Updated on May 13, 2016
Lens on the law
Bradley Thomas, L’16
Bradley Thomas brings a scientist’s reason and an artist’s creativity to the study of law.
The former research scientist holds an undergraduate degree in molecular biology, but he’s as comfortable behind a camera lens as he is behind a microscope.
“In law school, it’s an analytical creativity,” said Thomas, L’16. “The outcome I desire is x. Here are the rules. How do I get there? It’s a problem-solving logic exercise. The scientific part of me just loves that.
“But art is free-form expression that I don’t get from law school or from law. That’s not a problem. I just need something else in my life that allows that.”
Photography has fulfilled that need for Thomas since he was a child. At the age of 6, he blew through several rolls of film on a drive to Colorado for a family ski trip, and then continued taking pictures with no film. “It was just kind of fun to look through and see what I could spot through the viewfinder,” the Mission Hills native said. “A lot of times it’s much less interesting than you think it’s going to be, or the things you don’t instantly find interesting turn out to be fascinating from the right angle.”
Thomas began approaching photography more seriously at Shawnee Mission East High School, where he took classes and learned his way around the darkroom. He mastered the manual settings on his Nikon FM2 and even built a darkroom in his mom’s basement.
But shooting photos took a backseat to studying when Thomas enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2002. Jobs at AG Bayer Crop Science Research and Children’s Mercy Hospital followed. Although Thomas had dabbled with his dad’s digital cameras on holiday breaks during college, it wasn’t until his scientific work led him to Romania for a medical mission trip in 2007 that he really gained confidence in his images.
“Afterward, I had about 1,000 pictures,” he said. “As I looked through them, I thought some were pretty good.” He assembled a slideshow of his photos that the trip’s organizer showed at a gathering. “They asked me back the following year as the official photographer.”
A third trip – this time to Mali – followed in 2010. Thomas served as the acting pharmacist on that mission, but he took a camera, too.
“It really put things into perspective to be in one of the poorest countries in the world,” he said. “There were kids living on piles of trash. Open cesspools were their homes. It was a life-changing, emotional experience.”
Back stateside and looking for a new direction, Thomas earned his MBA at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he took a business law course that piqued his interest. Next stop? Green Hall. In his three years at KU Law, Thomas took every class the school offered related to intellectual property.
He passed the Patent Bar the summer after his 1L year, will sit for the Missouri bar exam in July and then join the patent practice at Shook, Hardy & Bacon in Kansas City, Missouri – helping inventors license their best ideas. And hopefully getting back to some creative work of his own.
“Law school has limited the amount of time I can dedicate to photography,” Thomas said. “But hopefully this education will afford me a lifestyle that will allow me to go on trips and see the world and take photos.”
HDR (High Dynamic Range)
— This post is the fourth in a series profiling a select few among the many outstanding members of the KU Law Class of 2016. Read our profiles of Ashley Akers, Bryce Langford, and Grecia Perez & Jacque Patton.