Jaha Thomas is an Associate Attorney at the Brandy Austin Law Firm.
Jaha (pronounced jay-ya) grew up in the Arlington area. She had a very joyous upbringing and very close-knit family with strong connection with her grandparents. Jaha learned from an early age that education is the great equalizer, so she worked hard to become a life-long learner and took advantage of every opportunity that came her way. Her family has always been tremendously supportive of everything she wanted to do, no matter how unattainable it may have seemed. She vividly remembers when she was 5 years old, telling her grandfather that she wanted to be a ballet dancing surgeon, to which he replied, “Well, let’s get started! We’ve got goals!” This can-do attitude molded her into a person that works for results and never ever gives up, regardless of what people said or did to deter her.
After graduating from Bowie High School, she attended Texas Christian University where she was a pre-med major. After working as a CNA (certified nursing assistant) in various nursing homes, she determined the medical field was not her calling. After receiving her Bachelor’s in Science, she set out to travel the world. Not long after graduation, she moved to Costa Rica where she worked as an English teacher, danced with a Salsa dance company and took Spanish classes. After a year of living the “Pura Vida” (pure life), Jaha decided to move to Queens, New York to experience the big apple. In New York, Jaha continued dancing for fun and she also taught English to adults. She really enjoyed teaching English because her class of thirty students were from 20 different countries. This was a very positive experience, as Jaha witnessed people from all corners of the earth work together and create a unique supportive learning community. This sparked a desire in her to meet and learn from different people of different cultures. From that point on, Jaha traveled to as many countries as she could. She would take out a map, close her eyes and book a ticket for the next unknown adventure.
After a while, the hustle and bustle of New York and homesickness began to wear on her, and she decided to move back to Texas to be near her family. At this point, she realized that teaching came naturally, so Jaha pursued teaching and became certified in elementary bilingual education. She taught bilingual Kindergarten, 3rd grade and first grade. While teaching, Jaha obtained a Master of Arts from the University of Texas in Arlington in Modern Languages with an emphasis in Linguistics. While studying at UTA, Jaha and two other graduate students had the remarkable opportunity to go to San Andres Chicahuaxtla in Oaxaca, Mexico to study the endangered language Triqui. This is one of Jaha’s fondest memories as she felt incredibly fortunate to visit the village, as the habitants were apprehensive of visitors, due to unpleasant interactions in the past, however the people were so welcoming and eager to share their culture, customs and language.
During a 10-year career in bilingual education, Jaha took advantage of the teacher’s schedule and traveled to 43 different countries. Her travels cultivated an appreciation and respect for all people and their differences. Many people would ask her why she was always traveling and was she afraid of what may happen. Jaha always responded in the same manner “carpe diem”, you only live once, cherish the time and opportunities you have now because life can change at any moment and regret is the nemesis. Jaha traveled to many countries alone, but she traveled responsibility with a well-planned agenda and has gained life-long friendships from her travels. Due her extensive travel, she is now fluent in Spanish and also proficient in Brazilian Portuguese and French.
Jaha always had a conviction and zeal for social advocacy, equality and equity. Teaching allowed her to help her students and their families by creating relationships, giving guidance and advice to improve their educational experience. Working with mostly immigrant families who struggled and feared the law, she knew that it was time to do more, so she left education to pursue law. Her reasoning was due to her desire to guide others through the happiest and most challenging moments in life and she also has a devotion to community outreach. Jaha has always been attracted to family law because family is the most precious and valuable asset to most, including herself. She loves the wide umbrella of family law that embodies a person’s entire life. This essentially means that an attorney can represent and advocate for a family for a lifetime.
In the spirit of “go big or go home”, Jaha rented her house to a rental company, packed a U-Haul with her life and moved to Lansing, Michigan for law school at Western Michigan University. While in law school some of her accolades included: Mock Trial Competition Winning duo, Moot Court Competition Finalist and “Top Advocate”, Client Counseling Finalist and being on the Dean’s List for several terms. She also wrote for the Journal of Practical and Clinical Law as an Associate Editor. In addition, she worked for the Sixty Plus, Elder Law Clinic where she advocated for indigent clients in various topics ranging from: landlord tenant issues, civil rights, divorce, guardianship, preparation of wills, powers of attorney, medical health directives, public benefit issues including social security, Medicare, and Medicaid planning.
While in law school, Jaha met and married her husband. After she graduated with her Juris Doctor from Western Michigan University, she and her husband moved back to Arlington. After taking a break to start a family, Jaha became a licensed attorney and began to search for her legal career home.
For Jaha, good health is one of the most important assets a person can have. She works out consistently for a healthy outlet. She enjoys running 5ks, boxing, kickboxing, Muy Thai, and dancing. Her personal goal is to compete in a fitness competition, in the next year. For relaxation she enjoys watching extremely unrealistic shark based sci-fi movies. Work life balance is extremely important to Jaha, as she wants to give the same enthusiasm and excellence to her career as she does her family.
Jaha’s personal mantra is “Let’s make it happen, if I don’t know how, we’ll figure it out”; Integrity or the lack thereof tells a lot about a person. I don’t what the world to be a better place just for me, my family, like thinkers or people that look like me, but I want the world to be a better place for every single person.