Our Origin

About Professor Sankoff's Criminal Defence Essentials

In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic exploded, Professor Sankoff’s Criminal Defence Essentials (then Professor Sankoff’s Seminars) emerged out of necessity and a desire to make the most out of a terrible situation. With Canadians confined to their homes and courthouses closed, Professor Sankoff invited defence lawyers to make the best of the situation by catching up on some Continuing Professional Development. Every week he hosted 2-3 seminars on Zoom that drew hundreds of viewers. Entry fees went to help charities and businesses affected by the pandemic.

As the pandemic worsened, the seminar series pivoted. The criminal defence bar was suddenly facing a dire summer – and no one was more at risk than law students who normally relied upon this time to pick up valuable learning opportunities (and some money) working at law firms across the country. Highly prized and once secure positions literally evaporated almost overnight. With the courts closed, and no immediate prospect for re-opening, it became difficult for defence lawyers to hire anyone or even keep all the staff they had.

Within days, Professor Sankoff created the 100 Interns Project, setting an ambitious goal of raising $120,000 in funds and job placements to help students across the country. For weeks he taught learning seminars, donating all fees to the project. Many others helped and donated money as well, and by June 2020 one hundred law students had temporary placements, mostly with criminal defence firms. Learn more about the 100 Interns Project, which now enters its third year in conjunction with the Criminal Lawyers’ Association.

In July 2020, the seminar series altered course again with the goal of becoming a permanent business that provides high quality Continuing Professional Development for criminal litigators. In late 2020, we changed our name to Professor Sankoff’s Criminal Defence Essentials, adding new resources for our customers including Cheat Sheets (short research papers on legal topics of interest) and Case Alerts (short weekly videos on important cases, with analysis from Professor Sankoff).

We have grown each year, and in late 2021 we were extremely proud to debut our newest product: The Golden Thread – a monthly e-Magazine full of features for criminal litigators, including interviews, analysis, commentary and case updates.


Our Philosophy

Professor Sankoff’s Criminal Defence Essentials is built on a number of fundamental principles:

  • HIGH VOLUME/LOW COST: Our goal from Day #1 has been to provide defence lawyers with a great product they can afford. We understand that running a defence practice does not deliver Bay Street revenue, and so we’re not charging Bay Street CPD prices. To make this a viable business, we are counting on the defence bar supporting us in large numbers. Just like the 100 Interns Project, we can keep costs low if enough people join in.
  • THE HIGHEST QUALITY: All of our products are designed to ensure they are practical and intellectually stimulating. Professor Sankoff oversees everything, and creates much of the product himself. He is joined by amazing guests, including leading defence lawyers, professors and judges from across the country. We regularly receive reviews in which 85-95% of attendees award our seminars a 5/5 rating in terms of quality and value.
  • BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE LAW: The criminal law seems to get more complex every day. We want to make it more accessible. In short, our motto is to try and “build better criminal lawyers” – and make the playing field a bit more level. The Crowns have “Crown School”. The defence bar needs good resources as well.
  • DIVERSE: We encourage a diverse offering of subject matter and presenters. Though early seminars reflected Professor Sankoff’s expertise in evidence law, we have evolved to include discussions of criminal procedure, professional management, sentencing and the substantive criminal law. Future seminars will cover topics like bail, ethical concerns and appeals. Every year, we plan to have seminars addressing critical matters relating to Indigenous clients and those from other minority groups. Our seminar presenters and Golden Thread contributors come from a range of different backgrounds. We hope to continue to spotlight younger members of the Bar as well.
  • GREAT VALUE: Our Annual Pass is a phenomenal value. It provides access to 13 seminars (and seminar recordings), 9 issues of the Golden Thread, 40+ video case alerts and multiple Cheat Sheets. We hope to add one additional feature each year at NO EXTRA COST!
  • REWARDING OUR SUPPORTERS: We would not exist without our Annual Pass holders, who provide us with stability and allow the program to expand. When you purchase an Annual Pass, you will always be able to renew for at least one year at the same price. [Same price renewal is guaranteed for one year only. 2021 AP holders will be offered renewal for 2023 at 2022 Early Bird pricing.]
  • YOUNG LAWYERS PAY LESS: We know it’s tough to start a new practice. That’s why lawyers in their first five years of call (and articling students) get a 40% discount off our already low prices.
  • GIVING STUDENTS A HEAD START: We provide as many as 20 free places for law students every seminar. We also give students heading into their articling year two FREE recordings/seminars of their choice, with no strings attached. If you wish to take advantage of this offer, email us.

And There's More....

We have special programs designed to make our products even more accessible for lawyers who need extra help.