Louisville entrepreneur, real estate developer Gill Holland talks the value of a law degree

Louisville entrepreneur, real estate developer Gill Holland talks the value of a law degree

Gill Holland speaks to a full room at the Brandeis School of Law.

Trying to pin down Gill Holland's job title is tricky. 

He's a film producer, record label founder, sustainable real estate developer and community builder. He also has a law degree — from the University of North Carolina School of Law — and he credits his legal education with helping him explore a variety of opportunities.

He visited the Brandeis School of Law on Jan. 31, 2018, to speak with students about his career and the many ways a law degree can open doors.

After graduating from law school, Holland spent just 15 months at a law firm before deciding to pursue a career in film. He has now produced more than 100 films, including several award-winners and several that have been shown at the Sundance Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival.

Holland came to Louisville via his now-wife, who is from the city. Before his arrival, he didn't know much about Louisville, but he has learned that it is full of talent and opportunity with a rich history of independent thinkers.

"Jennifer Lawrence, Muhammad Ali, Hunter S. Thompson, Thomas Merton and Louis Brandeis — all independent thinkers,"  he says. 

Once he settled in Louisville, Holland and his wife bought what is now The Green Building and developed it into the first commercial building in Louisville to have a Platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. With the renovation of The Green Building, Holland became more involved with the neighborhood association and eventually helped rejuvenate what is now the NuLu neighborhood, a destination for restaurants, shops and real estate.

"Sometimes it takes an outside perspective," he says. 

Holland is now working to revitalize Louisville's Portland neighborhood, a historic district in West Louisville that has seen crime, poverty and vacant buildings in recent decades. He credits the University of Louisville for its plans to move its MFA program to a renovated Portland warehouse in 2018.

"The pre-eminent higher education institution in the Commonwealth of Kentucky is moving west of Ninth Street," he says. "It's great leadership."

As for how his law degree has helped in his many career paths, he sees it as a way to open doors. 

"The great thing about having a law degree is that people think you're smart. It is a very well-respected degree and you can parlay it in many ways. It is only a win."

And as a practical matter, Holland's legal education has come in handy too: "I still do contracts every day," he says, noting that ironically, contracts was his worst grade in law school. "I still do law every day — and I save lots of many for my businesses."

Holland's visit was arranged by the law school's Office of Professional Development, which often brings in guest speakers to talk with students about career paths. It was co-sponsored by Brandeis Law's the Sports & Entertainment Law Society and the Business Law Society.