Friday, August 4, 2017
Professor Adriana Robertson

By Andrew Stobo Sniderman, JD 2014

Adriana Robertson was born in Toronto, and is thrilled to be coming home to teach at U of T. From a window in her new office at the law school, where she starts as an assistant professor in the fall, Adriana Robertson can see Trinity College, where she graduated with a degree in economics a mere six years ago.

The beginning of her undergraduate studies coincided with the economic meltdown of 2007. She remembers a professor saying that hundreds of PhD theses will be written on the crash. As it turns out, her PhD in Finance at the Yale School of Management, which she pursued at the same time as her JD at Yale Law School, will be one of them.

Robertson is drawn to the intersection of law and finance. For example, she has researched credit card debt and the way it is packaged and sold by banks. Robertson was intrigued to find that when the economic crisis struck, banks undertook what she calls “shadow bailouts” to protect their programs from default. She sees this as a significant area where “the dog did not bark” and wanted to know why—unlike, notably, mortgage securities, which noisily crashed. She concludes, in a forthcoming paper, that “[s]ecuritization…is not the problem. It is a legal construct that works remarkably well, and has been instrumental in expanding access to credit across the economic spectrum.”

At U of T, Robertson plans to continue exploring the legal and regulatory regime for banking, debt markets and corporate finance. She will do so in a field that can feature a surfeit of testosterone. At Yale, Robertson was often the only woman in her finance classes, but she notes that she benefited enormously from “some amazing woman mentors.” Now, as a professor, she hopes she “can serve as a resource for young women coming through law school who are interested in law and finance,” she says. “Having other women around helps. It helps you see yourself there.”

Professor Robertson will teach Bankruptcy and Insolvency Law in spring 2018. Thanks to her training in finance, she is also cross-appointed as an assistant professor of finance at the Rotman School of Management.

“Law and finance also tends to be an area with high barriers to entry,” she says. “You have to master not one, but two specialized languages and conceptual frameworks, which I think tends to scare people off before they have had a chance to really engage with it.” One of her goals is to make sure students overcome these barriers.

She will also aim to help build greater connections between the two divisions. “We have a fantastic law school and a fantastic business school so close to each other. I want to help us take full advantage of the synergies between the two."

When she’s not working on these goals, Robertson loves to undertake grueling hikes. She’s a veteran of treks through the Andes and Rockies, up Kilimanjaro and to Everest base camp. As challenges go, her new ones may seem like a walk in the park.