Adams has a bachelor's degree from BYU and a law degree from Harvard Law School. Prior to joining the BYU faculty in 1995 she practiced law in Washington, D.C. Her main studies have been on citizen, race and gender issues in Latin American History. She has published articles in both English and Spanish.
Adams was the associate dean of research and academic affairs in the J. Reuben Clark Law School from 2008 to 2013. Adams has been a visiting professor at the Boston College Law School and the Peking (Beijing) University School of Transnational Law. She also spent six months in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on a Fulbright Fellowship in 2003.