Researching Foreign and Comparative Law ()

Researching Foreign & Comparative Law
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
1. What is the structure of the legal
system you are intending to research?
Civil v. Common law
Religious/political influences
Supranational organizations
Any domestic regional distinctions
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
2. Identify exactly what you need—a
case, a statute or law, etc.—and how
you need it
• Do you already have a citation, or will you
need to consult some type of finding aid to
locate the legal document you need?
– If you have a citation but do not know to what it
is citing to, use a source like Prince's Bieber
Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations or the NYU
Guide to Foreign and International Legal
Citations (both available at the Reference
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
• Will you be able to read it in its original
language, or will you need to locate an
English translation?
– If you cannot read the native language of the
source but do not need an official English
translation at this point, Google Translate
( will be your new
best friend
– There are a number of commercial translation
services that will translate the original full text
source into English if you need to submit the
source to a court
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
• Will an electronic version be sufficient or
will you need to locate the authentic print
– Remember that most jurisdictions outside the
US do not have the same rules regarding print
as the most authoritative source, so there is,
increasingly, every possibility that the source
you are looking for (especially case law) will be
“born digital” and might not ever be printed
– Be familiar with the local court rules just in case
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
• Similarly, do you need the authentic fulltext of the item, or would a detailed
explanation or summary of the law (in
English) be sufficient?
– If so, consider using a secondary source first
and then see if you can locate the entire
primary source if the need arises
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
3. Identify the sources of law for the
country and locate those sources where
available in the library’s collection by
running a catalog search. Use the
following resources to determine what
you are looking for:
Foreign Law Guide
Fordham Law subscription database, access
through this link:
This source is the best starting point
when you do NOT have a citation or do
not know where to look for a particular
Foreign Law Guide
It is arranged by country, although not every
country has an entry. Each entry will include a
comprehensive essay detailing the
development and function of the country’s legal
system, followed by a finding aid tool for the
major sources of law (i.e., codes/statutes, case
law, etc.).
The rest of the entry is organized alphabetically
by topical subject headings (i.e., Antitrust,
Bankruptcy, Corporate law, etc.) which will list
both where you can find major controlling
legislation for that topic as well as where you
can find the topic discussed generally.
Example #1
Your client wants to sail his yacht (yate
in Spanish) to his vacation home in
Mexico where he will stay for a month.
• Using Foreign Law Guide, locate the
Mexican law that deals with customs
• Bonus points if you can locate the full text
of it and find which provision deals with
A fantastic source for research guides on
any number of foreign, international and
comparative law sources. The information
and articles published by GlobaLex
represent both research and teaching
resources used by legal academics,
practitioners and other specialists around
the world who are active either in foreign,
international, and comparative law research
or those focusing on their own domestic law
Example #2
What is the official publication source
for legislation in the Vatican City?
• Does Fordham University have a
subscription to this source?
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
4. Locate the full text of the document you
• Search for the source/reporter in the library’s
catalog to see if we subscribe to it
• Use the library’s Electronic Resources page to
determine whether we subscribe to a domestic
• Use one of the Worldliis
• Look in GLIN
• Use a subject-specific guide—i.e., look in
NATLEX for labor laws, World Bank’s Doing
Business for business laws, etc.
The World Legal Information Institutes
are free, independent and non-profit
access to worldwide law for a variety of
jurisdictions, particularly good for UK
materials (BAILII) and Asian-Pacific
jurisdictions (AsianLII and PacLII)
Example #3
Using BAILII ( can
you locate a 2010 High Court case
dealing with the addition of a possible
third runway at Heathrow Airport?
The Global Legal Information Network, run by
the Library of Congress, is a public database of
official texts of laws, regulations, judicial
decisions, and other complementary legal
sources contributed by governmental agencies
and international organizations in their original
languages. Each document is accompanied by
a summary in English and, in many cases in
additional languages, plus subject terms
selected from the multilingual index to GLIN.
Unfortunately it only contains information for
about 30 countries at the present time, and
even then the coverage can be spotty
my all-time favorite site for free authentic
full-text sources, in English whenever
possible, this site is run by the World Bank
and is the largest free online collection of
business laws and regulations for almost
every jurisdiction that the World Bank
deals with, and now includes a compilation
of gender laws intended to highlight how
easy it is for female entrepreneurs to start
a business
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
5. If you prefer to start with a comparative
source rather than locate individual
jurisdictional sources, or if you have
consulted the aforementioned compilations
and are still unable to locate what you are
looking for, consult a secondary source
• Secondary sources often provide commentary
on the legal issue, put the legal issue in
context, and/or provide a summary of the
relevant legal documentation
5 Steps Of Foreign Legal Research
• Locate secondary sources in relevant research
guides and through searching the library’s
• Various compilations reprint subject-specific
legislation in English with some commentary.
Examples of titles held in our library include:
– Constitutions of the countries of the world
(electronically through our electronic resources page
and in print K3157.A2 C66)
– Comparative Environmental Law and Regulation
(K3585.4 .C65)
– Investment Laws of the World (K1112 .A47 I59)
– International Copyright Law and Practice (on LEXIS
and in print K1420.5 .I5)
How to locate…Constitutions
Foreign Law Guide—may have direct
links to full text but more often will point
you in the direction of where to find it
 Ocean’s Constitutions of the Countries
of the World (in print and online through
the Fordham Law Library)
 World Constitutions Illustrated
How to locate…legislation
If you don’t have a citation…
• your best starting point is Foreign Law Guide
If you are looking for a comparative survey
of laws…
• try one of the subject-specific database like
NATLEX, Doing Business Law Library, etc.
If you have a citation already…
• try one of the Worldliis, a subscription
database for that country, or the country’s
legislature’s website
How to locate….case law
If you do not have a citation…
• try a secondary source, or if you have access to a
subscription database for that country (i.e., Justis (UK),
LawAfrica, iSinolaw (China)), try a full text search for
the topic
If you have a citation but don’t know where to find
the source…
• look up the abbreviation in either Bieber’s Citations or
the NYU Guide, and then plug the name of the reporter
into our catalog to see if we have access to it
If you know exactly what you’re looking for
• try the relevant Worldlii, or a subscription database for
that jurisdiction—be sure you know the coverage
limitations for each database so you do not waste your
time looking for cases that are not reported there
How to research transnational law
Two step process to dealing with these
• Identify procedural aspects and private
international law concerns
– Forum
– Service
– Discovery
– Local rules of civil procedure
• Identify applicable foreign laws
International procedural issues
If the issue involves a US citizen or
corporation, consult the State Dept’s
collection of information
The Hague Convention has a number of
treaties that provide guidance on
international legal cooperation and
Hague Conference on Private
International Law and Conventions:
Active in development of conventions in
various areas of private law (e.g. conflict of
laws to inter-country adoption).
Full-text conventions, status and
bibliographic information, and explanatory
reports, when available
• Most useful are the status (where you can see
who is a party), and the background/interpretive
documents for each convention
Example #5
If you wanted to take evidence in Korea,
are there any Hague Conventions which
would apply?
• Does the US State Department issue any
particular guidance for taking evidence in