OMG...SHEisDOPE: Dayna Thomas, Esq.
Tucked away in the City of Atlanta is an entertainment and entrepreneurship lawyer by the name of Dayna Thomas, Esq. Ever since she was young, she's had her eyes set on becoming a lawyer, but loved the arts as well. So, instead of playing tug of war, Attorney Thomas decided to intertwine both by becoming an entertainment and entrepreneurship lawyer to satisfy both passions.
Q: Have you always wanted to be a lawyer? How did that come about?
A: Yes, I wanted to be a lawyer since I was a little girl. It started from when I was about 5 or 6 when family and family friends would say that I would grow up to be a lawyer. I guess it was because of my strong personality and because I always wanted to get my point across, even at such a young age. I had a reason for everything and always wanted to make deals with my mom.
Q: What’s your typical workday like? Is it like a 9-5?
A: Definitely not a 9-5, which is why I love being an entrepreneur. I usually start work around 10am from my home office. I have a dry erase board on my wall where I write down all I want to accomplish that week and I check them off as I go. I don’t take appointments before 1:00pm (some exceptions made), so by that time, I’m at my midtown office until my last appointment wraps up at about 5:00pm. I typically have 6-9 consultations each week. I used to do consultations and meetings any day of the week, but I realized that wasn’t efficient because I was spending so much time in meetings, with little time to do the actual work! So now I take meetings three days a week. After I get home from the office (if I go to the office that day), I spend a couple hours on some days working with my coaching clients through my second business, Virtual Business Counsel (www.virtualbusinesscounsel.com). That schedule is typical, but I shake things up pretty often because I truly do enjoy the flexibility I have with my time.
Q: Who would you say needs a lawyer the most? Does it matter how “famous” you are?
A: The more serious you are with your business or your craft, the more serious you should be about working with a lawyer. Being serious with your business or your craft means that you are taking risks in the hopes of high rewards. Lawyers can help you to minimize those risks and keep you informed about the best and worst case scenarios, as well as how to position things to help avoid the worst and prepare for the best. Succeeding in entrepreneurship and entertainment requires investments, especially in time and money. It’s so important to protect those investments, by contracts, trademarks, copyrights, business entities (to name a few), so that you can be in the best position possible to seize opportunities as they come and reach success with as little setbacks as possible.
Cont'd: When it comes to entrepreneurship and entertainment law, there is a link between needing a lawyer and your level of exposure, not necessarily fame. If you keep to yourself and are not really serious about growing your business or brand, then your exposure is low and therefore your risk is low. But if your goal is to truly develop your business or your craft and make a living from it, especially if you’re using the internet to reach people, then a lawyer would definitely be an asset to your team.
Q: Congrats on your book! I always say that you’ve made it once you have your own book. For those who don’t know what do you cover in your book?
A: Thank you! My book is called “Entrepreneur’s Guide to Building a Solid Legal Foundation.” In the book, I break down the fundamentals of what aspiring and new entrepreneurs need to know in the early stages of their businesses. I cover topics such as business entities, contracts, copyright, trademarks, licensing, and more. So, that entrepreneurs can have a solid understanding of entrepreneurship law and feel empowered as they build their business and brand. I wrote it because I realized how many entrepreneurs were ignoring the legal aspects of business, either because they believed that they couldn’t afford a lawyer, or may have just been intimidated by the legal process. So, I wrote the book to teach entrepreneurs how understanding the legal side of their business can actually help them make more money and have greater peace of mind while they’re building.
Q: And where can people buy it?
A: Hard copies are available at daynathomaslaw.com/guide, and the Kindle version is on Amazon.
Q: What is the biggest mistake that new business owners make?
A: It’s hard to say what the biggest mistake is, but one that creates high risk is not having contracts with people that you work with, such as clients or collaborators. I define collaborators as people that you work with to get to the next level, such as business partners, vendors, investors, other brands, etc. Contracts can help ensure a smooth relationship and sets expectations on both sides. Even more, they help avoid disputes and clarify ownership in work product, which is often created when you collaborate with others or do work for others. We all know that so-called “handshake deals” often go south because it was never clear what the terms or expectations were. Written contracts can help avoid that, so you can eliminate as many unnecessary obstacles as you pursue your goals.
Q: I read that your motto is, “Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.”
How has that mindset influenced your life?
A: That motto has been VERY influential in my life and career as I pursue my goals. I really believe that there is nothing that I can’t do – and I believe that for others as well. I’ve already done so many things that people would consider non-traditional and have been successful at it, and a big reason for that is because I truly believe that if I use the tools and resources available to me, put in the work, and have faith, that it will all work out. It may not always work out exactly the way I envisioned or in the timing I intended, but I can only fail if I give up. Because my belief in this motto is so deep, I do things that sound crazy to people, like starting my law firm right out of law school. But I believed that failure was not an option, and I acted on my belief by pursuing my dream head on and not applying for any post-graduation jobs as a plan B. No person has greater control over my life than I do, so I use that to my advantage.
Q: What’s your favorite restaurant in Atlanta?
A: My favorite restaurant is this Caribbean buffet called Tassa in Marietta (like 15-20 minutes outside of Atlanta). My family is Caribbean (from the island of St. Vincent) and Tassa is pretty much the closest thing to the Caribbean restaurants that I’m used to in Brooklyn, New York, my hometown.
Q: What were some of your biggest challenges in law school?
A: At first, my biggest challenge in law school was ignoring what other people (administrators, attorneys, students) thought I should be doing, and instead, pursuing what my true passion was – which was to start my firm after graduation. So many people tried to talk me out of it or doubted my plan, which led to that doubt shifting to me. So at first, I was doing what the other students were doing, like a robot on an assembly line, competing with each other, stressing over grades, applying for big firm summer associate positions to have a better chance of being hired, competing for positions on the mock trial and moot court teams (even though I knew I didn’t want to litigate), etc. I quickly realized that that path was not what I wanted and would not make me happy. Once I started to be more intentional about my time in law school, and using it to prepare me for what I really wanted, I realized that law school actually wasn’t that hard because I was being true to my own journey. I’m so glad that followed my own path because my firm has been profitable since my first month in business and I got my first client on the day of my launch. Everyone’s path is different, and even though it might be hard, you have to ignore the doubters and be true to your calling.
Q: What are you listening to now?
A: My Pandora is usually on the Dru Hill station. I love 90s R&B. Boyz II Men, Monica, Brandy, LL Cool J, Lauryn Hill, and 112 are usually in the rotation. One of the members of 112 is actually my client, so it’s funny how life comes full circle.
Thank you Dayna Thomas, Esq for being a part of SHEisDOPE! The work that you've accomplished at your age is incredible. SiD wishes you the best with your businesses and many more blessings to come.
If you are in need of an entertainment and entrepreneurship lawyer, schedule a consultation with Attorney Thomas today!