Finding Foreign and Comparative Law

Introduction

Foreign law consists of the nationals laws (as referred to as domestics laws) of individual foreign countries. Comparative law involves comparing foreign legal principles and institutions with another.

When beginning to research a foreign legal systems it is worthwhile considering a few issues:

1. What do you need?

Are you looking for a constitution, statutes, cases or general information?

2. Find out how the laws are published in the country you are researching.

Are the laws published as codes, compilations of statutes or reporters? A good source to use to discover this type of information is the Foreign Law Guide.

3. What sort of structure does the legal system have?

Is it a civil system based on codes or a common law system, or is it mixed? The World Legal Systems website is a quick way to determine this.

4. Be wary of translations.

Many countries publish their laws in the country's official language not in English, in fact, very few foreign laws, and even fewer cases, are translated into English. Translations should be used carefully, they may not be authoritative, or up-to-date, and the quality of translation may vary.

5. You can approach your research by two routes - by jurisdiction or by subject.

You may need to try both, sometimes it is good to start with a country by country approach as you gain a wider understanding of the legal system in question.  Alternatively, particular subject collections may group together laws from different countries on particular topic's e.g. International Encyclopaedia of Laws, has volumes for criminal law, family law, cyber laws, environmental law and intergovernmental organizations.

Research Guides for Foreign and Comparative Law

Recommended siteGeorgetown Law Library: Foreign and Comparative Law Research Guide
Recommended siteGlobaLex: Guide to Researching Foreign Law by Mary Rumsey
GlobalLex: Comparative Law by Paul Norman

Research Guides to Particular Foreign Domestic Legal Systems

Many law libraries have country research guides on their websites. Each country’s guide typically include an introduction to the legal system, official sources of law, print resources, and web resources. They are usually an excellent starting point.

Colombia Law Library: A Selective List of Guide to Foreign Legal Research

A list of guides, covering many countries and regions, both citing both electronic and print sources.

LLRX.com: Comparative and Foreign Law Guides

An extensive list of guides for various countries.

Recommended siteU.S. Law Library of Congress: Foreign and International Law

Includes guides to Australia, Brazil, China, France, India, Israel, Japan, Russia, and more. 

Databases with Coverage of Foreign Legal Information

Both Lexis Library and Westlaw contain legal databases for a variety of countries. However, coverage varies widely from country to country.

Lexis Library

To access foreign law you need to click on the 'Sources tab'.

WestlawUK

To access foreign law click on the 'Services' > 'Westlaw International' link.

Foreign Law

The Foreign Law Guide contains current sources of codes and basic legislation in jurisdictions of the world, it is a comprehensive source for essential information on foreign law from nearly 200 jurisdictions. Click on 'subscriber login' to access.

International Law Reports

International Law Reports is the only publication in the world wholly devoted to the regular and systematic reporting in English of decisions of international courts and arbitrators as well as judgments of national courts. Justis provides the first ever searchable, electronic platform for this material. Covering all significant cases of public international law from 1919 to the present day, the collection spans from the postwar Treaty of Versailles era to a cyberspace-influenced twenty-first century, featuring an enormously diverse range of topics along the way, including:

  • International boundaries
  • state and diplomatic immunity
  • treaties between states
  • war
  • terrorism
  • refugee law
Oxford Reports on International Law

Oxford Reports on International Law (ORIL) brings together decisions on public international law from international courts and tribunals, domestic courts and ad hoc tribunals. Integrating the full scope of international case law for the first time in an easily navigable online environment, ORIL draws upon the expertise of leading scholars and local experts to provide high quality, timely, reports and analysis. Case reports contain: Headnote; Summary of case facts and judicial holdings/arbitral decision or award; Full text of the opinion of the Court/arbitral tribunal; Analytical commentary from scholarly experts; List of cases and instruments cited; Accurate translations into English of key passages of non-English decisions. The library subscribes to all modules available which includes:

  • Oxford Reports on International Law in Domestic Courts
  • Oxford Reports on International Criminal Law
  • Oxford Reports on International Human Rights Law
  • Oxford Reports on International Courts of General Jurisdiction
  • Oxford Reports on International Investment Claims

See the following information on courts covered by ORIL http://www.oxfordlawreports.com/faqs#available

Websites and Portals to Foreign Domestic law

Browse all sites
Constitutions, Codes and Legislation sites
Case-law only
Web portals Country Guide (A to Z)
Web portals by Subject Guide (A to Z)


Enquiries

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