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This guide will set forth strategies for locating foreign law. It will address national constitutions, legislation, cases, and other legal materials of non-U.S. countries. It will also cover secondary sources that may be helpful in researching foreign law. At the outset, researchers should be aware that not all foreign governments publish their legal materials, and that the materials that are published may not be current, or may be available only in the local language. Foreign government web sites may include primary legal resources, but English translations are not always included. This Guide will provide suggestions for locating English translations of foreign countries' primary legal resources as well as background materials and commentary.
There are a number of preliminary steps to take when seeking foreign law. It's useful to consult secondary sources first for an overview of a particular country’s legal system and sources of primary authorities. Primary legal materials comparable to U.S. sources may not exist for a particular country.
It is advisable to do background research to understand the structure of the foreign legal system in question (civil law, common, law, or other) and to identify the sources of law for the country you are interested in. The following tips may prove useful:
Consult the JuriGlobe World Legal Systems site for a quick way to determine the type of legal system for a particular country.
Obtain general background information on the country. One good resource for this is the CIA World Factbook.
Determine whether the country publishes codes, compilations of statutes, or reporters. A good source for gathering this information is the Foreign Law Guide database (UMLaw only.) Another source for both background on a country’s legal system and links to primary materials is GlobalLex.
Consult Martindale-Hubbell Law Digest (LexisAdvance) (UMLaw only) provides background on foreign legal systems and legal publications, as well as Law Digests that provide summaries of major areas of law and some citations to primary authority.
Find a secondary source such as a treatise or periodical article, by checking the library Discovery Service (see the "Search Library Catalog" box below) or periodical databases (see the "Secondary Sources" tab in this Guide.)
Consult topical or country legal research guides for specific information on finding sources. You can locate these by Googling the name of the country or region and “legal research guides.” Links to some legal research guides are included under "Secondary Sources" in this Guide.