Monday Profile: Vivek Sankaran

 Prof. Vivek S. Sankaran is a clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, where he directs both the Child Advocacy Law Clinic and the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic. Sankaran founded the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, a multidisciplinary legal clinic that aims to prevent children from unnecessarily entering and remaining in foster care. He sits on the steering committee of the ABA National Project to Improve Representation for Parents Involved in the Child Welfare System and works as a consultant for the National Center for State Courts on Casey Family Programs’ Judicial Engagement Project. Sankaran has litigated over 10 cases on behalf of parents before the Michigan Supreme Court. He also has authored scholarly pieces and practical resource guides to assist professionals working in the child welfare system and regularly conducts national and statewide training on these issues. 

Sankaran earned his BA, magna cum laude, from the College of William and Mary. He earned his JD, cum laude, from Michigan Law School, where he was an associate editor of the Michigan Law Review. After law school, he joined The Children's Law Center (CLC) as a Skadden Fellow and became a permanent staff attorney with the CLC in September 2003.  
By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News
Residence: Ann Arbor
What advice do you have for someone considering law school? Figure out why you want to be a lawyer before you apply.
Favorite local hangouts: Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Wolverine Strength & Conditioning
Favorite websites:;
Favorite CD: “Remember Two Things” (Dave Matthews Band)
What is your happiest childhood memory? Annual New Year’s Eve sleepover party with my elementary school buddies – eating pizza, watching movies, playing football in the snow, and having contested games of ping-pong and monopoly.  
What would surprise people about your job? How many different things I get to do. I teach and supervise law students, help children and parents in juvenile court, handle cases before the Michigan Supreme Court, and travel to other states to help strengthen child welfare systems.  
What do you wish someone would invent? A cure for hopelessness.     
What has been your favorite year so far and why? 2014. Because I can’t imagine a better year.
Why did you become a lawyer? To help children and their families who were not dealt a fair hand in life.
What’s your favorite law-related book? “The Street Lawyer” by John Grisham.  
Who are your law role models – real and/or fictional?  Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer (my uncle and former Indian Supreme Court Justice). 
If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be?  An assistant coach for Michigan’s basketball team.   
What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been? Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica
What did you do last weekend?  Watched sports. All weekend.
If you could have one super power, what would it be? To stop people from suffering.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?  Take a deep breath, relax, get a clue, and figure out have to some more fun.
If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be? Father Greg Boyle, Bryan Stevenson, Coach John Beilein
What’s your proudest moment as a lawyer?  Tie. Winning In re Sanders at the Michigan Supreme Court, which eliminated the unconstitutional practice of placing children in foster care even though their parents had not been proven to be unfit. Or helping a teenager who had spent her life in foster care find a permanent home.
If you were starting all over again and couldn’t go into law, what career path would you choose? Run a mentoring organization like Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Or be a kindergarten teacher.    
What is something most people don't know about you?  I can’t swim and I’m colorblind.  
What’s the best advice you ever received? Work hard to be your own boss.
Favorite place to spend money: NorthFace, Amazon
What is your motto? Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
What is your favorite quote? “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” Bryan Stevenson
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? Being a father to three wonderful children.
What is the most unusual thing you have done? Become obsessed with CrossFit.
Where would you like to be when you’re 90? Sitting in my sunroom, sipping on a cup of tea, reading the newspaper and still finding ways to help others.