The brightly colored hand-made THANK YOU! note on Brian Thomas’ bookcase is really more of a banner, large enough to accommodate dozens of crayon signatures.
“That’s from a bunch of fourth-graders I volunteered with at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts. The program is called ‘Poetry Pals,’ and a handful of attorneys from the Firm go over on Tuesdays and read to them. I sort of morphed it into something where the kids wrote their own poems.
“I could be having a bad day, and the time spent with those kids would change everything. And to think they were thanking me.”
Brian grew up just north of Dayton in suburban Troy, Ohio. His father negotiates labor contracts for a manufacturing company. To the extent Brian practices labor law at Graydon, he followed his father’s lead. Some of his fondest memories are of fishing trips to farm ponds with his dad and older brother, now a U.S. Army major. Brian and his wife, Joi, live in Loveland, and he takes every opportunity to fish the Little Miami River. He and his dad get together for an annual charter on Lake Erie.
At Georgia Tech, Brian was a sprinter. He ran his first marathon, the Flying Pig, in the spring of 2008. “All my life, I’ve been running short distances at top speed, so this was quite different. It felt good to set the goal, to set my mind to it and achieve it.”
He uses a word you hear often when Graydon attorneys talk about the approach they take in their work: “Practical.”
“It starts with relationships. With the client, a good relationship makes it easier to understand each other’s perceptions. It also helps to have a good relationship with opposing counsel. If I have a weakness in my case, we can talk about it – which makes it easier to avoid all the gamesmanship that runs up the bill for the client.
You could compare it to the difference between sprinting and long-distance running. “Some lawyers take a scorched earth approach, when most issues don’t require it. To me, being practical means assessing a problem and coming up with the solution that makes the most sense. What I try to do is understand what the ultimate goal is and then reverse-engineer from there.”
Another of Brian’s extracurricular activities through the Firm is as a board member for People Working Cooperatively, a non-profit that offers home repairs and other services to low-income, elderly and disabled households.
“We had one elderly couple recently where the husband had just passed away and the house needed lots of repairs, plus she needed a wheelchair ramp. When you can make a difference like that, you feel like you’re getting more than you’re giving.
“That’s what Graydon does for me. It puts an emphasis on family success, personal success and community success. Here, it’s not just about being a lawyer."
Brian is a partner at Graydon and chairs the firm’s Workers’ Compensation Practice Group. He has 15 years of experience representing employers in a wide range of employment matters, including workplace health and safety. Brian takes pride in seeing both the forest and the trees. He lives by Einstein’s saying that “any fool can know. The point is to understand.” Brian recognizes that every client has unique challenges and opportunities. He knows that he must first listen and genuinely understand an employer’s business before he can provide effective representation.
Brian learned these life lessons early. He started playing football in the second grade and saw how good teams are always greater than the sum of their parts. His parents also taught him that hard work pays off. Brian worked hard in high school to become a national champion hurdler. He continued his track and field career at Georgia Tech, where he was a four year letterman for the Yellow Jackets and served as the team’s co-captain his junior and senior years. But Brian didn’t limit his hard work to athletics.
Brian graduated from the University of Dayton School of Law, cum laude. While at UD, Brian served as the Editor-in-Chief of the University of Dayton Law Review and was an active participant on the school’s Moot Court team. Brian believes success involves more than just individual achievements. Giving back is very important. Brian currently serves on several civic and non-profit boards including People Working Cooperatively, St. Vincent de Paul, the Greater Cincinnati Minority Counsel Program and the Cincinnati Academy of Leadership for Lawyers. Brian also mentors new lawyers as part of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Lawyer to Lawyer Mentor Program.
Brian is still a sports fanatic, but his family is his greatest joy. You can find him at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday with his mom, watching the Cleveland Cavaliers with his wife, or watching his two daughters train for gymnastics gold in the 2028 Olympics.