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An Interview with Jenny Gesley, Foreign Law Specialist

This week’s interview is with Jenny Gesley, our newest foreign law specialist at the Law Library of Congress Jenny provides research and reference services related to Germany and other German-speaking countries.

Describe your background


Photo by Donna Sokol

I am a native of Düsseldorf, Germany. During high school, I spent a year as a foreign exchange student at Buffalo High School in Buffalo, MN, which triggered my interest in living abroad and experiencing different cultures. After graduating from high school, I studied law in Heidelberg, Frankfurt and spent a semester abroad in Fribourg, Switzerland. To expand my knowledge of foreign and comparative law, I obtained an LL.M. from the University of Minnesota Law School and subsequently passed the New York Bar Exam. I returned to Germany for two years of practical legal training, which gave me the opportunity to clerk for a civil and a criminal law judge, work at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations in New York, at the Building Authority of the City of Frankfurt, at a big law firm, and for the World Bank’s Special Litigation Unit of the Integrity Vice Presidency.

During my time as a law student in Frankfurt, as well as after my graduation from law school and during and after my practical legal training, I also worked as a (graduate) research assistant at the Institute for Monetary and Financial Stability (IMFS). I provided Professor Siekmann with research assistance on monetary, currency and central bank law, and also worked on my own dissertation titled “Financial Market Supervision in the United States – National Developments and Influence of International Rules.” After I moved to the U.S., I worked on several projects for different law firms, while also finishing up my dissertation.

How would you describe your job to other people?

As a foreign law specialist, I cover the German-speaking jurisdictions of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein. In this capacity, I answer requests from members of Congress, executive agencies, courts, and also the general public on the laws of these countries. The work is at the intersection of research and practice and can cover every area of the law, which makes it both challenging and interesting. In addition, I am in charge of maintaining and updating the Law Library’s collection for these countries. In case of interesting legal developments in my jurisdictions, I contribute articles to the Law Library’s Global Legal Monitor publication and to In Custodia Legis.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?

As a researcher there is no better place to do research. The Law Library of Congress has the largest collection of law books in the world in dozens of languages. Also, experts from all over the world work here. It is therefore always a delight to exchange information and opinions with people who have first-hand knowledge of different countries and legal systems.

What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Law Library of Congress?

I have learned a lot of interesting facts about the Law Library of Congress, but what impressed me the most were the following two facts. The Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress  was the first public building constructed with electrical wiring in the city of Washington, D.C. Members of Congress would come to the Member’s Room at the Library of Congress to marvel at the new invention. Second, the Law Library’s collection of law books for a country sometimes surpasses the collections of institutions within the country itself, which can also be helpful if that country’s collections are destroyed as a result of a natural disaster or conflict.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I have played tennis ever since I was three years old. My father encouraged me to play professionally and to become the next Steffi Graf, but I chose to just play for fun. I still very much enjoy playing, but unfortunately I do not have as much time for it anymore.

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