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Foreign and International Law Research Basics: Finding the Law

A basic introduction for those interested in researching international law or the national law of non-US jurisdictions.

Finding the Law

After getting your bearings in the legal system and the subject area, a finding tool can help you locate the sources of law on your topic or country. The Foreign Law Guide is an excellent first step, as it provides both an overview of the legal system and its sources of legal information, and an index of major laws by subject. If you do not have access to this subscription database, the Law Library of Congress is a great, free second choice.

For even more specific coverage of your topic, locate a treatise, handbook for practicing attorneys, or other secondary source in Biddle or your nearest law library.

Potential Sources for Translations

Finding a relatively recent, reliable translation of a foreign law is going to be a challenge in most cases. Some types of law are more likely to be available than others (constitutions are most likely, business statutes are the next most likely), and some countries are better than others (Germany's Ministry of Justice is a generous global citizen, as is Japan's).  

Start with the Foreign Law Guide, and also check the Law Library of Congress's helpful guide to translations for certain jurisdictions.  Beyond that, here are a few sources that may prove most fruitful: