Monday Profile: Amy Sankaran


Amy Sankaran became director of externship and pro bono programs at the University of Michigan Law School in 2011, and serves as externship faculty supervisor for full-time externship placements, including South Africa and India.  In Fall 2011, she launched Michigan Law’s part-time externship program for students working in local government, nonprofit, or judicial placements.

As director of the Pro Bono Program, Sankaran identifies pro bono projects for which law firms and organizations need law student assistance, and then recruits and guides MLaw students involved in the projects.

Sankaran received her BA, summa cum laude, from Missouri State University and her JD, cum laude, from Michigan Law. After graduating, she served as a law clerk to the Hon. Arthur J. Tarnow of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, as a litigation associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP in Washington, D.C., and as an adoption attorney at the Children's Law Center in Washington, D.C.

She returned to the Law School in 2005 to become assistant director of admissions. In 2008, she became an attorney-adviser focused on government and nonprofit careers, and pro bono manager, in which capacity she was responsible for launching the Pro Bono Pledge in 2009.

Sankaran is a member of the Michigan Bar and its Pro Bono Initiative. She remains active in the practice of law through pro bono cases, primarily focused on child advocacy and domestic violence issues.

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Residence:  Ann Arbor

What is your most treasured material possession? 
Based on how often I use it, probably my iPhone.

What advice do you have for someone considering law school?
  Law school is a wonderful choice, but it’s not for everyone, so don’t do it just because you can’t think of anything else.  But if you think you might like it, don’t believe everything you read, and talk to real lawyers about what they like and dislike about their profession. 

Favorite local hangouts:  Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Brewed Awakenings, our sunroom and backyard

Favorite websites:,,,,

Favorite CD:  A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band, by Rich Mullins.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
  Summer camp!

What would surprise people about your job? 
I don’t think many people know exactly what I do.  I spend almost all of my time helping students connect to live legal experiences, whether they are getting credit through an externship or no credit through pro bono work.  I teach a class for all externs, which often surprises folks.

What do you wish someone would invent?  I’m not sure why we don’t have flying cars, or some sort of immediate transporter device.  But most of all, I wish someone would invent a solution to poverty.

What has been your favorite year so far and why?  Almost all have been really good, though the last eight  with our three kids (except for when they were newborns) have probably been the best.

Why did you become a lawyer?  I decided to be a lawyer when I was 11 because I saw my dad enjoyed his job and had lots of flexibility in his day, while my mom was a nurse with a more rigid schedule.  As I got older, I continued on that path because I thought it would be a good way to help others.  And in college, all the law classes were my absolute favorites.

What’s your favorite law-related TV show, movie, and/or book?  The Good Wife is my favorite law TV show, and Simple Justice is my favorite law book (or book, period).
Who are your law role models – real and/or fictional? Bryan Stevenson  (founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative), and many of my colleagues over the years inspire me with the work they do.

If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be?  I would love to try being a doctor for a day.  I’ve always thought that would be another good way to help people.

What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been?  Cape Town, South Africa is stunningly beautiful.

What did you do last weekend?  I worked out, went to a pool, had friends over for a BBQ, played board games with my kids, and unpacked from our road trip to DC.  (There was also a bit of laundry).  It was a pretty great weekend aside from the laundry.

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

What would you say to your 16-year-old self? 
Be more open-minded.  Take more risks.  Go to a smaller college.  Play more sports.  Start exercising NOW.  Learn as much as you can – languages, new skills, musical instruments – as it really is harder to pick up some stuff later. 

What’s your proudest moment as a lawyer? 
Every time a  student says they had the best semester they’ve ever had doing their externship, or it opened their eyes to another possible career path.

What do you do to relax? Workout, play iPhone games, read, play tennis, watch sports, particularly college basketball

If you were starting all over again and couldn’t go into law, what career path would you choose? 
Family counseling, counseling children, or the like. 

What would like to learn to do? 
Play tennis better and speak Spanish. 

What are some things most people don't know about you? 
I had two weddings in the same day (to the same person! One Hindu, one Christian); I was a certified archery instructor; in college I had jaw surgery, which gave me metal plates  and changed my profile.

If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be?
  Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robin Williams

What’s the best advice you ever received? 
Don’t think of work and home as separate.  Each day, pick the most important thing to get done and do it.  Don’t feel guilty for what you didn’t get done.

Favorite place to spend money:   Amazon, Apple Store and REI.

What is your motto? Live simply, Love generously, Care deeply, Speak kindly.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? Graduating from law school.  Being a mom is up there too.

What is the most unusual thing you have done? 
Being the bride in a Hindu wedding in Arkansas.

Where would you like to be when you're 90?
Somewhere  warm, but not too hot, surrounded by  family and friends.


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