Angela Banks knew she wanted to be a lawyer when she was in the seventh grade.
“We had to do a career report and my dad was a professor at the University of Washington, and he arranged for me to interview the dean of the law school at the time,” she recalls. “I remember being very prepared to ask him, 'What do I need to do to become a lawyer?' I didn’t know what kind of law I wanted to practice; I just was drawn to law. There was a whole system of rules for the peaceful resolution of conflict. I thought that was really amazing and fascinating.”
Coming from a family of professors, perhaps it’s no surprise that she chose academia herself. Now, she’s been appointed vice dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.
An immigration and citizenship law expert, Banks spent two years as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University and clerked for a federal judge before serving as legal advisor to Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald at the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague. She was a professor at William & Mary Law School for 10 years before getting the call from ASU in 2017 to join the Southwest Borderlands Initiative.
She received a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Spelman College and is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review and the Harvard International Law Journal.
In addition to the opportunity to live in a city where immigration issues are often public topics of discussion, Banks said ASU’s commitment to inclusion drew her to the university.
“I remember at my new faculty orientation hearing President Crow talk about the commitment to the charter and how we are defined by who we include, not who we exclude, and that we are committed to their success,” she said. “That just really struck me as so critically important. I think that should be a mission for all universities, particularly being a public school. I found that to be incredibly motivating, and I think it does set us apart.”
While she will still continue to teach in addition to her duties as vice dean, Banks said she looks forward to tackling strategic planning and building strong ties with the community as part of her new role.
“I really do think law schools as institutions are structures that have such a huge impact on students and faculty alike and have an opportunity to be impactful in their communities,” she said. “I loved that role I played as a professor and teaching students. I thought that was amazing, and I still enjoy that work, but (my new role will) be a good opportunity to think more structurally about the law school in the lives of students, faculty and the community.”
She is also excited to work closely with Willard H. Pedrick Dean and Regents Professor of Law Stacy Leeds as she charts her way forward as ASU Law’s new leader.
“I am extremely fortunate to have Angela join the leadership team at ASU Law. Not only is she an extraordinary educator and legal scholar, but her wise counsel is also in high demand both in academic settings and in highly visible and impactful national organizations,” said Leeds. “I’m thrilled she has agreed to serve as vice dean as we continue to reimagine the law school of the future.”
As part of that strategic planning, Banks will be looking at ways to amplify ASU Law’s programs, student success and faculty research.
“I’m excited about Stacy’s new leadership and her vision for the law school, thinking about issues around wellness and access and excellence,” said Banks.
While that strategic planning process is just beginning, Banks said she looks forward to helping law students at pivotal moments in their lives and encouraging them to think of themselves as “whole people.”
“There’s a reason you came to law school, and sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that reason thinking about law school mechanics and specifics, but don’t forget why you came here,” she said.
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