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Foreign Law: How to Find It: Introduction

Tips for finding primary sources from foreign countries.

Purpose

This guide gives you some basic tips on searching for laws and related materials of foreign countries. This first page provides overall guidance. The second tab, Library Holdings, provides information on foreign materials available in the Library. The last page, Further Research, lists relevant electronic databases and other research guides. 

Already Compiled Source Lists

It is very tempting to use Google, but know that there is a resource that may very likely have this work done for you! That will tell you exactly where to go, both electronic and print, for many subjects in many countries.

The most comprehensive: Guide to International Legal Research (2015). Available on Lexis Advance – type the title into the main search bar; also on the second floor of the library by the reference desk: KZ 1234 .G85 (ref). It gives information on primary and secondary sources. Example of the table of contents on Lexis:

 

Other helpful source guides:

  • GlobaLex: http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/; select Foreign Law; then the desired jurisdiction. Listings depend on the jurisdiction.
  • The International Lawyer's Deskbook (Lucinda A. Low et al. eds., 2002). K 559 .I57 2002. Written from the perspective of practicing U.S. attorneys handling international issues. 
  • Claire Germain, Germain's Transnational Law Research: A Guide for Attorneys (Supp. 2006). K 85 .G47 1991 (ref). Provides significant background on foreign and international research and practice issues; lists materials by subject and by jurisdiction; includes electronic and print formats. 

Using Google

Be smart. Look for reliable websites such as government run websites; these will the “.gov” or foreign language equivalent. The extent of coverage and language will depend on the state. If you’re unsure of the trustworthiness of a website, run it by a reference librarian. 

Quick note on translating:

If you are researching or navigating sources in a language you do not understand:

  • May be reprinted in unofficial English source – a service, Westlaw, etc. 
  • Dictionaries, from English to many other languages, are available in the Library. A few examples include French, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, and Portuguese, There's even one with German, French, Dutch, and Spanish!
    • Some of these are traditional dictionaries, but others are legal dictionaries that may include annotations and guides to researching law in a particular state. 
  • Multilingual thesaurus produced by the European Union - EuroVoc 
  • Google translate can help you navigate but do not rely on it for real analysis

About the Author

Janet Kearney's picture
Janet Kearney
Contact:
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Library
Room 206G
526 Pine Street
New Orleans, LA 70118
(504) 861-5687

Copyright

© Loyola University New Orleans Law Library. This guide may be used for educational purposes, as long as proper credit is given. This guide may not be sold. Requests to republish or adapt a guide should be directed to the Library Director. Proper credit includes the statement: Written by, or adapted from, Loyola University New Orleans Law Library (current as of November 8, 2015).