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An Interview with Karen Ungerer, Foreign Law Intern

Today’s interview is with Karen Ungerer, a foreign law intern working with Foreign Law Specialist Jenny Gesley in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Describe your background.

I grew up in a small town in the south of Germany, which is idyllically situated in the middle of some vineyards. My home town is located near Heilbronn, which is known from the play “Das Käthchen von Heilbronn” by Heinrich von Kleist. I have one brother, who is four years younger than me, and who moved to Austria after finishing university.

What is your academic/professional history?

My academic and professional history was shaped by my interest in law and international affairs. In 2010, I started studying law at Julius-Maximilians-University in Würzburg, which is a beautiful historic city in northern Bavaria famous for its excellent wine. As I was keen on going abroad, I studied one semester at Sharda University in Greater Noida, India. After finishing the semester, I interned with the German Embassy in New Delhi, India, for six months. Back in Würzburg, I took the first German state exam and participated in the doctorate program at Julius-Maximilians-University in Würzburg. In 2020, I started a two-year legal traineeship at the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt am Main, which is necessary to qualify as a lawyer in Germany.

Karen Ungerer standing in front of railing on the second floor of the Great Hall of the Library of Congress.

Karen Ungerer, foreign law intern. Photo by Kelly Goles.

How would you describe your job to other people?

As a foreign law intern at the Global Legal Research Directorate, I assist my supervisor, Jenny Gesley, with providing high level expertise on the law of German-speaking jurisdictions and the European Union to members of Congress, executive branch agencies, the federal judiciary, and the general public. Besides that, I write articles for the Global Legal Monitor and the Law Library’s blog, In Custodia Legis. I really enjoy the diversity of my work as no issue was like the other and there is no such thing as a daily routine.

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

The Law Library of Congress contains the largest collection of law books in the world and enjoys an excellent reputation. I am truly impressed with the high quality work of the Law Library of Congress and the impact it is having. Working at the Law Library allows me to conduct research on exciting legal questions in different jurisdictions and areas. Through this great opportunity I am able to build upon my research skills within a global context. At the same time it is thrilling to work alongside professionals from all over the world who each have different legal backgrounds and cultures.

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

As fan of true crime podcasts, the tunnel system underneath the Library of Congress, which connects the different buildings of the Library and Congress, fascinates me the most. Nowadays, the tunnels are mainly used as a pedestrian walkway and you can even find coffee shops there, but in former days, the tunnels were used as a clever book delivery system.

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

In India, I learned how to practice yoga and since then I have been practicing yoga almost every day. If my career in law had not worked out, I would have trained to become a yoga instructor. Maybe for fun I will do it anyways.


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