Robert Banta and his wife, Terry Currie Banta, both have an entrepreneurial streak. After the couple graduated from Vanderbilt Law School and married in 1979, Terry practiced law for only a short time before she and a partner founded Currie-Bonner, which designed and sold high-end, custom-fitted bridesmaids’ dresses through its own boutiques and through national retailers such as Neiman Marcus. Robert practiced law for 19 years with King & Spalding and Kilpatrick Stockton before choosing to focus exclusively on immigration law, opening the Atlanta office of Fragomen DelRey. Today the boutique firm Robert subsequently founded, Banta Immigration Law, serves clients ranging from Fortune 100 companies to early-stage start-ups.
As entering law students in 1976, Terry Currie and Robert Banta had something else in common: Both had considered a teaching career and opted to return to law school. Robert, who earned a master’s degree in French literature at Duke University, was studying in France on a Rotary Fellowship when he was invited to Vanderbilt to interview for a Patrick Wilson Scholarship. Endowed in 1968 by David Wilson in honor of his son, the Patrick Wilson program paid tuition and living expenses for three years of law school. Up to 15 potential Patrick Wilson Scholars were considered for the program each year; five were ultimately awarded the scholarship. “It was a tremendous honor to be chosen as a Patrick Wilson Scholar,” Robert says. “The Patrick Wilson program enabled me to go to Vanderbilt.” Terry had earned a master’s degree in education and was teaching at a private school when she decided to earn a law degree.
The Bantas were assigned different sections, and met during the second semester of their first year. They married right after graduating from law school and moved to Atlanta, Terry’s hometown, where Robert found ample opportunities to pursue his interest in international law. “I was looking for a way to use my fluency in French and my interest in international affairs in a career that would allow me to participate more in the mainstream of society,” he recalls. He discovered his interest in immigration law as an associate with King & Spalding, and ultimately founded Banta Immigration Law, where he is currently managing partner. “Today, my practice is oriented toward representing employers hiring talented professionals,” he says. “I derive great satisfaction from helping bring talented people to this country and helping businesses accomplish their goals.”
By the time Terry and her partner, Lynn Bonner Pitts, sold their profitable business in 1996, dresses by Currie-Bonner were a regular feature in Brides Magazine and a must at fashionable weddings. “Lynn and I brought complementary skills to the business,” Terry says. “I’m proud to say we hired only one lawyer during the 15 years we were in business, and he helped incorporate us.” Terry loved dealing with the variety of legal issues facing a business. “We had issues relating to advertising and promotion, store leases, insurance, contracts, suppliers and vendors, customers and personnel matters, and we were performing all the time,” she says. “I attribute so much of the smooth sail, the good ride, and the sheer joy of being in business to my legal training.” Since selling her company, Terry has focused on investing in and managing rental properties.
The Bantas have two daughters: Caroline, who recently earned a master’s degree at Vanderbilt Peabody and is now working as a school counselor for the Metro Nashville Public Schools, and Sallie, a junior at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont.
Terry and Robert Banta both look back fondly on their law school days. Both served on the Law Review staff, but they also found time on weekends to visit music venues such as Franks & Steins, enjoying appearances by the White Animals and Riders in the Sky. Robert remembers classes in international law taught by Professor Hal Maier, while Terry recalls being “truly honored” when Professor Paul Hartman invited her to lunch. “The faculty was both distinguished and approachable,” Terry recalls. “We had a great law school experience.”
The Bantas agreed to serve as promotion chairs for their class in advance of Reunion 2009 because “We made lifelong friendships with a group of highly talented and able individuals, people we still hold in high regard,” Robert says. “Vanderbilt was a very strong law school academically, but the camaraderie among students was remarkable.”
“It was a wonderful law school community that has served us well professionally and rewarded us with friendships we value,” Terry adds. “Nothing would thrill us more than to see a record-breaking group of our classmates at Reunion this year.”