.”

To learn more about this trailblazer’s upwardly mobile trajectory, listen to our new CLEO EDGE podcast. The video podcast interview can be viewed on our YouTube channel (click here to watch now), and the audio podcast is available on Spotify (click here to listen now)


About the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc.

CLEO, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to diversifying the legal profession by expanding legal education opportunities for persons from traditionally under-represented racial and ethnic groups, low-income, and disadvantaged communities. Founded in 1968, when the number of lawyers of color was less than one percent, CLEO has since had more than 28,000 high school, college, prelaw, and law students participate in its programs. CLEO alumni have excelled in every area of the legal profession to include judges, corporate attorneys, law school deans and professors, practitioners, and politicians. More information about CLEO and its programs can be found at Additionally, to listen to episodes of the new CLEO EDGE Podcast, please click here:

Media Contact:
Bernetta J. Hayes

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