UAlberta Law Professor defies odds to complete 100 Interns Project

Prof. Peter Sankoff raises over $120K to help law students find work during COVID-19

Sarah Kent - 11 May 2020

Professor Peter Sankoff of the University of Alberta Faculty of Law has proven he’s a force to be reckoned with after raising more than $120,000 for student internships despite a pandemic, an economic downturn and a brain hemorrhage.

Six weeks after starting the 100 Interns Project, Sankoff met his goal of funding and placing 100 law students with mentors for summer internships.

His awe-inspiring feat did not come without tremendous personal sacrifice.

“Since starting this [project], I have worked 16-hour days, devoting my life entirely to this,” said Sankoff. “I can actually say, without hyperbole, that it almost killed me, but I'm as proud of making it to 100 as anything I've ever accomplished in my life.”

Sankoff began his fundraising efforts in mid-March when he realized the pandemic was adversely impacting law students’ job prospects.

In the first month of the project, he raised enough money for over half the positions, but on April 19, the project was interrupted when Sankoff was rushed to hospital.

“In a nutshell, I had a brain hemorrhage and lived to tell about it,” said Sankoff, noting he is lucky his diagnosis will have no long-term impact on his health.

Less than three days after being rushed to hospital, Sankoff was back to promoting the 100 Interns Project on Twitter from his hospital bed, determined to see it through.

“I am convinced this event, painful and unfortunate as it was, has been a real blessing that will transform my future going forward,” he wrote. “The first part of that future will be finishing the 100 Interns Project. You think a brain hemorrhage is going to prevent me from getting to 100?”

He subsequently placed approximately 10 interns with mentors and funded eight positions during his nine-day hospitalization.

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 as funding flooded in from the legal community to support law students across the country.

“This project is so important and coming at exactly the right time for law students,” said Rebecca Taylor, ‘22 JD, who will be interning with criminal defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle as a result of Sankoff’s efforts.

She received the good news in the middle of studying for final exams and after a difficult end to her first year of law school.

“A lot of the positions that I was applying for were no longer being hired for,” she said. “There was a blank space in my summer.”

Interning provides a vital opportunity for law students to receive mentorship from senior members of the bar, said Taylor.

The internships for the 100 Interns Project provide students with three weeks of part-time work and give them the opportunity to take on legal research, complete pro bono work or assist with legal aid.

“It has been absolutely inspiring seeing all these members of the legal community, especially the criminal bar and the judiciary, showing their support for young legal professionals and sending in so many donations for students to get an opportunity to learn,” said Taylor.

“I could never have done this alone,” said Sankoff. “We can only ‘win’ by coming together as a community and helping those who need it the most!”