UCL News


Spotlight on... Philippe Sands

26 October 2023

This week we meet Philippe Sands, Professor of the Public Understanding of Law, who chats to us about the significance of bringing law to a broader audience, his current work on his next book, and his favourite film – The Big Lebowski.

Philippe Sands sits on a wooden chair in a garden

What is your role and what does it involve? 

I am Professor of the Public Understanding of Law. With an emphasis on the international, my work aims at bringing the law to a wider public, one that is smart and interested. My students are graduates. This is my 40th year of teaching, I still love being in the classroom, because I am kept on my toes!  

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role? 

Since 2000. Previously at SOAS, Kings and St Catharine’s College Cambridge. Also a part-time barrister and arbitrator, and increasingly writer. 

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of? 

Writing East West Street, which reinforced a sense of identity, taught me about my family, and allowed me to bring the significance of international law to a wider audience.   

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list 

My next book, tentatively entitled Londres 38, about former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s time in London, and his friendship with former SS leader Walther Rauff, on the run in Patagonia. 

What is your favourite album, film and novel? 

Leonard Cohen, Songs of Love and Hate

The Big Lebowski (1998). 

Franz Kafka, The Trial (1914) 

What is your favourite line from a film (pre-watershed)? 

“This is not ‘Nam, this is bowling, there are rules.” (The Big Lebowski

Who would be your dream dinner guests? 

Michelle Obama, Leonard Cohen, Edie Falco, Franz Kafka,   

What advice would you give your younger self? 

Follow your instincts. 

What would it surprise people to know about you? 

One of my friends is Charlie George, who scored the winning goal for Arsenal in the 1971 FA Cup Final, against Liverpool.  

What is your favourite place?   

The old stone bench at the top of the pebble calade, in the garden of our little house in Bonnieux, France, where Natalia and I have our coffee, first thing every morning, looking out at the Mont Ventoux.