Criminal law professor Peter Sankoff helps students find work during COVID-19

100 Interns Project gives hope to law students across Canada

Sarah Kent - 10 April 2020

When Professor Peter Sankoff of the University of Alberta Faculty of Law saw the devastating impact of the pandemic on the legal community, he knew he had to do something.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Sankoff has been fundraising to support those most affected in his profession, establishing the 100 Interns Project to support law students whose employment opportunities have been hit hard by the crisis.

"I have a crazy dream that I can somehow place/hire 100 students, which I still think is not enough. That would take roughly $120,000," said Sankoff.

In mid-March, Sankoff began hosting online seminars about criminal law for fellow lawyers, with all proceeds donated to a community member whose livelihood has been affected by COVID-19. The first seminar was intended to support Steve McDiarmid, the beloved owner of Hello My Friend Cafe, a cornerstone of the UAlberta Law community that has been shuttered since the start of the crisis. The first seminar sold out within 24 hours and raised over $1,000 for McDiarmid, though McDiarmid generously insisted all proceeds be donated to the UAlberta Campus Food Bank.

Subsequent seminars saw practitioners and law firms donating money for law students from across Canada to attend, with all proceeds going towards summer internships. Sankoff's vision started small; he was aiming to personally hire three students to complete research projects on evidence, criminal law or animals and the law, Sankoff's areas of expertise.

His vision quickly grew.

"Reading applications for student internships reveals to me the abundance of talent across the country and also how many students have lost summer jobs to cutbacks," said Sankoff. "The success of the seminar series now has me thinking bigger than ever before."

Funding flooded in from the legal community, and Sankoff expanded the project with the goal of placing 100 law students with mentors. Mentors include legal academics and practitioners, and the applications are open to law students at universities across Canada.

The internships give students the opportunity to take on legal research, complete pro bono work or assist with legal aid.

As of April 10, 39 internships have been fully funded, and 28 interns have been placed.

"The generosity of the bar is inspiring," said Sankoff. "If everyone shares the load, we can make this crisis less devastating."

Donations have been both big and small, with everyone pulling together to give what they can, said Sankoff.

Sankoff encourages those interested in supporting the cause to reach out, especially law firms and practitioners who may be interested in hiring an intern directly. Donations are accepted via e-transfer to, with all contributions going to the 100 Interns Project.