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UNB Fredericton

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100 Interns program offers practical experience during uncertain times

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on law students across the country. Summer work plans have been derailed by the spread of the virus, and many students are struggling to find alternative employment. Peter Sankoff’s 100 Interns program is providing some relief for students through a series of paid internships in constitutional, criminal or animal law. 

After seeing the effect of the pandemic on the law community, Sankoff, a criminal defence lawyer and University of Alberta law professor, set the lofty goal of pairing 100 law students in need with practitioners and scholars.

“Peter is dedicated to promoting student success,” said Professor Nicole O’Byrne. “What he has managed to do over the last few weeks is remarkable. This is an extraordinary opportunity for our students to see how exciting the areas of public law, criminal law and evidence can be.” 

Nine UNB Law students have been selected to participate in the program along with Professors Nicole O’Byrne and Hilary Young, who have taken on interns of their own.

First-year students Patrick Leger and Alexandra Youssef have accepted internships with Toronto-based criminal defence lawyers Nathan Gorham and Breana Vandebeek (Gorham Vandebeek LLP).

“This internship has provided me with stability and a way to continue developing my legal education despite the uncertain and discouraging circumstances that COVID-19 has put us in,” said Alexandra. “My placement has been heavily focused on researching issues relating to criminal law and applying that research to active cases. I have been writing memos, drafting briefs, and occasionally accompanying my mentors to court hearings.”

“It has always been a goal of mine to work in criminal justice,” added Patrick. “I did not think I would have the opportunity eight months after starting law school.”

Fellow first-year student David Bunce will be interning with Lisa Silver, a criminal law professor at the University of Calgary. David will be assisting Prof. Silver with her blog and podcast, ideablawg.

“I believe I was chosen because of my background at Vidyard, a tech start-up focused on video communications. Professor Silver is looking for my assistance in making the podcast more easily accessible and listenable. I will also have the opportunity to assist in writing a blog post and recording a podcast.”

Ideablawg was the first blog to be cited at the Supreme Court. The blog primarily focuses on recent Supreme Court decisions. The accompanying podcast is a section-by-section analysis of the Criminal Code.

Melissa Lukings will be interning with Megan Savard, a partner at Addario Law Group LLP, based in downtown Toronto. Savard is a trial and appellate advocate who specializes in criminal and constitutional issues. Melissa will spend the entire summer with Savard working on a pro bono project involving issues of carceral justice, specifically relating to female offenders.

Melissa applied to the 100 Interns program after seeing a few shared social media posts online. 

“I really didn't expect to be hired, or even get offered an interview, but I decided to take the chance and apply anyway. I heard from Peter very quickly and was fortunate to be offered an interview with Megan Savard after a couple of days. After reading about Megan and her work, getting to meet her on Zoom felt a bit like what I imagine it would feel like to meet a rock star, but with less music and more law.”

Blaine Cowan has accepted an internship with lawyer Bob Buckingham, an advocate for access to justice practicing in criminal law, family law, wills and estates, personal injury and civil litigation, and corporate/commercial work.

“I will be working as a legal researcher for three criminal law projects. The first two projects are defending two different accused persons for separate murder cases. The third project pertains to defending the accused in a major fraud case. I will be examining about 800 pages of business and legal documentation for the third project.”

Alexandria Armstrong will be working with Prof. O’Byrne dissecting the evidentiary issues of the first two Oland trials.

“We will be focusing on the illegally obtained evidence component of that case,” said O’Byrne. “Alexandria will be responsible for organizing and reviewing all the materials that have been generated from the case and structuring an outline for the paper, which we will then write together.”

O’Byrne sees the 100 Interns program as an opportunity for students to see how challenging it is to practice criminal law, how much need there is, and how exciting an area it is.

“There are lots of lawyers out there doing fascinating work in criminal law and evidence. It is an area of law where mentorship matters more than almost any other area of the law. Hopefully, these internships will show students that there are other jobs aside from corporate/commercial law. You can have an interest in the area and parlay that into employment.”

Other UNB interns include Lori Wareham, who will be working with Lisa Watson; Graeme Hiebert, interning with Karen Scullion; and Chelsey Buggie, who will be joining Daniel Brown Law.

All of the internships in this program are being funded either by the mentors themselves or through donations, primarily from other lawyers, educators, and legal professionals.

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