2014 Forty Under 40: Edward Thomas

thomas_edward_1col.jpg (IBJ Photo/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Military intelligence: “Most people with advanced degrees go in as officers,” said Thomas, who rose to sergeant in the U.S. Army. “I came in as an enlisted person and it allowed me to connect with people—to try to see things from other perspectives. I believe that’s been one of the keys to my success thus far: The simple fact of being able to identify with people, not feeling as though you are any better than anyone else. It works in my practice and in everyday life.”

Decision making: While serving in Bosnia, Thomas worked as a paralegal in the Judge Advocate Corp. “They wanted to send me to law school and have me stay on board with the military,” he said. “At that point, though, we had one kid and I didn’t want to travel as much, so we made the decision to go out and take the traditional route to a law degree.”

Work/study: As a civilian, he earned a degree from Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis by taking night classes and working during the day. “I’m on the recruiting committee [at Lewis Wagner] and when we do interviews, you can certainly tell when a student has had some work life experience, and that’s always a plus.”

AGE 39
Hometown: Gary

Family: wife, Clamita; children Imani,12, Edward Jr., 8, and Isis, 2

First case scenario: Thomas’ first case as a practicing attorney was a standard slip-and-fall. “I remember it vividly,” he said, “although it wasn’t anything really complex.” The opportunity to work with founding partner Robert Wagner, though, was invaluable. “He taught me everything I didn’t learn in law school.”

Mentoring: “I’m always over at the law school,” he said. “I’m friends with a few of the deans and they’re always sending students my way.” Thomas takes them to lunch, gives them his “life after law school” pitch, and helps them with career-building strategies. “It’s something I love to do.” He’s also proud of his work on the finance committee of the YMCA, including helping get a new facility built at Avondale Meadows.•

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