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An Interview with Kayahan Cantekin, Foreign Law Specialist

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Today’s interview is with Kayahan Cantekin, a foreign law specialist covering Turkey and other Turkic-speaking jurisdictions in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Describe your background

I am from Istanbul, Turkey. I was born in Texas, and my parents moved back to Turkey from the United States when I was six years old. I lived and studied in Istanbul until I graduated from law school when I was 23. After that, seeking some international experience, I first moved to London to study for my Master of Laws, and then to Florence, Italy, for my doctoral degree. In between these two degrees, I moved back to Turkey for a couple years to get my attorney’s license. In 2017, while I was writing my doctoral thesis, I moved to the U.S. with my wife. Before settling down in Washington, DC we were living in Lexington, Kentucky to be close to my father-in-law.

Kayahan Cantekin standing outside the front entrance of the Library of Congress building.
Kayahan Cantekin, photo by Zeynep Timoçin Cantekin (2019).

What is your academic/professional history?

I studied for my undergraduate law degree at Koç University in Istanbul. In Turkey, the law school curriculum is quite extensive, and one ends up completing more than 48 courses over the course of four years, studying everything from torts to European Union law. However, I was specifically interested in the information technologies law course that I took in my last year. It quickly turned out to be my favorite, which pushed me to further investigate the area and apply for the regulation and technology Master of Laws program at King’s College London. During my time at King’s College, I not only learned EU law in the field of telecommunications and internet law, but I was also introduced into legal academia. Confirming that I enjoyed thinking and reading about the law, I started to entertain the idea of doing a doctoral degree.

After King’s College, I returned to Turkey to do my bar traineeship to get my attorney’s license. In Istanbul, it takes a little over a year to complete each requirement to get a bar membership. At first, I started working as a tax law intern at a multinational accounting firm; it was a bit irrelevant to what I had been studying in my Master of Laws, but tax law and international tax law were two other favorite courses in law school. After I got accepted to the bar, I returned to Koç University as an intellectual property law consultant for their technology transfer office and I worked on cases with my professors. At Koç University, my professors encouraged me to continue my studies at the doctoral level and advised me to apply to the European University Institute’s doctoral program. After being admitted to the EUI, I started working on IP law problems arising in relation to cloud computing based services. This work then evolved into my thesis project, which was to create a new methodology to study conflict of laws rules applicable to global data flows.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I write country survey reports and legal opinions regarding the laws of Turkey and other Turkic-speaking jurisdictions. I recently started working on Greek law as well, which is not too foreign to me since Turkey and Greece are civil law countries that are rooted in similar continental European legal traditions and I am also trained in European Union law. I regularly work on multi-jurisdiction reports requested by legislators in Congress, legal opinions on particular legal questions requested by U.S. agencies, and also inquiries coming from members of the public such as attorneys and private citizens that are interested in rules in my jurisdictions.

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

I started working for the Law Library of Congress in the spring of 2018 as a contractor. I worked on a few different reports on Turkish law, and I enjoyed the work a lot. I was honored when offered a full-time position as a foreign law specialist, which is a perfect role for me and my career as a researcher and practitioner after my doctoral studies. Also, I must admit that after years of researching topics on U.S. and EU law for my doctoral studies, dealing with legal issues in other jurisdictions was a very fresh and welcome challenge. 

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

That the Librarian of Congress is appointed with the Senate’s approval and that it used to be a lifetime appointment!

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

I was the manager of the social club at the EUI in my first year. We threw huge parties. I first took this up for extra income to support my family, but I enjoyed it immensely and made great friends.

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