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An Interview with Anthony Breton, Foreign Law Intern

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Today’s interview is with Anthony Breton, a foreign law intern working with Tariq Ahmad at the Global Legal Research Directorate, Law Library of Congress.

1. Describe your background.

I had the pleasure to grow up in a very loving family in Quebec’s countryside north of Ottawa in a small town named Cantley in Canada. As a defining characteristic of my youth, I traveled extensively from a very young age on, first around Quebec’s southeastern lands with my family to see relatives and later west to Alberta and British Columbia. In British Columbia, I participated in an English immersion program for Quebec’s teenagers and later worked for the same program as a supervisor for many summers.

Anthony Breton standing in the great hall of the Library of Congress.
Anthony Breton, Foreign Law Intern. Photo by Donna Sokol.

2. What is your academic/professional history?

My academic and professional history was shaped by my intrinsic curiosity for international affairs and international law. This interest led to my enrollment in the Bachelor of Law program at the University of Montreal, where I am currently in my third year, and to earning a certificate in international water law from the Universidad de Costa Rica in 2017. I also recently enrolled for one semester at the University of Oslo in Norway, where I will get the chance to study human rights in an international law context in depth.

Just as importantly, I try to remain grounded and conscious of the problems faced by my community and use my academic background to help. In 2017, I was fortunate to be granted the opportunity to work as a legal clinician for the Mobile Legal Clinic in Montreal. The program tackles homelessness by offering free and confidential legal information to the homeless population of Montreal along with accompanying them to their legal proceedings.

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

Always surprising! In short, as a legal intern at the Global Legal Research Directorate, I get to shadow professionals who are asked to provide legal information on any legal topic in any country in the world to members of Congress, executive agencies, the federal judiciary, and private patrons. There is no such thing as a daily routine at the office. One day you might be expected to write a full report on the International Space Station‘s various legal jurisdictions on board, while the next day you are asked to provide an up-to-date overview of Canada’s regulatory efforts on Bitcoin and so forth.

Even more thrilling is the possibility to work alongside professionals from the four corners of the globe who each have different customs, beliefs, point of views, and a unique international background.

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

I had many reasons to hope for an opportunity to work in what some might call “the political capital of the world,” the first of which can easily be linked to my main academic focus on international affairs and international law. What better way of getting to understand the international community, its history, its structure, and its challenges than being granted the resources, time, and support to study the member states that make it up at the Global Legal Research Directorate?

I was also very eager to improve my English writing abilities and to enlarge my skill set in terms of research, the last of which was challenged very early on into my internship, because I was confronted with a mandate as broad as the Global Legal Research Directorate’s.

Lastly, I feel truly lucky to get to live in Washington D.C., where a young international student like me can swiftly get in touch with prominent NGOs and multilateral agencies. In addition, everyone can relive American history through D.C.’s free museums and the breathtaking monuments and memorials that adorn the capital.

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

Without hesitation what impressed me the most about the Law Library of Congress is the staff and the amount of effort that is behind the entire – and sometimes bewildering – collection of the Library of Congress. When you think about it, Congress, the executive agencies, the foreign law specialists, and the public all rely on a vast collection of printed knowledge which is of no use without being properly chosen, purchased, handled, sorted out, categorized, listed, shelved and then re-shelved as necessary.

So far, I had the chance to meet many resourceful hard-working librarians and other behind-the-scene employees dedicated to their work. It made me realize that this immeasurable treasure from which I could always easily retrieve what I needed to do my research was in fact the work of many devoted individuals too often forgotten and I think we ought to acknowledge that.

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

I recently discovered all the historic masterpieces that can be found in the public domain and have immersed myself in them, from Herodotus’ many muses all the way to Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography.

I also love putting on a 5mm wetsuit and throwing myself in the currents of the 50-degree Fahrenheit Ottawa River in early spring to catch a standing wave. Surfing it for perhaps a few dozen seconds is a true bliss for me.

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