Foreign Law Research

Legal Research Guides

Researching Foreign Law Updated Oct. 28, 2009. JF. 

General Information

Foreign law is distinguished from international law in that foreign law is the law of a single non-United States jurisdiction. The laws of Mexico, Japan, and Manitoba are all considered foreign law.

Comparative law is a multi-jurisdictional study of foreign laws on the same topic, often involving synthesis and analysis, rather than a listing of the different laws.

The following sources will be useful when conducting foreign or comparative legal research. For more information see the Gallagher guide on Research in Foreign & Comparative Law.

Guides

Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World. (also known as Reynolds & Flores)
Excellent source identifying English-language translations of foreign countries' laws. Also cites to original language materials. Very thorough.

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

Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems.
K55.I57 1994 at Reference Office

Accidental Tourist on the New Frontier: An Introductory Guide to Global Legal Research.
K85.A27 1998 at Reference Area & Reference Office

LLRX, Comparative / Foreign Law includes guides on cultural property, human rights, immigration law, Islamic law, parliamentary procedure, refugees, terrorism, and treaties.

GlobaLex contains and links to guides for foreign and comparative law research in many countries.

Georgetown Law Library, Foreign Laws on the Web

Washburn University Law Library, International Law Resources

New York University Law Library, Foreign Collections by Jurisdiction

The Gallagher guide on Legal and Judicial Systems in Countries Around the World.

Overviews

Martindale-Hubbell International Law Digest. CD-ROM available on public computer terminals 25-28 in Reference Area & LexisNexis.
Summaries of the laws of most countries. Good starting place.

International Association of Legal Science, International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, 1973-85.
K530.I58 at Reference Area

Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia.
K530.M63 1984 at Reference Area

Examples of Foreign Law Compilations

The following sources collect the laws of various countries on specific topics. The list is not comprehensive but it provides examples of multi-jurisdictional materials. Sources are arranged by topic.

Foreign Tax Law Association, Commercial Laws of the World, 1976-2004. Publication ceased in 2004.
K1004.15 1976 at Reference Area

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

ECOLEX is a gateway to environmental law with treaties, soft law, and national legislation.

European Community Environment Legislation. Arranged by topic.
KJE6242.A42 1996 at Classified Stacks

FAOLEX (from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) indexes and abstracts of treaties, laws, and regulations taken from official gazettes of member nations. Subjects include biodiversity, environment, fisheries, forest, and wildlife.

International Environment Reporter: Reference File. Vols. 2-4 reprint many European Union decisions, directives, and regulations. Vol. 4 also includes summaries of environmental laws of 32 countries, with directory of environmental agencies.
K3585.4.I57, current at Reference Area, older at Classified Stacks

International Environmental, Health and Safety Regulations (current). LexisNexis & Westlaw: ENFLEX-INT.

International Environmental Law and Regulation.
Reviews and summarizes environmental laws and regulations and enforcement of these laws and regulations. Covers 23 countries. Most country chapters include citations to primary sources.
K3585.4I573 1991 at Classified Stacks

International Digest of Health Legislation, Vols. 1-32, 1948-81; Vol. 49, 1998-date. K3569.2.I57 at Classified Stacks & 614.05 IN at Suzzallo Health Sciences Reference Serials
Includes environmental protection and hazardous substances legislation.

The World Intellectual Property Organization's Collection of Laws for Electronic Access (CLEA) contains intellectual property and industrial design laws.

International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, Investment Laws of the World, 1972-date.
K1112.A48 1973 at Reference Area

Natlex, is the International Labour Organization's site that compiles national labor, social security, and human rights laws.


Selected Foreign Law Databases

Several commercial services and free websites provide online access to the laws, regulations, and cases of foreign countries.

LexisNexis includes laws from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, China & Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Philippines, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom. The databases vary widely in scope and currency. See the LexisNexis Searchable Directory of Online Sources.

Westlaw includes laws from primarily Mexico and Europe. See the Westlaw Database Directory.

World Legal Information Institute provides cases, laws, and treaties from more than 50 jurisdictions, including Australia, Britain, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and the World Trade Organization.

The Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), a project of the Law Library of Congress, includes abstracts of a wide array of foreign laws, but not the laws themselves.