Cooley grad sets his sights on career in estate law

Recent Cooley grad Jay Thomas and his wife Kelsey enjoy kayaking with their two dogs.

Photo courtesy of Jay Thomas

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

From a young age, Jayson Thomas enjoyed strategy games—and with that passion, went on to earn a BBA in Management with minors in Marketing and Entrepreneurial Studies from the University of Mississippi.

“Businesses play a similar game, albeit for higher stakes, when determining how to use their resources to reach their goals,” he says. “Business management taught me about leadership, planning, and decision-making. To get a full picture of business strategy, I also studied Marketing and Entrepreneurship. Marketing showed me how to focus on customers, and Entrepreneurship helped me think creatively. Together, these studies gave me a well-rounded view of how businesses work and how to make strategic decisions.”

A few years of work in marketing and operations provided a valuable foundation for his future law career. 

“In marketing, I learned how to communicate clearly and effectively, making sure people not only get the message but are also interested in it. In operations, I got the hang of detailed research and planning,” he says. “With everything moving online these days, I also got hands-on experience with digital tools and online communication. All in all, this work experience gave me solid skills in communication, research, and digital know-how, which I think are key in today's fast-changing world.”

Thomas was then drawn to study law, earning his JD from WMU-Cooley Law in April, graduating second in class with a 3.9 GPA. 

“I believed it would enhance my market value, opening doors to diverse opportunities. I also saw it as a means to greater independence, allowing me to work for myself rather than always being dependent on employers,” he says. 

“Beyond these practical reasons, I was drawn to the idea of helping people during challenging times, and guiding them through complex situations. Ultimately, studying law felt like a path that would grant me the freedom to shape my own future and make impactful decisions.”

Thomas calls his time at Cooley incredibly enriching, where the accelerated program structure allowed him to complete the course in two years. 

“This was both rigorous and rewarding,” he says. “This model not only allowed me to immerse myself fully in legal studies but also instilled a sense of discipline and time management that I believe will serve me well in my professional journey.”

He also enjoyed the intellectual challenges, and an education he says extended beyond just legal tenets. 

“It fostered a transformation in my perspective, teaching me novel ways to approach problems and offering insights into life's complexities,” he says. “The holistic approach to teaching law, which interweaves theoretical understanding with practical implications, has been invaluable.”

He appreciated the diverse Cooley community and collaborative environment, and notes the camaraderie among students, combined with the support and mentorship from the faculty, created a environment conducive for learning and personal growth.

His particular interest is tax law as a niche that permeates many aspects of people’s lives and many areas of law. 

“In areas like business and estates, where financial intricacies and long-term planning are paramount, a solid grasp of tax implications can significantly impact the advice we provide and the decisions clients make,” he says. “For me, it’s about bridging the knowledge gap and ensuring that, in my practice, I can offer well-rounded and informed counsel to clients.”

His service in various capacities during law school was both challenging and immensely rewarding. 

“Each role provided a unique set of experiences and learnings,” he says. 

“As the founder and president of the Cooley Tax Law Society, I was passionate about creating a platform where students could demystify tax law and understand its relevance across different legal sectors. The journey of building the group, curating content, and fostering discussions was incredibly gratifying. It underscored the importance of collaboration, vision, and the ripple effect of shared knowledge. 

“In my role as a research assistant, I had the privilege of delving deep into specific intricacies, allowing me to hone my analytical and research skills. It instilled in me meticulous attention to detail and the ability to sift through vast amounts of information to discern what truly matters.”

Serving as a teaching assistant for Contracts was another unique experience. 

“It not only solidified my foundational understanding of contracts but also taught me the art of communication and pedagogy. Being able to break down complex concepts for fellow students and facilitate their understanding was a testament to the adage that teaching is the best way to master a subject,” he says. “I aspire to continue generating instructive content that simplifies the law for the masses while refining my own grasp of the nuances.”

As a student senator for the Student Bar Association, he had the honor of representing his peers and voicing their concerns and aspirations—a role he says underscored the significance of leadership, active listening, and value of collective decision-making.

 “Collectively, these roles have been instrumental in shaping my holistic approach to the law, emphasizing not just the theoretical aspects but also the importance of collaboration, communication, and leadership in the legal profession,” he says.

A piece Thomas wrote for the ABA Law Student Division he calls “a fun, quick exercise to explain how syllogisms can help with legal thinking, especially for new law students.”

But writing for the Law Review, he notes, is a whole different ballgame, both arduous and rewarding, with loads of research and editing. His Law Review comment focuses on the constitutional and moral concerns of the Federal Reserve’s proposal to implement a central bank digital currency—CBDC—that would be a radical change to the status quo. “It would allow a federal agency the ability to conduct warrantless monitoring of all transactions and even the power to arbitrarily limit access to funds. This plan poses major ramifications to several fundamental liberty interests, namely those of the First and Fourth Amendments,” he says. 

“Through my writing, I aim to shine a light on these potential concerns, hoping to foster informed discussions around the issue.”

Thomas was honored with the Student Achievement Award from the Tax Section of the State Bar of Michigan during the 35th annual State Bar Tax Conference on May 25. 

“It was a profound honor,” he says.

 “However, I couldn’t have done this alone. Special recognition is owed to professors Daniel M. Houlf and Marjorie Gell for their help as well as the members of the group, who each contributed immensely.

“Our goal in revitalizing the Tax Law Society was to create a platform where students could explore the intricacies and relevance of taxes in today's complex legal landscape. This award signifies the impact of our efforts and underscores the importance of dedication and collaboration.”

Since the start of law school Thomas has been working part-time as a paralegal with Innovative Law Services, a family law and estate-planning firm in Novi.

“The boutique firm offers flexibility and great first-hand experience in developing a customer-centric focus,” he says.

Focused on law school and bar preparation for the last two years, Thomas is now taking time to catch up on other parts of his life. 

He also is finishing up initial business planning in order to be prepared to ‘hang his shingle’ once the bar results are released.

“I plan to initially focus on estate planning and administration, an area I’ve studied extensively for several years,” he says. 

“I hope to eventually expand to business planning after I get my footing.” 

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