Ecuadorian lawyer Mauricio Guim came to the University of Virginia School of Law expecting to get a top-notch doctoral education from professors he idolized. He didn’t expect that the faculty would be so engaged as mentors that he would co-author multiple papers with them, preparing him for a career in academia at another top institution.

After he graduates May 20 as one of four students to earn an S.J.D. degree, Guim will join the faculty at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, fulfilling his dream of becoming a law professor. His work focuses on public law, including administrative law, environmental law and constitutional law.

“I’m very excited to go there and teach and start my academic career,” he said. The school is considered one of the top schools in Mexico and attracts scholars in a variety of fields from all over the world. “It’s like a dream come true.”

Guim said the mentoring he received from faculty who are leading researchers — Professors Michael Livermore, Mila Versteeg and Michael Gilbert — made all the difference in preparing for academia.

“I’ve been lucky to have not only one mentor, but three different mentors at UVA,” he said. “It has been wonderful because they have nourished me in different subjects of public law that have allowed me to have a very complex and rich perspective of different subjects.”

As a UVA Presidential Fellow in Data Science, Guim worked with Livermore, whose scholarly interests include administrative law and computational analysis of legal documents, and fellow UVA student Faraz Dadgostari, of the Department of Systems and Information Engineering, to create a virtual legal research system. The tool creates a mathematical model for legal searches to mimic or model how a lawyer would navigate through legal texts. The searchable cases are from the Supreme Court and other American courts.

“Now we have produced an article that has been submitted for publication,” Guim said. “One of the great things about being here at UVA and having mentors is that we discuss many ideas and many of those ideas become articles.”

This week he will present the paper “When Environmental Rights Go Wrong” with Livermore at the American Law and Economics Association annual conference in Boston. Later this summer he’ll present a paper with Gilbert at a conference at the University of Hong Kong.

Guim said he also drew inspiration in working for and learning from Versteeg, a 2017 Andrew Carnegie Fellow who specializes in empirical comparative constitutional research. He cited specifically her influence on his thinking relating to constitutional crises, the legal problems that specific constitutions cannot resolve.

“Mauricio has engaged fully in the life of the Law School, collaborating with many faculty members and maturing into an accomplished scholar,” Gilbert said. “His enthusiasm for ideas is infectious, and he will be a fabulous professor.” 

In addition to the mentoring experiences, Guim was invited to participate in the prestigious Salzburg Cutler Fellows Program in Washington, D.C., which explores cutting-edge issues in public and private international law, and took part in a UVA Law January Term class taught in Israel, focused on the country’s business law and innovation.

Guim has studied law since he was 17. (Outside the United States, students first study law as undergraduates.) He began his career as an apprentice to a top Ecuadorian constitutional law litigator. Soon, he too argued cases at trial — often involving defamation claims against news media.

“I started litigating small but important cases right away,” he said, including freedom of speech cases defending journalists from libel lawsuits brought by the government.

Working for the attorney, he also served as his teaching assistant for a class the lawyer instructed. It was then that Guim decided his true calling. The only wrinkle was that law teaching positions in Ecuador are few and far between. He would have to look outside the country not only for his advanced instruction, but also for jobs.

“I never thought I would be a full-time professor, because there are not that many of those positions in Ecuador,” he said.

After completing his LL.M. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014, Guim came to UVA in 2015.

Guim said he chose UVA for his doctorate because of its outstanding reputation. After all, it was home to a professor whose book he read when he was a teenager. His father had given him Professor Frederick Schauer’s “Playing By the Rules: A Philosophical Examination of Rule-Based Decision-Making in Law and in Life.”

“When I read this book, it changed me forever, because it gave me a new perspective on how to think about law, how it’s drafted and how a lawyer should argue,” he said. “I decided I want to go to the United States and work and study with someone like this. I never imagined that I would actually end up in the place where he teaches.”

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