VOL. 126 | NO. 249 | Thursday, December 22, 2011
Memphis Law Talk
Love of Horses Impacts Dunlap’s Law Practice
By Andy Meek
Melanie Dunlap, an attorney with Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh PLLC, is a lifelong horsewoman whose love of horses does not end at the doors of her law office.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
Among the many areas in which she concentrates her practice – including civil litigation, personal injury, premises liability, business litigation, medical malpractice and domestic relations – Dunlap also works in equine law.
It’s not, needless to say, something too many of her local peers are involved with.
As the name implies, it’s a practice area that involves experience with and an understanding of myriad horse-related issues, such as premises liability, personal injury, matters involving boarding facilities and training, equine sales, contractual arrangements and other equine activities.
It’s a good fit for Dunlap, who will be a partner with Harris Shelton effective Jan. 1. She says she’s been in the saddle “99.9 percent of my life.”
“I’ve been on a horse ever since I can remember,” she said. “I began lessons, though, at age 6, and I’ve been riding for almost 30 years at this point. It’s always been something that’s very near and dear to my heart.”
Dunlap’s first horse was a quarter horse, and she still has plenty of stories to tell about it. Its “barn name” was KC, and its “show name” was Artistic Flair.
KC also was adept at herding cattle.
“And I happened to find this out when I was riding her bareback with no saddle and just a bridle,” Dunlap said. “Our neighbor’s cattle had gotten onto our land when I was out riding her. We were trying to get the cattle back on their property, and the next thing I knew, KC dropped her shoulder and started herding them.
“I often rode her with just a bridle and no saddle, and riding with no saddle is not exactly the time you want to try herding cattle for the first time, but she was great at it. She was a horse that would do anything, and she loved it all.”
When Dunlap showcased her in “eventing” – which included phases of dressage, stadium jumping and cross-country jumping – “Artistic Flair” always loved the two jumping phases the most.
“She would throw up her head and would barely stay on the ground, she was so excited to get going,” Dunlap said. “On cross-country, you have to start in a ‘starting box,’ which is a small, three-sided, fenced-in area where they count you down to start.
“You had to stay in the box until they said ‘go’ to start your time. It would take everything I had to keep her in the box, and as soon as they counted down, she was off like a shot.”
Dunlap’s father, William, is also an attorney at Harris Shelton. Both Dunlaps work at a firm that offers a full spectrum of services to individual and business clients.
“Originally, I actually wanted to go into the FBI,” Dunlap said about the beginning of her legal career. “I knew I was going to go to law school, so I went and thought, ‘I actually enjoy doing this.’ So I came to work for Harris Shelton.
“I really enjoy the work and the people I get to come across in my job. That’s pretty much how I got to be here.”
Dunlap is a member of the Association for Women Attorneys. She’s admitted to practice in Tennessee as well as in U.S. District Court for West Tennessee.
Outside of the office, she runs and is a member of the Memphis Runners Track Club. She’s also a certified open-water scuba diver with her older sister, and she has an English thoroughbred horse that she rescued and is riding.