The State Bar of Michigan has honored Professor Vivek Sankaran, ’01, with the John W. Reed Michigan Lawyer Legacy Award. The State Bar presents the award periodically to “an educator from a Michigan law school whose influence on lawyers has elevated the quality of legal practice in our state.”

According to the State Bar’s website, the award is named for a longtime Michigan Law professor who was known as a preeminent scholar and teacher. Reed also served as dean of the University of Colorado Law School and Wayne State University Law School.

Sankaran, a clinical professor of law, advocates for the rights of children and parents involved in child welfare proceedings. His work focuses on improving outcomes for children in foster care by empowering their parents,  strengthening decision-making processes, and injecting compassion in juvenile courts. At the Law School, Sankaran directs both the Child Advocacy Law Clinic and the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic, through which law students represent children and parents in trial and appellate proceedings. 

Sankaran has written numerous articles and edited several books focused on improving the child welfare system, has litigated cases before the Michigan Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, and has worked with the Michigan State Court Administrative Office, among other groups, to improve access to justice in the child welfare system. In 2011, he was named Michigan’s Parent Attorney of the Year, and this year, he received the inaugural Faculty Award for Dedication to World-Class Clinical & Experiential Teaching, Students, and the Spirit of Michigan Law.

“Professor Sankaran is wholly dedicated to improving the welfare of vulnerable children in Michigan,” said Debra Chopp, Michigan Law’s associate dean for experiential education. “He is also one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I know. I can think of no one more deserving of this award.”

Sankaran said, “It has truly been an honor to serve families in Michigan and support those working with them, while also thinking about ways to help more people find justice in the court system. I hope this award brings some light to the struggles so many continue to experience and our need to keep working together to give voice to those on the outside who don’t feel seen and heard.”

In addition to the award’s namesake, several Michigan Law professors have received the honor: Paul D. Reingold (2020), Suellyn Scarnecchia (2019), and James J. White (2013).