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An Interview with Joanne Baxter, Legal Editor

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This week’s interview is with Joanne Baxter, who is working at the Law Library of Congress as a legal editor.

1. Describe your background.

A headshot of Joanne Baxter in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress.
Photo by Donna Sokol.

I was born in Panama and lived there until I was ten years old, after which my family moved to South Florida, where I remained until I relocated to Washington, D.C. in 2010.

2. What is your academic/professional history?

I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Miami, where I majored in political science and had minors in business law and philosophy. After a year of working at a law firm in Miami, I decided to go to law school, which led me to American University’s Washington College of Law here in D.C. There, I focused my energies on international law topics such as business, arbitration, civil law, and immigration. I served as articles editor for the International Commercial Arbitration Brief and participated in the Competencia Internacional de Arbitraje, V Edición, a Spanish-language moot court competition. I also had a variety of law clerk positions, ranging from small firms to large NGOs.

Before coming to the Law Library, I was a legal editor at Bloomberg BNA, where I researched and reported on tax law developments around the world, an experience that served me well in preparing for my current role at the Law Library.

3. How would you describe your job to other people?

As a legal editor in the Law Library’s Global Legal Research Center, I work with a large group of foreign law attorneys to provide Library patrons, including Congress and other government agencies, with foreign law research and reports on almost any legal topic imaginable. Fortunately, I am able to draw from the Library’s extensive resources and collaborate with my colleagues to synthesize and edit information on complicated foreign law topics and concepts in such a way that it’s digestible and usable by agencies and attorneys with a primarily U.S. perspective. They may then continue to build upon their knowledge base or incorporate the information we provide into their policy or legal considerations.

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

Living in D.C. for as long as I have has afforded me with incredible career opportunities, but I had yet to try my hand at working at a government agency, let alone one as important as the Library of Congress. I was also looking for a way to combine my knowledge of foreign laws and research with a fast-paced atmosphere. It’s turned out to be a fascinating opportunity. The most exciting part has been to see how our work ebbs and flows depending on current events and the informational needs of Congress. One day I may hear about congressional priorities on the news, and the next day, I may be working on a report that serves to inform their next move.

5. What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library?

Certainly the most eye-opening fact is the sheer volume of people across the country that rely on the Library of Congress, and the Law Library in particular, as a key source of legal information. I didn’t know it before and have now realized that the Library as a whole is an underrated resource for every American. It’s been rewarding to see how the Law Library is able to point everyone—from a seasoned lawyer in a government agency to a layman in a small town—in the right direction.

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

My background wouldn’t suggest it, but I am a huge hockey fan! I absolutely love the crowd’s energy at games (which I make it a point to attend often) and the pace simply cannot be matched. I got into it shortly after moving to D.C. and am now fully consumed by the Stanley Cup playoffs and finals every year!

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