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Introduction to Foreign Legal Research. April 2012. Overview. Basic introduction Out-of-class research exercise will be distributed later this week Want to learn more? E579 International and Foreign Law Research. Definitions. Foreign Law

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Introduction to foreign legal research

Introduction to Foreign Legal Research

April 2012


  • Basic introduction

  • Out-of-class research exercise will be distributed later this week

  • Want to learn more? E579 International and Foreign Law Research


  • Foreign Law

    • The national, or domestic, law of any country other than the one within which you are working

    • No effect outside the boundaries of that nation

  • Comparative Law

    • The study of the similarities and / or differences between two or more countries or between two or more legal systems

Research strategy
Research Strategy

  • Preliminary analysis

    • Assess knowledge

    • Use secondary sources to get background on topic

  • Retrieve and analyze primary legal materials (constitutions, legislation, regulations, cases)

  • Update your research and refine conclusions

Research guides
Research Guides

  • Written guidance on how to research a particular jurisdiction or topic of law

    • Descriptions of print and online sources for researching a particular country’s law, or a particular foreign law topic

    • Can help identify sources of English-language translations of laws

  • Gallagher Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Guide:

  • Other Guides:

    • Globalex (NYU)

    • LLRX

Foreign law primary sources











Overview of a foreign nation s legal system
Overview of a Foreign Nation’s Legal System

  • Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia K530 .M63 1984 (Reference Area)

  • Foreign Law Guide (a/k/a “Reynolds & Flores”)

    • Gallagher home page > Selected Databases

Class exercise
Class Exercise

  • Use Foreign Law Guide and Globalex

  • Compare entries for South Africa. Information on:

    • legal history?

    • guidance on how to cite legal materials?

    • identification of bankruptcy laws?

    • information on structure of judicial system?


  • Constitutions of the Countries of the World K3157.A2 B58 1971 (Reference Area)

  • Constitution Finder, University of Richmond

Finding foreign legal materials online commercial sources
Finding Foreign Legal Materials Online: Commercial Sources

  • Westlaw

    • Westlaw Classic: Select the DIRECTORY > International/Worldwide Materials > Select region

    • WestlawNext: Select the DIRECTORY > International Materials > International/Worldwide Materials > Select region

  • LexisNexis

    • Primary foreign law databases

      • Select LEGAL Tab > Area of Law by Topic > Foreign Laws and Legal Sources > select country or region

    • Martindale Hubbell International Law Digest

      • Legal > Area of Law by Topic > Foreign Laws and Legal Sources > International Law Digests > select region

Finding foreign legal materials online
Finding Foreign Legal Materials Online

  • Law Library of Congress Guide to Law Online

  • NYU Law Library, Foreign Databases by Jurisdiction

Class exercise1
Class Exercise

  • Use Library of Congress, Guide to Law Online, and NYU Law Library, Foreign Databases by Jurisdiction

  • Compare information on laws of Israel. Does each site have:

    • Links to court cases in English?

    • Online access to treaties to which Israel is a party?

    • Link to Executive branch website?

    • Links to online sources for full-text laws, in English?

Researching foreign law by subject
Researching Foreign Law by Subject

  • Subject compilations of foreign laws in print

    • E.g., RIA Worldwide Tax Law/Tax Laws of the World, K4504.15 (Reference Area)

    • Use Library of Congress, Multinational Collections Database to identify publications that contain foreign laws on specific subjects

  • IGO and NGO websites

    • E.g., World Bank - Doing Business

      • Compilation of business laws and regulations from almost every member jurisdiction)

Evaluating online information
Evaluating Online Information

  • Is it reliable?

    • Who is the author?

    • Currency?

    • Scope?

  • Translation issues

    • Official translation?

    • May not include latest revisions/amendments

    • Look for official government websites

Foreign law research take aways
Foreign Law Research: Take-Aways

  • When beginning your research:

    • Use secondary sources for basic background and citations to primary law

    • Consult a research guide

      • Many good online guides; all vary in coverage so you may need to consult more than one

    • Identify your country’s legal system (civil law, common law, other?)

  • Search for primary law by jurisdiction or by subject

    • May need to consult multiple sources for primary law; coverage varies

    • Be persistent but realistic; sometimes you may have to settle for summaries

Introduction to foreign legal research

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