Researching Foreign & Comparative Law
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
1. What is the structure of the legal system
you are intending to research?
• Is it a common law system, a civil law system,
a mixed system? Is it influenced or
complemented by a separate body of religious
law or a socio-political system? Is there a
supranational organization that also affects
domestic law?
• Be sure that you have a solid grounding in the
system you are looking to research, otherwise
the actual process of locating what you need
will be more difficult and time-consuming
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
2. Identify exactly what you need—a
case, a statute or law, etc.—and how
you need it
• Do you already have a citation, or will you
need to consult some type of finding aid to
locate the legal document you need?
– If you have a citation but do not know to what it
is citing to, use a source like Prince's Bieber
Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations or the NYU
Guide to Foreign and International Legal
Citations (both available at the Reference
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
• Will you be able to read it in its original
language, or will you need to locate an
English translation?
– If you cannot read the native language of the
source but do not need an official English
translation at this point, Google Translate
( will be your new
best friend
– There are a number of commercial translation
services that will translate the original full text
source into English if you need to submit the
source to a court
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
• Will an electronic version be sufficient or
will you need to locate the authentic print
– Remember that most jurisdictions outside the
US do not have the same rules regarding print
as the most authoritative source, so there is,
increasingly, every possibility that the source
you are looking for (especially case law) will be
“born digital” and might not ever be printed
– Be familiar with the local court rules just in case
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
• Similarly, do you need the authentic fulltext of the item, or would a detailed
explanation or summary of the law (in
English) be sufficient?
– If so, consider using a secondary source first
and then see if you can locate the entire
primary source if the need arises
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
3. Identify the sources of law for the country
and locate those sources by:
• Search for the source/reporter in the library’s
catalog to see if we subscribe to it
• Use the library’s Electronic Resources page to
determine whether we subscribe to a domestic
• Use one of the Worldliis
• Look in GLIN
• Use a subject-specific guide—i.e., look in NATLEX
for labor laws, World Bank’s Doing Business for
business laws, etc.
Use the following resources to determine what
you are looking for:
Foreign Law Guide
Fordham Law subscription database, access
through this link:
This source is the best starting point
when you do NOT have a citation or do
not know where to look for a particular
Foreign Law Guide
It is arranged by country, although not every
country has an entry. Each entry will include a
comprehensive essay detailing the
development and function of the country’s legal
system, followed by a finding aid tool for the
major sources of law (i.e., codes/statutes, case
law, etc.).
The rest of the entry is organized alphabetically
by topical subject headings (i.e., Antitrust,
Bankruptcy, Corporate law, etc.) which will list
both where you can find major controlling
legislation for that topic as well as where you
can find the topic discussed generally.
Exercise #1
Using the Foreign Law Guide, can you
locate the name/cite of the law on
foodstuffs and food packaging in
• Is there an English translation of this law
available anywhere?
A fantastic source for research guides on
any number of foreign, international and
comparative law sources. The information
and articles published by GlobaLex
represent both research and teaching
resources used by legal academics,
practitioners and other specialists around
the world who are active either in foreign,
international, and comparative law research
or those focusing on their own domestic law
Exercise #2
Using Globalex, which title of Romania's
Code of Criminal Procedure is devoted
to sanctions?
• Is there an English translation of this Code
available for free online?
my all-time favorite site for free authentic
full-text sources, in English whenever
possible, this site is run by the World Bank
and is the largest free online collection of
business laws and regulations for almost
every jurisdiction that the World Bank
deals with, and now includes a compilation
of gender laws intended to highlight how
easy it is for female entrepreneurs to start
a business
The World Legal Information Institutes
are free, independent and non-profit
access to worldwide law for a variety of
jurisdictions, particularly good for UK
materials (BAILII) and Asian-Pacific
jurisdictions (AsianLII and PacLII)
The Global Legal Information Network, run by
the Library of Congress, is a public database of
official texts of laws, regulations, judicial
decisions, and other complementary legal
sources contributed by governmental agencies
and international organizations in their original
languages. Each document is accompanied by
a summary in English and, in many cases in
additional languages, plus subject terms
selected from the multilingual index to GLIN.
Unfortunately it only contains information for
about 30 countries at the present time, and
even then the coverage can be spotty
database maintained by the International
Labour Organization (ILO) of national labour,
social security and related human rights
legislation. Records in NATLEX provide
abstracts of legislation and relevant citation
information, and they are indexed by keywords
and by subject classifications. Each record in
NATLEX appears in only one of the three ILO
official languages (English/French/Spanish).
Where possible, the full text of the law or a
relevant electronic source is linked to the
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
4. If you prefer to start with a comparative
source rather than locate individual
jurisdictional sources, or if you have
consulted the aforementioned compilations
and are still unable to locate what you are
looking for, consult a secondary source
• Secondary sources often provide commentary
on the legal issue, put the legal issue in
context, and/or provide a summary of the
relevant legal documentation
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
• Locate secondary sources in relevant research
guides and through searching the library’s
• Various compilations reprint subject-specific
legislation in English with some commentary.
Examples of titles held in our library include:
– Constitutions of the countries of the world
(electronically through our electronic resources page
and in print K3157.A2 C66)
– Comparative Environmental Law and Regulation
(K3585.4 .C65)
– Investment Laws of the World (K1112 .A47 I59)
– International Copyright Law and Practice (on LEXIS
and in print K1420.5 .I5)
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
5. When all else fails, ask a librarian!!
Research guides
Globalex’s Comparative Law research
Duke’s Foreign and Comparative Law
research guide:
Georgetown’s Foreign and Comparative
Law research guide:
How to locate…Constitutions
Foreign Law Guide—may have direct
links to full text but more often will point
you in the direction of where to find it
 Ocean’s Constitutions of the Countries
of the World (in print and online through
the Fordham Law Library)
 World Constitutions Illustrated
How to locate…legislation
If you don’t have a citation…
• your best starting point is Foreign Law Guide
If you are looking for a comparative survey
of laws…
• try one of the subject-specific database like
NATLEX, Doing Business Law Library, etc.
If you have a citation already…
• try one of the Worldliis, a subscription
database for that country, or the country’s
legislature’s website
How to locate….case law
If you do not have a citation…
• try a secondary source, or if you have access to a
subscription database for that country (i.e., Justis (UK),
LawAfrica, iSinolaw (China)), try a full text search for
the topic
If you have a citation but don’t know where to find
the source…
• look up the abbreviation in either Bieber’s Citations or
the NYU Guide, and then plug the name of the reporter
into our catalog to see if we have access to it
If you know exactly what you’re looking for
• try the relevant Worldlii, or a subscription database for
that jurisdiction—be sure you know the coverage
limitations for each database so you do not waste your
time looking for cases that are not reported there
Example #1
>>> <> 1/8/2010 2:20 PM >>>
In the oddball category of inquiries, are you aware of any
English language translations of the Hasn-ho, which is the
Japanese Bankruptcy Litigation Statute.
Random Alumnus class of 1978
Example #2
>>> <xxxxx@UNL.EDU> 3/4/2010 11:40 AM >>>
I am looking for a Russian telecommunications law (in
English) called "Resolution on the Order of Acquisition,
Use, and Provision of Geospatial Information." The only
thing I have for a citation is "No. 326 from 28.05.2007."
Random Guy from University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Example #3
>>> < > 6/19/2009 5:29 PM >>>
Good Morning,
I am trying to locate a current version of the German
Code of Civil Procedure (ZPO - Zivilprozessordnung),
translated into English.
Random Australian Librarian