An LL.M. and J.S.D. Aid an Academic Career

Mariana Mota Prado is Professor and William C. Graham Chair in International Law and Development at the University of Toronto Law School. She gave this interview in 2017.

Why did you choose to attend YLS?

I got into law school to pursue an academic career. The YLS LL.M. program was the only one targeted at aspiring academics. Thus, it looked like the perfect fit to me.

What might you say to a prospective student considering attending YLS’s graduate programs?

It is a demanding program, but it is also a lot of fun. The vibrant intellectual environment is both inside and outside the classroom. You are eating and breathing great ideas and outstanding scholarship even by simply having a coffee with a colleague in the cafeteria.

What is your area of research, and how did you pursue it at YLS?

My area is Law & Development, which investigates whether and how law can help developing countries improve their socio-economic outcomes, whether through increased life expectancy, better governance, elevated incomes or advancement in literacy. I got interested in law and development because Brazil went through a very transformative period while I was attending law school (1996–2000): it adopted most of the reforms of the so-called Washington Consensus, including a very ambitious privatization process. I decided to study this process in my doctorate, but coming from a civil law jurisdiction deeply influenced by Europe, my approach to legal research at the time was very doctrinal. My supervisor, the world’s leading expert on corruption, Susan Rose-Ackerman, encouraged me to look beyond the laws and statutes implemented during the privatization process, and to investigate the underlying factors driving the changes. Who were the main actors? What were their motivations? Why were the results so different in different sectors? This is how I learned more about the role that the World Bank had played in this process, and I came to realize that there were a lot of unanswered questions in this field known as Law & Development. So, as soon as I finished my doctorate, I started to venture beyond privatization and to acquire more knowledge and expertise in other topics related to this field. 

Which experiences at YLS were most significant and memorable to you?

There are so many memorable lessons that it is hard to single out one as the most memorable and significant one. I need to mention, however, that a great deal of my professional contacts as well as a great deal of my closest friends today come from the time I spent at YLS. So, it was a very transformative experience both at a professional and at a personal level.

How did YLS contribute to your intellectual and professional goals and to your work today?

I am a Brazilian lawyer, graduated from the University of Sao Paulo, who went to the United States to pursue my masters (LL.M.) and my doctorate (J.S.D). The LL.M. was my first contact with the common law system and the North American system of legal education. During this time, I was not only learning about a new legal system, but I was also learning about different ways in which law can be taught and learned. The classroom experience — from a pedagogical standpoint — just blew my mind due to the contrast with the route learning that prevails in Brazil and in many countries around the world. The J.S.D., in turn, gave me an opportunity to work closely with a dedicated supervisor and very attentive and generous readers. The comments on the drafts and the meetings taught me how to become a better scholar and a better researcher. And now that I am on the other side of the table (in 2006, I was hired by the University of Toronto; first, as an Assistant Professor and then as an Associate Professor), and I have a better sense of the competing demands on faculty member’s time, I am even more appreciative of the time and energy that my committee members devoted to my doctoral research project.

And I could not fail to mention the kindness of all the administrative team of YLS’s graduate program. Last year I became Associate Dean for the graduate program in Toronto, where I am now helping those who are coming to Canada to advance their legal education and pursue their research interests, just as I did when I left Brazil. The wonderful work of the grad team at YLS is a daily inspiration.

Updated August 2021