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Interview with Samantha O’Brien O’Reilly – Global Legal Research Intern

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Today’s interview is with Samantha O’Brien O’Reilly, an intern with the Global Legal Research Directorate.

Samantha OBrien OReilly standing in front of a large globe outside the Law Library's reading room.

Describe your background.

I am from a small town called Kells in Co. Meath in Ireland. I have just completed my first two years of a four-year undergraduate degree in Law with French Law at University College Dublin. I will spend next year studying at L’université Panthéon-Assas in Paris. I am fortunate enough to be a member of the Washington Ireland Program for Service and Leadership class of 2014. The program brings 30 university students from a diverse range of backgrounds in both the North and South of Ireland to Washington D.C. for summer work placements and leadership training. Together we learn how to respect and co-operate with one another to build a sustainable and peaceful future for the whole of our island.

How would you describe your job to other people?

The primary mission of the Law Library of Congress is to provide members of Congress with comprehensive information on both American and foreign law. However, any member of the public may also submit a research request to the Library, as may other federal agencies. I work as an intern in the Global Legal Research Center under the supervision of Claire Feikert-Ahalt, the UK Law Specialist. I mostly conduct research and prepare reports in response to questions of UK and Irish law but I have also had the opportunity to research laws from jurisdictions such as Montserrat, Bermuda and Belize.

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

I believe the Law Library of Congress provides a vital service to the US government. It is of immense importance in an increasingly globalized society that those who make the law have an awareness of laws from other jurisdictions. The Law Library of Congress provides the government with the opportunity to receive comprehensive research on laws from around the world so legislators can be aware of how any proposed laws for the United States fit into an international framework.

Lawyers from jurisdictions all over the world work in the Global Legal Research Directorate. I have been provided with a plethora of opportunities to expand my international legal knowledge and that is in no small part due to the friendly and collaborative working environment that prevails here. Many of the lawyers here are described as ‘specialists’ but this can be misleading, as they are not specialists in any one particular area of law but rather are specialists in their chosen jurisdictions. They are asked to answer a wide range of legal questions in a myriad of areas from their chosen jurisdictions on a daily basis. The intellectual stimulation and opportunities for continued growth and learning this presents are very attractive for a young law student.

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

A sign of how interesting and varied an experience my internship has been is evident in the number of responses I could give to this question. However, my favorite fact so far is after the Taliban fell in Afghanistan, efforts were made to restore the previous system of law. However, while the Taliban were in power, they destroyed all copies of Afghanistan’s previous codes and statutes so none could be found to provide an authority on the previous system. However, the Law Library of Congress managed to find a unique English translation of Afghanistan’s laws in its collection, which was then used to rebuild the country’s legal system.

For me, this example highlights the unique role the Law Library’s immense collection of more than 2.5 million items can play in global affairs.

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

I very much enjoy acting and have performed in many plays and pantomimes back in Ireland.

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