Some people have a spirit that can penetrate walls and soften even the most cynical hearts. I remember the first time I saw Jessica, she was a newly minted lawyer interviewing for her first job which was at the firm where I was, at the time, employed and frustrated. She was sitting in the conference room waiting for her appointment. We met eyes through the window and she gave me a huge smile and wave, like she knew me! The nerve, right?! I think I gave her a fake smile... and I probably rolled my eyes shortly thereafter.
Little did I know in that moment that I had just met a new member of my sister circle. Over the past few years, Jessica and I have developed an enduring friendship. Her enthusiasm and energy are infectious, and her caring spirit and love of people is completely refreshing to me. I have watched with pride and admiration as this young, bubbly, fresh-faced lawyer has grown into a well-respected attorney with her own firm that serves the community that needs her most. In just a few short years, Jessica has become a wife, a mother, a business owner, and an award-winning advocate in the Central Florida area. I am so proud of this young woman and it is my hope that you get to know Jessica Thomas, Esq. You will definitely see her do great things in the future!
1. Jessica, tell me about yourself. Who are you at your core?
I am a social butterfly! This was tagged to me long before I became an Attorney and long before I became a wife and a mother. However, it is that underlying quality that makes me who I am; it dictates my social awareness and my overall directive for what motivates my everyday activities. My connections allow me to have an integral support system to challenge or support decisions I am consider making for my family and business. I am selfless and genuine, but a constant battle I have fought is to ensure that my sincerity is taken at face value. My commitment to others and my unwavering desire to be a foundation for those closest to me is often questioned for its veracity, however, I am who am and I always will be.
2. Why did you become a lawyer, and what made you start your own practice?
I became a lawyer for my family. I grew up in Panama City, Florida and this (despite the Spring Break hype) is a country place at heart. I aced "Outdoor Education" which is a real life class where we get our boating and fishing license, skin a deer and learn how to shoot a bow and arrow for example. Therefore, when I say that I am a southern girl at heart, it is the honest to God truth. However, with that hometown feel comes, "KKK" on middle school picnic tables and trucks that fly confederate flags not for "history" but for the ongoing racial divide that is ever more prevalent in our country. Therefore, starting out in Bay County Teen Court allowed me to see that a role in the legal community could be the make or break between the life or death in my neck of the woods. I wanted to be able to fight for my family when someone accused them of malfeasance for simply being black. I wanted to know better, if you will.
I started my own practice to be better. I personally wanted to be better at serving the community and when you work for a firm you have to practice how they want you to practice. This means you can't take a payment plan if they don't, it means you can't take a harder cases if they won't, and it most of all means that all of your hard work is always seen as something they made possible. I wanted better. I wanted to be able to help those I couldn't before, be there for my family and make every single tear of blood and sweat be for building MY legacy.
3. You are a mother, wife, attorney, and have several roles in the community. How do you manage it all?
God. Really, prayer is what I always rely on and it has always gotten me through. A good piece of advice I always remember is that when you have something to do, you just do it. You don't think about how you will get it all done, you just do one thing at a time. Today for example, I woke up and spend time with my son while I answered emails on my phone. I then cleaned the house while I called the clerk and scheduled marketing events. I got dressed to run errands while feeding my son to put him to sleep and file a Step-Parent Adoption. It just happens. You know what you have to do so you "buck up" and do it! When you feel like it's too much, you pray and look for support. My husband gives me constant support, like staying with our son after he has a 12 hour workday so I that can make it to a new client consult, or helps me address subpoenas while I nurse the baby.
4. What is the most rewarding part of your career?
Winning. I know that sounds shallow but honestly, every single time that I "WIN" I know that I have made a monumental impact. For example, winning alimony means that the spouse who gave freely of themselves during the marriage won't have to take out one more cash advance loan. Even winning a Motion to Compel means peace for a client who has never truly known what the other has for assets and can finally rest about their future. But even more so, winning means that I am doing my JOB. It means that I am reaching the goals I have set for myself. It means that I do know this area of law better and better every day... and it means that I will continue to be able to provide for my family.
5. As a family law attorney, what do you want people to know about this aspect of the legal system?
Every single case is different. That sounds cliche but it seems to bear repeating. I often see someone taken advantage of or disheartened because they thought that their case would be like the article they found online or like their friend's from church. If they just understood how different every family is, it would make sense to them as to why every single case has a different outcome. Then, everyone would start with a clean-slated state of mind and really be in a better position to have an outcome that is best for their family.
6. What are some of your plans for the future?
Career: (Overall) To have the premier Family Law Firm in the State that I retire from to become Governor. (Five years) Triple my case load and Triple my Staff. Have at least three (3) interns and promote programs for low income families to have legal representation.
Personal: (Overall) To continue to have the tight knit family that I always strive for and to travel. (Five years) To be an adjunct professor at a local higher educational institution.
7. What advice would you give to those who are thinking about striking out on their own?
Make sure that you have experience (1) in business and (2) in your practice area. Those two things have allowed me to be successful much sooner than some of my colleagues. I knew what to do to generate clients and new what to do to keep my business profitable!