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Foreign, Comparative, and International Law: Foreign Law

Where It All Begins

Foreign Law is simply the law of another country or jurisdiction, and it is the starting place for much FCIL research. This page will help you start your research into a foreign jurisdiction.

Foreign Law Resources in the law Library

  • Print Resources and E-Books: To find legal resources about a particular country in the Law Library's print collection, conduct a Subject search in the Catalog for Law [country].
  • Websites, Databases, and other E-Resources: On the Law Library's E-Resources page, under Browse E-Resources by... select Jurisdictions. Click the link to any state, territory, global region, or nation to find e-resources specifically related to that jurisdiction.

Evaluating Online Resources

A wealth of foreign law information is available online, but remember to check them for indicators of reliability. For example:

  • Is it published by a government or official source?
  • Is it dated?
  • Does it indicate how often it's updated?
  • Is there a webmaster listed whom you can contact?
  • Does it provide official translations?

Inaccurate, out-dated information is sometimes worse than no information at all!

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources analyze, describe, discuss and/or comment upon the law; they synthesize the law for you and place it in an analytical context.  They will also help you locate relevant primary sources of law.

General Secondary Sources

These secondary sources are excellent starting places to learn the basics about a particular foreign jurisdiction.

The Guide to Foreign and International Legal Citations is another great reference to find primary law sources of foreign jurisdictions. The Guide provides standards for citing country-specific constitutions, legislation, and jurisprudence for over forty nations, and includes a profile of each country along with official sources available online.

Treatises on Specific Foreign Jurisdictions

Find books and other secondary materials on specific foreign jurisdictions by searching the Library catalog.example advanced search for french contract law

  • Using the advanced search function, set the subject field as "Law [country]."
  • Narrow your results by including a relevant term in the "any" field
  • Limit your results to English using the Language filter. 

► Law Library Catalog Advanced Search

 

Foreign Law Journal Articles

Journal articles are a rich source of information on narrow legal topics. Use these resources to find legal journals and articles published around the world.

Case Law

Considerations

  • Depending on the jurisdiction's legal system, cases may have varying degrees of authority. In civil law countries, cases are generally not considered as primary law, while they are the highest authority in common law countries.
  • Cases tend not to be translated as readily as legislation. 
  • Cases may appear in official or unofficial general reporters, or topical reporters. They may also appear in journals or legal newspapers.

Locating Cases

  • Determine where court decisions are published by looking at the Foreign Law Guide  or Globalex. These sources may tell you whether there are any English translations.
  • More and more courts of foreign jurisdictions are making court opinions available on their websites. Search by name or subject under the E-resources list on the Law Library website. The following two resources also provide links to the higher courts websites of individual jursidictions worldwide.
    • WorldLII: Links to online sources of caselaw (and other primary sources) for over 120 jurisdictions.
    • Guide to Law Online: annotated links to Supreme Court websites of many jurisdictions in the world.

Legislation

Foreign Official Gazettes

Publications of legislation may be official and unofficial, codified in various forms. Many jurisdictions publish laws in official Gazettes. These are daily, weekly, or monthly publications, similar to the Federal Register, that generally contains the first version of the text of legislation, regulations, rules, legal notices, treaties, and court cases for foreign countries.

A number of resources are available to identify the title of a country's official gazette.

Legislative Compendiums

Certain types of laws may be collected in various compendium sources, in English translation. For example:

Related Books in Catalog