In UCLA Law’s Alumni Spotlight, we talk to our amazing alumni to hear what they do, how they make a difference, and what their UCLA Law experience means to them.
This month, we feature Michelle Banks ’88, a Senior Advisor at BarkerGilmore, where she specializes in executive leadership coaching for women general counsel. Mentorship has been a constant in Banks’ career and has informed her close connection to UCLA Law for nearly a decade as co-founder and co-chair of UCLA Law Women LEAD since 2014 and, more recently, as a member of the advisory board for the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law & Policy where she supports the Institute’s annual Program on Professional Development. Banks was honored as a UCLA Law Alumni of the Year in 2016 and, in 2019, received the ABA’s prestigious Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, which honors women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence and paved the way for other women in the profession.
Can you tell us about your law career?
I was a corporate associate at Sheppard Mullin and then Morrison & Foerster. While at Morrison & Foerster, I spent a year in-house working with one of our clients and I liked it, so I decided eventually to go in-house full time. I worked for the Golden State Warriors for four seasons and then for Gap Inc., where I spent 17 years, the last decade as Global General Counsel. Working in-house suited me because I like being part of a collaborative team and problem-solving. Although I particularly enjoyed participating in moot court in law school, I was never drawn toward adversarial aspects of law practice.
It's hard to imagine anything more collaborative than UCLA Law Women LEAD.
True! Nancy Abell ‘79, an employment litigator at Paul Hastings, has been an incredible co-founder and co-chair of LEAD. I'm amazed at Nancy’s energy and generosity, and I’ve learned a lot from her. She has become a valued mentor and dear friend. We are both very pleased that the LEAD network has grown in to a community of more than 3,400 women located in 59 countries.
How long have you been doing that?
I signed up to co-chair for five years and it’s been eight! I love LEAD, a powerful network of women, and I plan to stay involved, but it’s time for a fresh leadership perspective. Kris Cheh Beck ’99 will become LEAD co-chair on May 1st and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Kris is a strategic and inclusive leader. (See our interview with Kris Cheh Beck from the law school’s 2021 magazine here. — Ed.)
Tell us about your new book.
I’ve written a chapter in an anthology, Women in Law Discovering the True Meaning of Success. Angela Han, an in-house lawyer, life coach, and podcast host gathered 22 other women lawyers to share our career journeys and advice. The book shows there are a lot of different ways to achieve success in life as a woman who graduated from law school. No two stories are the same. We hope sharing our stories will inspire women considering or attending law school and be of interest to lawyers across genders and stages of their careers.
In your volunteer work for the law school and your book, you’re making investments in the future of your profession. What’s your vision for the changes you're hoping to see?
I hope to see more equity in terms of opportunity, promotion, and compensation from both a gender and race perspective. The legal profession will be more effective when more people are included and treated equitably at every level. And, yes, I'm optimistic!