Skip to content

Meet a Professor: Peter Sankoff


Peter Sankoff

Hometown: Montreal

Undergrad Degree:

Broadcast Journalism, which, believe it or not, was instrumental both to my getting into law school and becoming a Professor. The Professor part should be obvious, as the degree provided lots of opportunities to speak in public. Many don’t see the link to law school, however. Well, I worked in radio journalism, where you are under extreme time pressure and the cardinal rule is get your presentation in within a short time period no matter what. You can never be late, and it always has to be good. See any link to law school exams

Welcome to the University of Alberta! How have your first few months been?

Hectic, but enjoyable. Starting at a new school requires a fair bit of transition time. I’ve got a bunch of courses I haven’t taught before, and students I’m not used to yet. But on the whole, I’m really enjoying it. Everyone’s been friendly and welcoming.

What classes are you teaching?

This semester I am teaching a course in Evidence and a first year section of criminal law. Next semester I teach an advanced course in Civil Evidence, and next year I hope to teach a course in Animals and the Law.

What were you doing before you came to the UofA?

I spent the better part of the last eleven years teaching at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, which I loved. I spent last year as a visiting professor at Western.

UofA is pretty awesome. What is the MOST awesome part of working here?

Great colleagues. I spend a fair bit of my life at work, and it’s awesome to be around such fun people.

What is the toughest part about being a new professor?

The students don’t know you yet, and aren’t really sure what to make of what you’re doing. In other words, you’re not part of the “institutional memory”, and you have to spend a fair bit of time just establishing your credibility. Once you’re suitably entrenched, students can pass on information about you that helps new students feel comfortable (or avoid your class altogether….)

What is your favourite memory from law school?

The single best moment of my law school career came in my second year, when I called my answering machine in between classes one February morning, and there was a message from Claire L’Heureux-Dubé asking me to be her law clerk. Not only the best moment from law school, but one of the best moments of my life. From my first days in law school, I knew I wanted to be a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada, and there are few things better in life than having a dream come true.

If you weren’t in law, what would you be doing?

Believe it or not, I think I’d be running some kind of business. Watching Dragon’s Den is one of my guilty pleasures, and I’ve always wanted to start my own company. Of course, if I could go back and do high school and university all over again, I’d be a theoretical physicist. I love physics (I just don’t get the math…)!

Do you have any secret talents?

I juggle, make a mean cupcake and can bench press more than most students at U of A Law (no, really…). I also have the uncanny ability to lose my glasses once a day. I go through at least 2-3 pairs a year.

If you could spend the day with anyone dead or alive, who would it be? Please don’t say Lord Denning.

I would give anything in the world to spend one more day with my Grandmother.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

I’ve always been envious of those who can teleport. Air travel is a major hassle.

Edmonton. Yay or nay?

I am quickly becoming the city’s biggest fan. I do think it’s pretty amazing here, but it helps that I spent last year in London, Ontario. Apologies to anyone who’s from there, but let’s just say Edmonton’s a massive upgrade.