Research in Foreign & Comparative Law

Legal Research Guides

Updated Nov. 16, 2006.

Contributors: Gallagher Law Librarians Jonathan Franklin, Ann Hemmens, Peggy Jarrett, Cheryl Nyberg, and Mary Whisner.

  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions
  3. Library Departments and Branches
  4. Electronic Resources
  5. Research Guides and Bibliographies--Foreign Law
  6. Language
  7. Directories
  8. Library Catalogs
  9. Periodical Indexes
  10. Overviews of Foreign Law
  11. The Library’s Foreign Law Strengths, by Jurisdiction
  12. The Library’s Foreign Law Strengths, by Subject
  13. Multi-jurisdictional Sets
  14. Selected Internet Sites for Foreign Law
  15. Other Sources of Foreign Law
  16. Citing Foreign Law Sources
  17. Useful Contacts

See also Foreign & Comparative Law Research, a PowerPoint slideshow.

Introduction  Introduction Updated March 5, 2002; MW.

When you research international or foreign law, you will look for and use different types of information: laws, cases, and regulations from national bodies; practice guides or overviews of legal topics; scholarly discussions of the law; news stories; policy studies.

You will find this information in different types of sources (or formats): books, periodicals, microfiche and microfilm, locally mounted databases, commercial online services, Internet sites.

And you will obtain those sources in different locations, using different methods: at this library, at other libraries on campus, through interlibrary loan, on library terminals, through your own computer, in the Computer Lab.

What this means is that you may need to be creative and flexible in your research and to plan ahead in order to gather the materials you need. Be prepared for the limitations of any library you use.

You can expect your county law library to have your state's statutes, but it will not have statutes for all the countries of the world. Even very large law libraries cannot have deep collections for all jurisdictions. For example, the Gallagher Law Library has very strong collections for China, Japan, and Korea, but has very little for most Latin American countries.

Use research guides to help you form a research strategy and find appropriate sources.

Use secondary sources to get an overview of a topic and to find citations to other sources. Consider when you can and cannot compromise -- e.g., do you need the current text of a statute or would you be satisfied with a summary that is a few years old?



 Definitions Updated Aug. 28, 2003; MW.
Foreign Law
The domestic law of a country other than your own.
Comparative Law
Study comparing the laws of two or more countries or two or more legal systems. This often includes the study of foreign law -- to find articles about foreign law, you may need to use the terms "comparative law" or "comparative method" in some indexes.
Public International Law
Rules dealing with the relations between two or more states (i.e., countries).
Rules dealing with some relations between states and persons (e.g., human rights)
Rules dealing with international organizations.
International economic law is the branch that deals with economic exchanges between states � it may include monetary law, trade law, customs law.
Sources of international law
(1) international conventions (treaties)
(2) international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law
(3) the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations
(4) judicial decisions and teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations. Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
Private International Law (Conflict of Laws)
Rules dealing with relations among individuals that have an international element, typically rules concerning which country�s laws apply to a particular dispute.
Soft Law
�Guidelines, policy declarations, or codes of conduct that set standards of conduct but are not directly enforceable.� Black�s Law Dictionary (7th ed. 2000).
Transnational Law
Rules governing certain disputes that are accepted regardless of national jurisdiction.
Some people promote this as a solution to some problems of international commercial law: contracting parties from different countries would both be bound by this transnational law, rather than by the law of either party�s country.
Some writers refer to it as "the international law of lex mercatoria."

Library Departments and Branches

Library Departments and Branches Updated May 16, 2007; AEH.

UW Gallagher Law Library

  • URL:
  • the Law Library's Internet based online catalog.
    • Search for materials in the Law Library's collection. Also provides access to electronic databases, legal periodical indexes (e.g., Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals), other library catalogs, free Internet legal resources, Law Library services (e.g., interlibrary loan request form), and information on changing the catalog display to view characters in other languages.
    • Law Library materials are not included in the main University of Washington Libraries catalog.
    • For catalog searching tips see "Library Catalogs" section of this guide.
  • Reference Office on floor L1, 543-6794, handles reference questions for United States law, international law, and the law of  foreign jurisdictions. The Reference staff will assist with basic legal reference questions regarding China, Japan, and Korea, but will refer patrons to the Library's  East Asian Law Department staff for in-depth questions concerning those countries. Email reference service for UW law students.
  • East Asian Law Department handles Chinese, Japanese, and Korean law reference questions.
  • 543-7447; e-mail rrbritt@u.
  • Circulation Department on L1, 543-4086, provides a variety of services with respect to accessing materials.
    • If a book you need is checked out, you can request the book by talking to a Circulation staff member or via the online catalog.
    • If a book (or journal) you need is not available here in the Law Library or in the UW Libraries, or in the academic libraries in Washington and Oregon states (for more information, see the "Summit" section below), Circulation staff may be able to borrow it for you from other libraries through interlibrary loan. See the Interlibrary Loan webpage for more information about this service.

UW Libraries

  • URL:
  • UW Libraries online catalog includes materials available in the many library departments located throughout campus (e.g., Suzzallo Library, Engineering Library, Fisheries-Oceanography Library, Foster Business Library, and East Asia Library). It does not include the Law Library materials, which are available through the Law Library's online catalog.
  • Information about the libraries around campus is available via the UW Libraries Research Databases website. Selected departments include:
    • Government Publications, Suzzallo Library ground floor; 543-1937. Government Publications is a depository for U.S. federal government publications and for Canadian, United Nations, and European Union documents. The collection includes selected documents from a variety of international organizations. Some microfiche documents are here (e.g. EC Official Journal). Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) is a collection of translations of newspaper articles and radio and television broadcasts from foreign countries. The emphasis is on political, socioeconomic, scientific, technical, and environmental information. The set has been superceded by the online World News Connection (WNC), which is available through the UW Libraries Research Databases page.
      • The UW Libraries online catalog includes selected international titles, but many titles must be accessed through internal records/files with staff assistance.
    • Microform and Newspaper Collections, Suzzallo Library ground floor; 543-4164. MicNews maintains a large current international newspaper collection, with an emphasis on Slavic, South and Southeast Asian papers and a selection of European and American papers. Includes indexes and backruns for major newspapers.
    • Suzzallo Library Reference, Suzzallo Library first floor, 543-0242; email: Handles reference questions concerning: anthropology, cinema studies, classics, communications, economics, education, English language and literature, ethnic studies, geography, Germanics, history, linguistics, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, Romance languages and literatures, sociology and women's studies. Includes links to research databases in the humanities and social sciences.


Summit is an online library catalog that combines information from more than 30 academic libraries in Washington and Oregon into a single unified database. UW students, faculty, and staff can search the online catalog and borrow materials directly from these libraries for delivery to UW Law Library. The UW Libraries and the UW Law Library catalogs are included in Summit. Four other law school libraries are included in the Summit catalog. More About Summit


Electronic Resources

Electronic Sources Updated July 19, 2007; AEH.

Connecting to Online Resources

Many electronic databases and indexes are available to you. Some databases are licensed by the University with a restriction that they are only for the UW community. You have two options for accessing these databases:

  1. use a UW-connected computer, such as the public computers in the Law Library
  2. use your own computer and sign in with your UW NetID at the Gallagher Law Library website or the UW Libraries website. Look for these links:
      or , click, then sign in.

See the Gallagher guide on Connecting to Online Library Resources for more information.

Law-Specific Databases

On the Gallagher Law Library homepage, use the pull-down option under the Find Legal Databases heading. Select the database you want to search and then click on Go. See the Legal Databases & Indexes page for a complete list and descriptions.

University Libraries Research Databases

The UW Libraries Research Databases page is an excellent entry point for a variety of indexes and databases available to University of Washington users. Browse by database name or use the Resources by Subject option, where you'll find topics such as African studies, East Asia, fisheries, health sciences, human rights, international studies, Japanese studies, political science and public affairs, religion, Southeast Asian studies, and women's studies.

LexisNexis & Westlaw

UW law students have LexisNexis IDs and Westlaw passwords for educational purposes. For help, ask a reference librarian or a LexisNexis or Westlaw student representative or call Customer Service (LexisNexis 1-800-543-6862; Westlaw 1-800-REF-ATTY, 1-800-733-2889). Each vendor has a law school portal:


For educational purposes, UW students from departments and schools other than the School of Law have access to LexisNexis Academic through the UW Libraries Research Databases page. This version of LexisNexis does not offer the same coverage as the version law students use. Material that is listed in this guide as available on LexisNexis is available on the law school version but may not be available on the general academic version.


A wide variety of material is available on the Internet. Government agencies, IGOs, universities, businesses, and individuals post documents and other information on their websites. The Internet has become particularly valuable for international law researchers because some documents are now available on the Web that are otherwise very difficult to obtain.

Gallagher's Internet Legal Resources page links to selected websites for comparative, foreign, and international law research. Other sources include:
  • International Inter-Governmental & Non-Governmental Organizations (from the UW Libraries Government Publications Library) links to free international and foreign law websites.
  • The Legal List: Research on the Internet includes a chapter on international and foreign law web resources. KF242.A1 H496 at Reference Office
  • Ken Kozlowski, The Internet Guide for the Legal Researcher: The Complete Resource Guide to Finding Legal Information on the Internet, includes a chapter on international web resources. KF242.A1 M3 at Reference Office

Email Discussion Lists

Also called "listservs," email discussion lists enable people to communicate and share information quickly and easily.

For information on the use of listservs and a selected list of international law lists, see the ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law, Lists, Newsgroups & Networks.


Research Guides and Bibliographies--Foreign Law

Research Guides and Bibliographies--Foreign

Updated July 18, 2016; AEH.

Thomas H. Reynolds & Arturo A. Flores, Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World. UW Restricted.
Excellent resource; very thorough.

Gallagher guides on:

Germain's Transnational Law Research: A Guide for Attorneys. K85.G47 1991 at Reference Office & Classified Stacks
See Chapter V, "Countries."

Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems (R.A. Danner & M.H. Bernal, eds.). K559.I57 1994 at Reference Office

Accidental Tourist on the New Frontier: An Introductory Guide to Global Legal Research (Jeanne Rehberg & Radu D. Popa, eds.). K85.A27 1998 at Reference Area & Reference Office

LLRX Comparative / Foreign Law

Martindale-Hubbell International Law Digest. KF190.M34, current at Reference Area & Reference Office
Summaries of the laws of most countries. Good starting place. Also on LexisNexis.

Szladits' Bibliography on Foreign and Comparative Law, 1984- . K520.S9 in Reference Area
Annotated bibliography of books and articles, in English, on topics of foreign and comparative law, organized by subject.

World Legal Information Institute's collection of online international legal research guides,

University of Melbourne, Asian Law Centre, AsianLaw Bibliography, is a searchable bibliographic database of English language publications on Asian laws. Provides bibliographic references to publications such as books, book chapters, journal articles and theses.

For additional resources see the Gallagher guide on Research in Foreign & Comparative Law.



Language Updated December 4, 2002; MW.

Language can present many challenges in foreign and international law research. See:

  • Amber Lee Smith, "Foreign Law in Translation: Problems and Sources," in Richard A. Danner & Marie-Louise H. Bernal, eds., Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems, at 267-71, K559.I57 1994 at Reference Office.
  • M. Kathleen Price, "The Unambiguous Rightness of Meaning: The Search for Precision in Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Research," in Jeanne Rehberg & Radu D. Popa, Accidental Tourist on the New Frontier: An Introductory Guide to Global Legal Research, K85.A27 1998 at Reference Office.
  • Susan Sarcevic, New Approach to Legal Translation, K213.S27 1997 at Classified Stacks.

You may need to consider compromises. For example, a five-year-old, unofficial English translation might be "good enough" for some purposes, when the current, official text is in a language you cannot read and do not have the resources to have translated.

Since legal terms exist within the rich context of their legal systems, even a simple translation can be misleading. For example, an American lawyer may see the word "trial" and make assumptions about judge, jury, attorneys, witnesses, cross-examination, and so on, that would not fit at all with what "trial" means in a civil law context. (Meanings can change even without translating across languages and major legal systems. Consider the word "constitution" in the common law, English-speaking jurisdictions of the United Kingdom and the United States!)


To find bilingual dictionaries, search MARIAN, the Law Library's catalog for the language and "dictionaries.�

To find dictionaries that include more than two languages, use "polyglot" in your search.
  • For example, keywords: dictionaries and polyglot retrieves the records for 32 books, including West�s Law and Commercial Dictionary in Five Languages: Definitions of the Legal and Commercial Terms and Phrases of American, English, and Civil Law Jurisdictions,  a two-volume set that translates terms between English and German, Spanish, French, and Italian. K54.W47 1985 at Reference Area.

EURODICAUTOM,, is the multilingual terminological database of the European Commission�s Translation Service. You can enter a term in one of the twelve languages covered (Danish (DA), Dutch (NL), English (EN), Finnish (FI), French (FR), German (DE), Greek (EL), Italian (IT), Latin (LA), Portuguese (PT), Spanish (ES), Swedish (SV)) and find equivalent or related terms in any of the other languages.

A Web of On-Line Dictionaries,, links to over 1,000 dictionaries in over 200 languages. (The site is maintained by a professor of Russian and Linguistics at Bucknell.)


Web-based translation tools may provide some assistance.

  • For example, Alta Vista�s translation service,, lets you type in (or cut and paste) a passage in any of several languages (French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish) and translate it to English. You can also enter something in English and translate it to any of those languages. Using this, you can even ask to have an entire website translated by entering the URL (website address).
    • This little free program is not a substitute for knowing a language or finding a competent translator. The translations are not accurate or smooth. But, under certain circumstances, the program could be a useful tool.
    • For example, when I cut and pasted a section of a Mexican statute from LexisNexis into the translator, I found the statute was about "the Free Trade Agreement of America of the North." A good translator would have known to say "North American Free Trade Agreement," but at least with the computer translation a researcher could tell whether the statute was the one needed so that she could try to find someone to help with the Spanish text.
  • Findlaw's directory of translators, arranged by state, Under the heading "Practice Support & Consultants" click on "Translators."
  • In MARIAN you can limit keywords searches to materials in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, or German. For information on displaying foreign characters, see


Directories Updated July 19, 2007; CRN.

Why Use Directories?

Directories can help you identify agencies and organizations that are active in an area. They provide you with contact information (if you want to call or write an expert), as well as information about the organization's work.

International and Non-Governmental Organizations

  • Encyclopedia of Associations. HS17.G334, current edition at Reference Office
  • Encyclopedia of Associations--International Organizations. Well-indexed, with descriptions of associations and organizations. AS8.E53, current at Reference Office. Westlaw: EOA.
  • Yearbook of International Organizations. Describes IGOs and NGOs. JZ4836.Y43, current (vols. 1 & 3) at Reference Office. Suzzallo Government Publications Reference has the complete set.
  • International Information Directory. AS8.I58, current at Reference Office
  • International Governmental Organizations (from the Northwestern University Library) links to websites.
  • International Organizations and Related Information (from the University of Michigan Library Documents Center) links to websites.
  • Non-governmental Organizations Research Guide (from the Duke University Perkins Library) links to websites of NGOs that deal with environmentally sustainable development, human rights, and/or women in development.

United States

Foreign Countries

  • Washington Information Directory. Lists foreign embassies in the US and US ambassadors in each country.  E154.5.W38, current at Reference Office
  • Worldwide Government Directory, with International Organizations. JF37.L345 at Classified Stacks
  • Statesman's Yearbook. JA51.S7, current at Reference Office
  • Foreign Consular Offices in the United States (from the US State Department) lists consulates by country, then by state where the consulates are located. Individual officials are listed.
  • The Diplomatic List (from the US State Department) lists embassy staff.
  • World Leaders / Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments (from the US Central Intelligence Agency) provides names of officials, but not directory information.
  • The World Factbook provides maps, flags, and summaries of each country's political, economic, agricultural, demographic, and cultural climate. G122.U56a, current at Reference Office
  • Foreign Governments (from the University of Michigan Library Documents Center) links to indexing sites and portals.
  • Permanent Missions to the United Nations--New York (from the United Nations) links to websites.

Library Catalogs

Library Catalogs Updated Dec. 18, 2007; MW.

Why Use Catalogs?

Library catalogs provide information about the books, documents, videos, and journals that the library owns. Now they often link to online resources, as well. Library materials can provide you with an overview of a topic and references to other material. Scholarly works can be evidence of "teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations" - one of the sources of international law.

UW Law Library Catalog � MARIAN

The Law Library's catalog (called MARIAN) is found on the Library's homepage. This catalog identifies material owned or access through the Law Library.


You can search MARIAN by author, title, subject, or keywords. For help searching, use the online help screens or ask a reference librarian.

Subject headings for international law topics include the general (e.g., Human Rights) and the specific (e.g., Refugees, Refugees Arab, Refugees Political). Note that there are often closely related headings. Do not stop with your first search! Try different combinations in keywords or subject heading searches.

Geographic subdivisions of subject headings indicate the jurisdiction or geographic area covered. Examples: Argentina, China, European Economic Community Countries, United States, Washington State. For some topics, you might want to check for regions - e.g., Latin America, Europe, Europe Eastern, Europe Central.

Language may be searched in two ways:

  • In a keywords search, use the pull-down menu to select English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, or German.
  • After you run any type of search, click LIMIT, then select a language from the pull-down menu.

Information about displaying foreign characters is available online.

Locating Materials

To find a book or other item in the Law Library, you need to know its call number and location � both listed in the catalog record.

Call numbers arrange books by jurisdiction and subject area. For example:

  • K--jurisprudence and comparative law
  • KD--British law
  • KF--United States law
  • KNX-KNY--Japanese law
  • KZ--international law

Locations within the Library include:

  • Reference Area, Floor L1
  • Classified Stacks, Floors L1 and L2
  • Compact Stacks, Floor L2

For more on call numbers and the layout of the Law Library, see Library Holdings, Arrangement of the Collection and Library Maps. To find the general call number for materials dealing with a specific country, see the Table of Call Numbers for Foreign Jurisdictions.

Catalog records include links to some electronic materials. Many materials are on free government-sponsored websites. The Law Library subscribes to other sources, such as Hein Online, which provide online content. These commercial services are usually UW Restricted.

Other Library Catalogs

The UW Libraries catalog does not include the Law Library, but it include the University's East Asia Library and all other branch libraries, including those located in Bothell and Tacoma.

Many of the government documents available at Suzzallo/Government Publications (including United Nations and some older federal documents) are not listed in the UW Libraries catalog.

University of Washington School of Law faculty, students, and staff have access to other catalogs, such as ShareLaw and Summit. Read about these Other Library Catalogs for more information. If you find an item in the Summit or ShareLaw catalog that is not available at the Law Library, you may directly request it without going through the interlibrary loan process. If you cannot find an item that you want in any of these catalogs, you may request it through interlibrary loan.


Periodical Indexes

Periodicals Updated October 2, 2007; MW.

Why Use Periodicals?

There are many reasons to use periodicals when you work on an international or foreign law project:
  • Law journal articles can give you an overview of a topic, with footnotes leading to other material.
  • Law journal articles analyze issues (and you might agree or disagree with the analysis in your own work).
  • Articles from other disciplines (economics, history, oceanography, business) can provide you with the factual context for analyzing your legal topic.
  • News stories also provide factual context.
  • News stories might also summarize a law or give you useful information about a legal development.  (When did the EU issue a directive? Is this nation's parliament debating a money-laundering bill?)
  • Any of these sources might be used to show "international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law"--one of the sources of international law.
  • Scholarly articles can be evidence of "teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations"--one of the sources of international law.


General Comments

For your research projects, you may need periodical articles from different types of publications--for example, U.S. law journals and international scientific journals. Consequently, you will use different periodical indexes. Which indexes from other disciplines are most useful to you will, of course, depend on your research project. Someone working on the legal regime concerning deep seabed mining might need a technical report from an engineering database, while someone working on a paper about human rights claims of an indigenous people might need publications in anthropology or geography.

Be aware that the indexes may vary in their search language. For example, if you are using LexisNexis or Westlaw and you want to truncate the word "immigrate" (so you will retrieve records with "immigrant" and "immigration" as well as "immigrate"), you would enter immigra!. To do the same thing in LegalTrac you would enter immigra*. And to do the same thing in Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, you would enter immigra?. For assistance, use each index�s online help screens or ask a reference librarian.

The list below indicates whether each index is available through the UW Law Library Legal Databases & Indexes page, the UW Libraries Research Databases list, on LexisNexis or Westlaw, on the Internet, or in print. (For more about access to LexisNexis and Westlaw, see the section on Electronic Sources.)

Legal Periodical Indexes

LegalTrac (Legal Resource Index): Indexes US, UK, Canadian & Australian legal periodicals, 1980-date. Some full-text articles.

Index to Legal Periodicals and Books: Indexes US, UK, Canadian & Australian legal periodicals, 1926-date.

  • K33.I5 at Reference Area
  • LexisNexis: ILP, 1978-date

Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals: Indexes non-Anglo-American legal periodicals, plus some comparative & international articles from US & Commonwealth journals, 1960-date in print; 1985-date online. Also covers essays in collection. Indexing is in English; articles are in many languages (including English).

Current Index to Legal Periodicals: A weekly current awareness service--mostly US law reviews (published by the Gallagher Law Library).

Index to Canadian Legal Literature: Indexes Canadian legal essays, articles, government publications & CLE materials.

  • Westlaw: ICLL, 1985-date
  • KE173.C38 at Classified Stacks (1981-93 only)

European Integration Current Contents allows you to search or browse the tables of contents of 108 journals relevant to European law, human rights, economics, history, and political science. Spring 1999-date.

Public International Law: Indexes articles in journals & other collected works, 1975-date. Since 1990, also lists newly published books. Published by Max Planck Institute. Several languages, including English. K3150 .P8 at Reference Area

Legal Journals Index: Indexes journals from the UK & other EU countries with articles pertaining to the laws of the EU & its member states. 1986-date.

  • Westlaw: LJI
  • K33.L43 at Classified Stacks (vols. 1-5, 1986-90 only)

Selected Indexes from Related Disciplines

Anthropological Literature: Indexes articles in anthropology and related disciplines, 1984-date. UW Libraries Research Databases

Dissertation Abstracts: Indexes and abstracts dissertations from North America & Europe. The web version includes options for ordering copies of the dissertations (for a fee) (recent UW dissertations are available online free to UW users). You can also use the information you find to request a dissertation through Interlibrary Loan.

EconLit: Indexes economics articles. Useful for international trade, international intellectual property &  international development.

GeoBase: An index to the international literature of geography, ecology, earth science & marine science. Touches on many international law topics. For example, includes hundreds of articles with the subject heading "Human Rights." UW Libraries Research Databases

NTIS (National Technical Information Service): Indexes U.S. government-sponsored scientific & technical research & worldwide scientific, technical & engineering information. UW Libraries Research Databases

PAIS International: Indexes periodical articles, books, and government reports from around the world in six languages, including English.

For other indexes, see the UW Libraries Research Databases list.

Full-Text Sources

Both LexisNexis and Westlaw have the full text of many legal periodicals available online. Remember that both only include selected periodicals, generally starting in the mid-1980's, and that until recently Westlaw only included selected articles from most periodicals it covers. Both services also offer many U.S. and international news sources.

HeinOnline reproduces the full-text of hundreds of law reviews in Portable Document Format (pdf). Coverage extends to the first volume for each title up until last year; current year issues are not always available. The search system is less sophisticated than that found on LexisNexis or Westlaw.

The World News Connection (WNC) is a collection of translations of newspaper articles and radio and television broadcasts from foreign countries. The emphasis is on political, socioeconomic, scientific, technical, and environmental information. For early news stories, consult the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) microfiche located at the Suzzallo Microform and Newspaper Collections. UW Libraries Research Databases


Overviews of Foreign Law

  • Martindale-Hubbell International Law Digest, KF190.M34, current Reference Area, Reference Office & East Asian Law Reference; LexisNexis. Contains summaries of the laws of over 70 countries (and the EU) prepared by law firms. Good starting place. Often provides citations to statutes.
  • Kenneth R. Redden & William Emerson Brock, Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia, K530.M63 1984 at Reference Area. Summaries of the legal systems of most jurisdictions. Essays on selected topics (e.g., Swiss banking law).
  • International Association of Legal Science, International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, 1973-85). K530.I58 at Reference Area. A series of monographs and chapters on comparative topics – e.g., the history of civil procedure in Europe, comparative tort law. Volume 1 surveys many jurisdictions’ legal systems.


The Library's Foreign Law Strengths, by Jurisdiction

The following is a summary of the Law Library’s collecting practices for selected jurisdictions. For more detail, see our Collection Development Policy, Z733.M375C6 1996 at Reference Area & Reference Office.
  • The Law Library’s strongest collections are for East Asian jurisdictions: China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. See guides listed above.
  • Common law jurisdictions
    • United Kingdom: Statutes, cases, and selected treatises, journals, legal encyclopedia and digest, very strong historical collection. Many UK materials are also available full-text on LexisNexis. See the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (cases, legislation, and other legal material from the UK and Ireland).
    • Australia: See Australian Legal Research Sources, covering materials in the Gallagher Law Library and online resources.
    • Canada: Federal and British Columbia statutes and cases, journals, and selected monographs. Some Canadian materials are also available on LexisNexis. Various websites include Canadian legal materials. See WorldLII's list.  
    • India: Selected case reports, journals (mostly back runs). Collection is stronger for older materials.
    • New Zealand: Statutes and academic journals. Cases are available on LexisNexis.
    • Philippines (mixed common law/civil law jurisdiction): Selected federal statutes and codes, case reports, and academic journals.
    • South Africa (mixed common law/civil law jurisdiction): Older statutes, cases, and journals (subscriptions canceled in 1993-94).
  • Civil law jurisdictions
    • France: Limited collection. Older journals (33 titles were canceled in 1993-94).
    • Germany: Statutes, selected case reports, and selected monographs (usually in English), especially on antitrust, criminal law, labor law, and intellectual property law.
    • Mexico: Selected codes; very limited print collection. Legislation and case law available on LexisNexis.
    • Russia: Selected legislation and codes (in English). Over 1200 Russian language monographs. Legislation and regulations (selected) available on LexisNexis.
  • European Union: See the European Union Research guide.


The Library's Foreign Law Strengths, by Subject

Even in jurisdictions where collections are not strong, the Law Library may have selected treatises and other sources on certain topics of interest. These are determined by the curricular and research needs of the Law School. For instance, the Law School used to have an LL.M. program in Law and Marine Affairs and still offers classes in that area, so the Law Library acquires more books on marine law in various jurisdictions than, say, domestic relations law. Subject areas of special interest include:
  • Environmental law
  • Human rights
  • Intellectual property
  • Marine law
For many countries, the Law Library also collects (in English) selected research guides, bibliographies, and general works on the legal system.

The Law Library has English translations of civil codes from many civil law countries. For example, the Library has a 1996 English translation of Mexico’s civil and commercial codes, which is cataloged with the subject heading Civil law -- Mexico. To find civil codes, search the catalog for Subject Heading = civil law [country].


Multi-jurisdictional Sets

The Library subscribes to several sets that publish laws (translated into English) or summaries of laws from many nations. The texts are not always current but are generally less than ten years old; the translations, while not official, are generally reliable. Multi-jurisdictional sets include:
  • American Bar Association, Committee on Inter-American Law, Inter-American Legal Materials, 1983-date. KG3.I572 at Classified Stacks
  • Albert P. Blaustein & G.H. Flanz, eds. Constitutions of the Countries of the World: A Series of Updated Texts, Constitutional Chronologies and Annotated Bibliographies, 1971-date. K3157.A2B58 1971 at Reference Area
  • Albert P. Blaustein, Phyllis M. Blaustein & Eric B. Blaustein, Constitutions of Dependencies and Special Sovereignties, 1975-date. K3157.E5C65 1975 at Reference Area
  • Foreign Tax Law Association, Commercial Laws of the World, 1976-date. K1004.15 1976 at Reference Area
  • Foreign Tax Law Association, Tax Laws of the World, 1964?-date. K4504.15 1974 at Reference Area
  • International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation, Taxes and Investment in Asia and the Pacific, 1978-date. K4460.4.I57 at Classified Stacks
  • International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, Investment Laws of the World, 1972-date. K1112.A48 1973 at Reference Area
  • International Environment Reporter: Reference File, K3585.4.I57 at Reference Area. Vols. 2-4 reprints many European Union decisions, directives and regulations; vol. 4 also includes summaries environmental laws of 32 countries, with directory of environmental agencies.
  • Lester Nelson, George Kohlik & Ernest A. Rovelstad, Digest of Commercial Laws of the World (National Association of Credit Management), 1966-date. K1004.2.D5 at Reference Area
  • Lester Nelson & George Kohlik, Digest of Commercial Laws of the World. Digest of Intellectual Property Laws of the World (National Association of Credit Management), 1975-date. K1500.D54 1975 at Reference Area
  • Lester Nelson, Digest of Commercial Laws of the World. State Variations of Commercial Law, 1985-98. K1004.2.D5Z95 at Classified Stacks
  • Lester Nelson, Digest of Commercial Laws of the World. Forms of Commercial Agreements, 1984-98. K1004.35.D54 1984 at Classified Stacks
  • Julian O. Von Kalinowski, Competition Laws of the Pacific Rim Countries, 1988-date. K3856.C65 1989 at Classified Stacks
  • World Intellectual Property Organization, Copyright and Related Rights Laws and Treaties, 1987-date. K1420.5.C66 1987 at Reference Area
  • World Intellectual Property Organization, Industrial Property Laws and Treaties, 1978-date. K1500.A47I5 at Reference Area

Another way to identify multijurisdictional sets is to search the Library of Congress Multinational Collections Databases. Search by jurisdiction or subject and then determine whether you want results displayed by title, jurisdiction, or subject. This database indexes publications at the Library of Congress, but once you have found a title that includes the laws you are looking for, look for that title in the Law Library's catalog.

There are also some multi-jurisdictional databases on special topics. For example:
  • LexisNexis has Central and Eastern Europe Legal Texts, a database produced by the U.S. Commerce Department with English translations of laws of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania on commercial topics.
  • LexisNexis and Westlaw both have ENFLEX databases with translations of environmental and occupational health and safety laws from Brazil, the European Union, France, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
  • FAOLEX Legal Database indexes and abstracts treaties, laws, and regulations taken from official gazettes of member nations. Subjects include environment, fisheries, forest, and wildlife & biodiversity.
  • UNESCO National Copyright Legislation database  contains full-text of national legislation related to copyright and neighboring rights laws, which are regularly communicated to UNESCO by its Members States. The Handbook of National Regulations Concerning the Export of Cultural Property (prepared for UNESCO by Lyndel Prott & Patrick O'Keefe, 1988), is available online.
  • World Health Organization, International Digest of Health Legislation (IDHL) contains a selection of national and international health legislation. (Note: "health" includes environmental protection and consumer protection.). Most laws are summarized, but some are available full-text (through links to other sites).


Selected Internet Sites for Foreign Law

Websites for foreign law are proliferating. When using a website, consider factors that might affect reliability: Who created and maintains the site? (government agency, law school, law firm, publisher, individual?) How often is it updated? Where do the texts come from?

The World Legal Information Institute, a website unveiled in the fall of 2002, is the premier site for foreign law. WorldLII aims to provide free, independent and non-profit access to worldwide law. It is a joint initiative of nine university-based Legal Information Institutes (e.g., the Australasian Legal Information Institute). The WorldLII site catalogs web resources by jurisdiction and by topic. It also includes hundreds of searchable databases - for example, caselaw from dozens of jurisdictions.

Other useful foreign law websites include:


Other Sources of Foreign Law

  • International Legal Materials, 1962-date. JX68.I543 at Reference Area (last two years) & Classified Stacks (older issues); Hein Online; LexisNexis & Westlaw (ILM and INM-INDX). Publishes text of some foreign laws (in English), often in international trade area.
  • Check news sources. Sometimes the BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (LexisNexis) or another news source will translate a foreign statute.
  • Check other secondary sources. A law review article or monograph might quote the relevant portions of a law (or reprint the entire law as an appendix).


Citing Foreign Law Sources

For information on citing foreign law sources following the Bluebook or the International Citation Manual, see the "Foreign Law" section of the Gallagher guide on Bluebook 101.


Useful Contacts: Embassies, Consulates, and Country Desks

Embassies and consulates often have information about the home country’s laws (often in English), especially in areas such as immigration, extradition, investment, trade, etc.
  • Washington Information Directory, E154.5.W38, current at Reference Office. Lists, by country, foreign embassies in the U.S. and U.S. ambassadors in each country. Also includes "desk officers" in the State and Commerce Departments who follow political cultural, and economic developments in each country.
  • U.S. State Department, Foreign Consular Offices in the United States lists consulates by country, then by state where the consulates are. Individual officials are listed (for instance, there are ten officials in Japan’s consulate in Seattle, a Consul General, five consuls, and four vice consuls).
  • The State Department’s Diplomatic List covers embassy staff.
  • For links to embassy websites, see the University of Michigan Documents Center.