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An Interview with Henri Barbeau, Foreign Law Intern

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Today’s interview is with Henri Barbeau, a foreign law intern working with Foreign Law Specialist Nicolas Boring at the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Henri Barbeau standing in the great hall of the Library of Congress.
Henri Barbeau is a foreign law intern at the Law Library of Congress. Photo by Kelly McKenna.

Describe your background.

I am a Canadian law student at the University of Montreal, in the province of Quebec. I studied history as an undergraduate student, with a particular focus on modern Europe, before opting for the study of law. My interests are fairly eclectic, though I find the areas of public and international law to be the most fun.

How would you describe your job to other people?

In a few words, I help my supervisor, Nicolas Boring, provide answers to legal questions for francophone jurisdictions. These include France, Belgium, and Haiti, but also a large number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Mali, Madagascar, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to name a few. Questions tend to come from the U.S. Congress, far and away the most important “patron” of the Law Library, but also from federal agencies, private inquirers, and even intergovernmental organizations like the World Bank. I also occasionally write articles for the Global Legal Monitor on legal developments in the “Francophonie.”

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

I became aware of the internship position at the Law Library through my school’s career office, the University of Montreal having sent two interns to Washington, D.C.,every summer since 2014. I applied right away, knowing that the opportunity to work at one of the largest libraries in the world, in the heart of Washington, D.C., was too good a chance to pass on. The experience also seemed interesting from the standpoint of comparative law, as much of the work of the Global Legal Research Directorate involves drawing parallels between different legal traditions.

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

I did not know before arriving at the Library that it is required by law to remain open as long as Congress is working so that congressional representatives can consult it whenever necessary. This means that when Congress works into the early hours of the morning – hatching a last-minute budget deal, for example – certain members of the library staff have to pull all-nighters to keep the Library open and available. I suppose this just goes to show how valuable the services of the Law Library of Congress are!

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

I have been an avid guitar player for more than a decade now! I try now and then to take on the works of South American greats like Antonio Lauro, though when it comes to the more technically sophisticated stuff my playing is more aspirational than skillful.   

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