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An Interview with Pichrotanak Bunthan, Foreign Law Intern

Today’s interview is with Pichrotanak Bunthan, a foreign law intern working at the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Describe your background.

Pichrotanak Bunthan, foreign law intern. Photo courtesy of Pichrotanak Bunthan.

I was born and raised in Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city of Cambodia. Located in Southeast Asia, Cambodia is probably best known for its magnificent Angkor Wat – the largest religious monument in the world. To be honest, I have lost count of how many times I have visited this beautiful ancient temple despite the fact it is quite far from where I live.

Cambodia’s official and local language is Khmer, which is my mother tongue. I also speak English and a little bit of Mandarin. I have only one sibling, and her name is almost identical to mine, except without the letter “k” (Pichrotana).

What is your academic/professional history?

After graduating from a public high school, I received a governmental scholarship to study law at Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE). I obtained two law degrees from RULE simultaneously: bachelor of laws in Khmer, and an English language based bachelor of law (ELBBL). During my time at RULE, I also competed in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition twice.

After graduating from RULE in 2016, I started my first employment at Tilleke & Gibbins, a regional law firm in Southeast Asia. For about four years at Tilleke & Gibbin’s Phnom Penh office, I worked across various practice areas, including corporate affairs, mergers and acquisition, employment, and technology.

Last year I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to complete a master of laws degree (LL.M.) at Columbia Law School, from which I graduated this summer. At Columbia, I was a staff editor at the Columbia Science and Technology Law Review and a board member of a few student organizations, such as the ACLU and Columbia International Arbitration Association.

How would you describe your job to other people?

Under the supervision of Ms. Sayuri Umeda, a senior foreign law specialist, I work in the Global Legal Research Directorate. I conduct legal research and draft reports in response to requests we receive from numerous sources, including the U.S. Congress, federal agencies, the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as from the public. I am currently responsible for three jurisdictions: Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. For the past few weeks, I have worked on a variety of topics in these jurisdictions, ranging from very specific questions, such as birth certificate registration, to broad topics, like appeal procedure in criminal trials.

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

Comparative and international law is one of the areas that I am passionate about. Working at the Library of Congress allows me to conduct research on exciting legal questions in different jurisdictions. This will broaden my knowledge of legal frameworks in the region where I am from and generally hone my legal research and writing skills. Also, working in the world’s largest law library within the world’s biggest library is a rare opportunity that I would not miss.

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

Besides the well-known fact that it is the biggest law library in the world, with a collection of over 2.9 million volumes, it was interesting to learn that the Law Library of Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, at different points in time, used to be in the same room.

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

I enjoy singing. Singing karaoke with my family, friends, and colleagues is one of my favorite activities. I was also in Columbia Law Revue, a musical satire about law school life.

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