Judge Elizabeth Hanes was born in 1978 in Roanoke, Virginia. She earned her B.A. from the University of Richmond, graduating summa cum laude in 2000. After graduation, Judge Hanes worked in corporate finance for Liz Claiborne, a fashion company. Judge Hanes left her position to work as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in West Virginia where she helped establish a nonprofit which provided services to abused children and crime victims. Afterwards, Judge Hanes attended Richmond Law where she graduated summa cum laude and was an Executive Board Member of the Law Review.
Following law school, Judge Hanes clerked at both the trial court and appellate court level. From 2007-2008, she clerked for Hon. Joseph R. Goodwin in the Southern District of West Virginia. From 2008-2009, she clerked for Hon. Robert B. King in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourt Circuit. Both judges were nominated by President Bill Clinton.