Emile Banks has come a long way. Arrested while growing up in Chicago for trying to scare neighborhood bullies with his mother’s handgun, he spent a night in jail at 12 years old. “I had to sleep with a bunch of criminals,” Banks told us in the 2006 issue of Wisconsin Super Lawyers Magazine. “I knew one thing: I was never going to end up in that place again.”
He never did. Instead, Banks ended up as the founder of Emile Banks & Associates in Milwaukee, where he’s built a notable personal injury defense practice. He’s also known for his sermons at Christian Faith Fellowship Church, where he’s an associate pastor. Occasionally, his passions intersect.
His two careers have some commonalities. “It’s all about persuasion,” Banks says. “When you’re on the pulpit and ministering the word of God, you’re telling people it’s true and applicable to their lives. When I’m in court, I’m persuading the jury that it’s my story, and a story they should accept.”
A pivotal case for Banks involved a single mother who attended his church. Accused by a large corporation of not filing the appropriate paperwork and owing money to them, she did not qualify for legal aid. So Banks chose to represent her pro bono and won.
“She was tearful, crying, and said she did not know what she would have done [without our help],” says Banks. “Lawyers are expensive, and many of us want to do pro bono work, but the pressures of making profits for the corporation get in the way.”
It was this desire to take on more pro bono work that led Banks to start his own firm.
“It actually ended up being the greatest decision in my career,” he says. It allows him to take on many clients for free or at reduced rates.
“Emile could have taken the easy way,” says Fehring. “He could be an in-house attorney for a large corporation, to flesh out their diversity. Instead, he decided to start his own firm.”
Banks prays before the start of each trial. “I never want to walk out of a courtroom feeling … that I have prevented someone from obtaining something they had rightfully coming,” Banks says. “I never argue a position I don’t truly believe in. I have been in a position [where] clients have asked me to say things to help their case. If it’s not a fact, I will not say it, no matter what the client says or threatens to do.”