Jenny Gesley, Library of Congress

"I learned how to be a diligent researcher"

In March 2015, former IMFS researcher Jenny Gesley joined the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. as a foreign law specialist, she provides research and reference services related to Germany and other German speaking countries for members of Congress, executive agencies, courts, and the general public.

What does a typical working day look like at the Library of Congress?

In my capacity as foreign law specialist, I answer requests from members of Congress, executive agencies, courts, and also the general public on the laws of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein and provide comparisons to the US system if necessary. The requests cover every area of the law, which makes the job both challenging and interesting. I might work on a request about the role of the German parliament in foreign and defense policy one day and on a request about Holocaust restitution the next day. Furthermore, I contribute articles on interesting legal developments in my jurisdictions to the Law Library’s Global Legal Monitor publication and to the blog “In Custodia Legis”. Lastly, I am in charge of maintaining and updating the Law Library’s book collection for these countries. 

What is special about the Library of Congress?

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. The Law Library has the largest collection of law books in the world in dozens of languages, with approximately 2.9 million volumes covering 260 jurisdictions as well as many former nations and colonies. It is the dream of every researcher to have such a vast collection at his or her disposal..

How did you get to work in the United States?

After I graduated from law school in Frankfurt, Germany, I attended an LL.M. program at the University of Minnesota and subsequently took and passed the New York Bar Exam. I used my two-year legal training (Referendariat) back in Germany as an opportunity to acquire more work experience in the US and in international organizations with duty stations at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations in New York and at the World Bank’s Special Litigation Unit in Washington, DC. In December 2013, I moved to the US and got married to my husband, whom I met while studying at the University of Minnesota. I worked on several short-term projects for law firms in New York before I happened to see the job advertisement for my current position at the Law Library of Congress. It seemed like the perfect fit and a good way to combine German and US law.

Looking back, what do you appreciate most regarding your doctorate at the IMFS?

During my five years as a graduate research assistant at the IMFS, I learned the essential research skills that I now use every day in my job. Assisting Professor Siekmann in researching and drafting papers, legal commentaries and other publications taught me how to be a diligent researcher. Due to the international focus of the IMFS a lot of the work was done in English. Lastly, the interdisciplinary approach of the IMFS in general and the exchange between economists and lawyers at the conferences, working lunches and other events of the IMFS provided me with the opportunity to experience different viewpoints and explain legal concepts to non-lawyers – an experience that is helpful in explaining German legal concepts to a foreign audience.