“Everybody told me I would argue about anything,” says A. Holland “Holly” Houston, Louisville attorney.
So Houston did, with a quick pit-stop in journalism.
Today she has a practice that has a strong focus on family law, even as she finds time to write, and promote areas of the law that she sees as being under-appreciated or understood by the mainstream.
Originally from Lexington, Houston got her undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky, graduating in 1990 with a degree in journalism.
Unable to find a job, she enrolled in University of Louisville’s Louis D. Brandeis School of Law the following August.
“I’m not the most patient person,” she says.
Family law is an umbrella term that encompasses an enormous range of legal issues. These can include divorce, child custody issues, adoption, and many other potentially messy, extremely personal matters.
Of divorce law she says, “love is one thing; what I do is another thing altogether.” The biggest part of her practice is related to divorce and custody.
Houston has a progressive take on the law, and part of her practice deals with issues related to cohabitation planning; i.e., the laws that apply to couples that have lived together long-term without getting married.
Kentucky law does not recognize common-law marriages, meaning that there is no clear cut definition for which partner gets what property when such a union dissolves.
She also represents clients in the still nascent field of same sex partnerships. Though such marriages have yet to be recognized in Kentucky, same sex couples face many of the same issues as other couples including the need for wills, trusts, financial planning and the like.
At the same time there are some wrinkles to this field. For example, in Kentucky, single individuals are allowed to adopt, but same sex couples may not. Her work is spent navigating this potential mine field for clients.
In her spare time, Houston co-founded the group Greater Louisville Outstanding Women, which is dedicated to helping professional women in Louisville network with one another. The first GLOW meeting took place in 2009 and just seven women came.
Today there are 130 members.
She says such a group is necessary because men have a huge advantage when it comes to business networking with one another.
“Women need a source of referrals when they are in business,” she says. “Let’s refer business to each other.”
The group meets the fourth Tuesday of each month.
Houston also continues to write. She has a column for Nfocus Magazine, and also blogs on her professional website. She’s written for Nfocus for two years — she won’t say whether they pay — and her pieces there have virtually nothing to do with her legal practice.
This is a necessary release, she says.
“I have to have a bunch of different outlets, and I like it that way,” she says.
Her next big project is the launch of a humanitarian law section within the Louisville Bar Association. To get this new project off the ground she first had to find 25 additional people to join this new section, and organize a continuing education seminar on the topic. The latter is scheduled for October 17.
This is the realization of a long-term goal. “I’ve been talking about this for three years,” she says.
Amidst all this Houston says the coolest part of her job is that she continues to learn.
“There is always a new twist or surprise.”