Alumni Find Non-traditional Ways To Successfully Use Their Law Degree

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While many Carolina Law alumni can be found working in law firms and government agencies and as counsel to companies, others are using their degree in non-traditional ways. Here are four grads who have taken the road less traveled.

Ty Votaw

A lifelong sports fan, Ty Votaw has combined his passion with his profession.

In his role as Executive Vice President, International for the PGA Tour, Votaw is involved with every aspect of the PGA Tour’s business that takes place outside of the United States.

“My activities on a day-to-day basis relate to both commercial and political activities, relationship building with other tours around the world, and audience development to ensure that we grow the game of golf from both a fan and participation perspective in certain strategic markets like China, India, Korea, and Japan,” says Votaw.

After graduating from Carolina Law, Votaw worked in the corporate transactions department of the Cincinnati law firm Taft, Stettinius, and Hollister. There he developed a strong working relationship with Charlie Mechem, one of the firm’s clients, who went on to become the commissioner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).

“Because I knew that I wanted to work in sports, I asked Charlie if there were ever any jobs that I would be qualified to help (him) with at the LPGA,” says Votaw.

Votaw was hired six months later, in June 1991, as general counsel for the LPGA. His legal activities as general counsel lasted two years before he transitioned to the business side of the LPGA which he served as commissioner from 1999 to 2005.

In 2006, Votaw joined the PGA Tour where he has held a variety of roles including chief marketing officer and point person for getting golf into the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Votaw says that he draws on his legal background every day, particularly with negotiations and relationship building. “My law degree and legal education at North Carolina helped sharpen my communication skills and the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts in my head at the same time,” he says. “My time at North Carolina was a real game changer for me because I developed the skill set to relate to people I was negotiating with and empathize with their positions so when we ultimately come together with an agreement or a relationship, it’s a win-win for both parties.”

The best and most meaningful relationships in Votaw’s life were built at Carolina Law. “I get together at least once a year—and have done so every year since 1987—with my four closest lifelong friends who were all classmates and graduates of UNC School of Law: Joe Buckner; Michael Hauser; Joe Dornfried; and Mike Nedzbala,” says Votaw. “I count my time at Carolina Law, as well as the friendships from that experience, as some of the most cherished moments of my life.”

Winston Crisp
Winston Crisp '92


Winston Crisp enrolled at Carolina Law with the desire to follow in the footsteps of renowned civil rights attorneys such as Thurgood Marshall and Julius Chambers.

But a research assistant position during law school changed the course of Crisp’s career path and led to his current role as Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“I spent two years during law school working with (former Carolina Law) Dean Judith Wegner as a research assistant on projects aimed at making things better and advocating for people, similar to the things I do in my job now,” says Crisp. “It was Judith who saw me as somebody who was made to be an educator.”

While Crisp says that he always had an interest in education, he had different plans for his post-law school career. “I grew up as an Army kid and I planned to take a commission in the Army JAG (Judge Advocate General’s) Corps,” says Crisp. “After I did my service, I was going to transition into a career in civil rights.”

Because of her conviction that Crisp would be better served and would better serve the world as an educator, Dean Wagner named him as Carolina Law’s first full-time assistant dean for student affairs upon his law school graduation. He was only 25 years old. “I made a deal that I would do the job for two years and if I didn’t like it at the end of that time, I would go back to the original plan (of joining the JAG Corps),” says Crisp. “That was more than 26 years ago and I have never looked back.”

Crisp worked in administration at the law school until 2005 when he moved to UNC’s main campus as the assistant vice chancellor before being named as Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs in 2010.

He describes his current role as supporting students so that they are able to “engage in an educational process that will result in them being ready to go out in the world and make their way.”

Crisp says that his work is similar to what he would have done in a legal career. “I get up every day and I try to use the total sum of everything I have ever learned to help other people move forward,” he says. “What I do is teaching writ large.”

He is grateful for his law school education.

“Carolina Law gave me problem solving skills and techniques,” he says. “I gained the ability to step beyond my own perspective and look at things from 360 degrees.”

“In law school, I was taught by a lot of really smart teachers and learned alongside a really smart peer group,” he says. “But the people, like Dean Wegner, who took the time to care about me, help me build skills and figure out where I was meant to be made all the difference in the world to me. That’s the thing I am always trying to pay forward.”


While it’s been more than 14 years since L’Tryce Slade received her J.D. from Carolina Law, she continues to expand her knowledge. Since 2006, Slade has owned Slade Land Use, Environmental, and Transportation Planning, a licensed general contracting firm that specializes in geotechnical services, construction materials testing, environmental services and urban planning, located in Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama.

To stay on the leading edge in her field, Slade earned a general contractor’s license and has taken a range of certification and licensing classes. “Getting my general contractor’s license was much more difficult than getting my law degree,” says Slade. “I don’t have a builder background.” She also doesn’t have a background in science but that didn’t stop her from building a construction material/geotechnical laboratory in her business, one of just a few women in the Southeast to have done so.

“I’m one of 30 women across the country to be selected for the (Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s) Energy Executive Program with Shell, BP and Chevron and Exxon/Mobil,” she says.

This year, she was also accepted into three competitive small business development programs sponsored by the City of Atlanta Watershed/Hartsfield Jackson Airport, Delta Airlines, and the Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection.

Slade says that law school gave her the ability to successfully complete applications for business development programs, proposals, sells, and project deliverables. “I have to sell myself and my company in order to get in these programs because they are for the best of the best,” says Slade.

Her Carolina Law education has supported Slade’s business success.

“I have to review a lot of contracts and knowing that I can negotiate contracts, and not be afraid to ask for alternatives that make it easier for me to perform has been really huge,” she says. “It has also helped me be really analytical with my business approach.”

With summer law school internship experience in the Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental justice liaison office, Slade’s first post-graduation job was in a Birmingham law firm working on an environmental justice class action suit. When that case ended after 18 months, so did Slade’s job. Unable to soon find another job in Birmingham, Slade created marketing materials offering urban planning services to larger construction and engineering firms.

“I also have a master’s degree in city and regional planning from UNC so I thought I could do consulting while I was looking for a job,” she says.

Her business continued to grow and now employs nine people.

“I feel like the sky’s the limit of being able to learn things that I’m interested in and teach other people about it,” says Slade. “I try to hire people that may not have a college degree. So the purpose of my business has become far greater than just having a business, it has become about helping people pull themselves out of poverty and provide a better life for their families. We not only build buildings, we build people.”

Gill Holland

It’s not easy to sum up the work of Gill Holland, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur and community builder. While Holland’s interests are broad, they each reflect his commitment to connecting people and having a positive impact.

“(My companies) operate in the 21st century model of capitalism where it’s the return on community, not just the return on investment,” says Holland. “There has been such an emphasis that if you make money, you’re successful as opposed to if you make an impact, you’re successful.”

Holland has made an impact on his adopted hometown of Louisville, Kentucky in a variety of ways. He and his wife, Augusta, developed The Green Building, the greenest commercial structure in the state. An accomplished independent film producer with over 100 films to his credit, Holland found success with his first movie, “Hurricane Streets,” the first film to win three awards at the Sundance Film Festival. One of his most recent films, “Most Beautiful Island,” won SXSW’s Grand Jury Award in 2017.

After seeing the need to make music licensing easier for films, Holland started sonaBLAST! Records, a record label and publishing company which just passed 100 million streams on Pandora and Spotify. His book publishing house, Holland Brown books, primarily produces “positive, life- affirming Louisville- and Kentucky-related books.”

Holland says that soon after law school, “I quickly realized I wasn’t going to be a traditional lawyer because I’m too entrepreneurial. I’m a big picture guy and lawyers need to be very detailed focused.”

His first job after graduating from law school was in a Paris law firm which represented a film producer. “Growing up in Davidson and going to Chapel Hill, I had never met anybody who worked in media,” he says. But once he did, “I said, ‘I think I need to do that,’” says Holland. “It’s the perfect blend of my business mind/creative mind.”

Like Votaw, Holland says that his Carolina Law education helps him in negotiations. “Arguing torts cases helps you see both sides of an issue which, in a perfect world, helps creates empathy and compassion,” says Holland. “So many people in the world don’t see the win-win but there is always a win-win. It’s important to understand how to get others onto your team to build a greater community because nobody can do that by themselves.”

“Contracts, which was my worst grade of all and the class I totally didn’t get on any level, is of course the thing I do every day,” laughs Holland. “Having been in law school, I’m not scared of dealing with contracts and I know when I can do it on my own and when I need to hire someone to do it for me.”

“I love what I do,” says Holland. “You have one life so it’s important to think about what’s going to be your impact and your legacy.”

-August 15, 2018

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