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Foreign and Comparative Law Research

This guide provides recommended strategies and sources for conducting research in the law of foreign jurisdictions.

Foreign Constitutions

Foreign Constitutions

Constitutions of the World (Oxford)

Available both in print and electronically, Oxford's Constitutions of the World surveys the constitutions of nearly 120 countries. Each chapter profiles one country, providing background information on the constitutional history of the nation and the overall structure of its constitution. (Available to UNC Faculty & Students)

World Constitutions Illustrated

World Constitutions Illustrated includes the current constitutions for countries in both their original languages and in English translation, as well as constitutional histories for all included foreign jurisdictions. In addition, the collection provides access to scholarly articles and commentaries exploring the constitutional history of each available jurisdiction. (Available to UNC Faculty & Students)

Constitute: The World's Constitutions to Read, Search, and Compare

The Constitute Project provides online access to hundreds of constitutions from across the globe. Current and earlier versions of constitutions are included, and the website features a "Compare" feature that allows researchers to compare several constitutions side-by-side. In addition, topical filtering allows researchers to focus on specific constitution provisions and compare their treatment across multiple jurisdictions. 

International Constitutional Law Project

The International Constitutional Law Project is maintained by the University of Bern and provides English translations of constitutional documents. Note that the scope of the collection is not as detailed as that available in The Constitute Project, but this is another resource to keep in mind when searching for foreign constitutions. This website is also a bit older, as it has not been updated since 2016.

Foreign Legislation & Regulations

Foreign Laws & Regulations

The following is a list of databases and websites that provide access to foreign legislation and regulations. Be prepared to use a variety of different resources to locate the primary law material that you seek, as many are not comprehensive and only provide access to materials from the late 1990s-present. Moreover, you will likely be viewing "unofficial" versions of legislation and regulations.

Database Subscriptions
The Foreign Law Guide

The Foreign Law Guide is an excellent tool for researchers seeking to learn more about the specific legal system of a foreign country. The database provides complete bibliographic citations to legislation and clearly identifies when English translations are available. Most country pages in this database also provide links to official gazettes and highlight whether English translations are available.  (Available to UNC Faculty & Students)


Westlaw Edge: International Materials

Westlaw Edge provides limited access to foreign legislation and administrative materials. The most comprehensive collections of legislation and regulations are typically available for other common law jurisdictions, like Canada or the United Kingdom. However, the availability of materials is inconsistent, so be sure to check out the "Information" icon for each jurisdiction so that you understand the coverage. The "Information" icon can usually be found near the top of each content page.

Note: UNC Law Faculty & Students now have access to Westlaw China, a comprehensive legal information site specific to China. This platform provides access to Chinese laws, regulations, cases, model contracts, and journals. All materials are available in English translations.

(Available to UNC Law Faculty & Students)


Lexis Advance: International

Lexis Advance also provides access to a variety of legal materials from foreign jurisdictions. As with Westlaw Edge, these materials are typically strongest for common law jurisdictions. For most foreign jurisdictions, you will find access to foreign news and other secondary sources. Be sure to check the "Information" icon available for each foreign jurisdiction to understand the depth of coverage. (Available to UNC Law Faculty & Students) 

Online Resources
WorldLII

The World Legal Information Institute is a free, independent non-profit global legal research website that provides links to online primary law materials from nearly 50 jurisdictions, including statutes, regulations, and cases. In addition, you will also find access to the Legal Information Institute pages for specific countries and regions, which are maintained by law libraries in those regions. These region-specific LII pages often provide advanced search features that enable topical research:


GlobaLex

GlobaLex, maintained by NYU School of Law, provides comparative, foreign, and international law research guides arranged by country and subject. In the Foreign Law Research section, research guides are tailored to specific foreign jurisdictions and provide an overview of the legal and governmental systems of a country, review the major sources of primary law, and provide links (where available) to online sources for primary law materials.

Note: When utilizing GlobaLex research guides, be sure that you are viewing the most updated version of the guide.


EUR-Lex: National Transposition

EUR-Lex is the main database for accessing European Union law, but it also provides a means for accessing national laws passed to incorporate EU directions. The advanced search features page allows you to search by keyword and filter by date, and the materials have been translated into English. 

N-Lex

N-Lex is another online database provided by the European Union and serves as the single entry point to the national law databases of individual EU countries. This database allows you to search legislation from EU nations in English, and the translation features on the website allow you to view results in English as well.


Inter-Parliamentary Union: Parline

Parline is a database operated by the Inter-Parliamentary Union that provides links to official government websites for parliaments around the world. In addition, the new beta model for the database provides helpful overviews of each country's parliamentary system and the current demographic makeup of its legislature.


Law Library of Congress: Guide to Law Online - Nations

The Library of Congress's Guide to Law Online page provides access to individualized country legal research pages for a variety of jurisdictions. Each research page includes links to official government websites providing access constitutions, executive branches, judicial materials, and legislative resources. Note, however, that many of these links will take you to government websites that are not translated, so it is always important to look around the individual websites to see if English translations are available. 


Government Websites with English Translations

Various foreign governments will provide English versions of their websites, so be sure to check and see if legislation is available in translated format from a government website. Moreover, many countries also use English as a secondary official language, and those government websites will also provide English translations of materials. The following chart is a sampling of some of the various ways that government websites can provide access to primary law materials in English:

Governmental Entity Description of Access to Primary Law Materials
German Bundestag

English version of the website provides access to overviews of the German Parliament, along with access to some primary law materials in English.

Many European nations will also provide English translations of their government websites, and quite a few also provide English language translations of primary law materials.

Hong Kong e-Legislation

This is an example of a foreign jurisdiction that lists English as an official language.

Hong Kong e-Legislation is the official database of Hong Kong legislation. It provides free online access to current and past versions of consolidated legislation from 1997 - present, and PDF copies marked "verified copy" have official legal status. In addition, the e-Legislation website provides access to Hong Kong's constitution and its official gazette.

Japanese Law Translation Project This is an example of a foreign government that provides English translations of its primary law via a specialized website. Operated by the Japanese Ministry of Justice, the Japanese Law Translation Project allows you to search through unofficial versions of Japanese laws and regulations. There is also a specialized dictionary that enables users to search for the English translations of Japanese legal terms and phrases.

Foreign Gazettes

Official Gazettes

What are Gazettes?

Gazettes are the main vehicle through which many foreign jurisdictions publish newly-enacted legislation and regulations. They are typically published on a daily basis, often available electronically, and contain different sections for various types of legal content. The importance of the gazette to foreign legal research cannot be understated, as laws in foreign jurisdictions often do not take effect until they are published in the country's official gazette.

Gazettes are typically only published in the official language(s) of the jurisdiction, and most are not translated into English. In addition, they can be a bit tricky to use because laws and regulations are published in chronological order. For jurisdictions that do not regularly update (or even have) statutory or regulatory codes, topical searching is only available if the government website has advanced search features. If you need to locate a law (or a regulation) in an official gazette, try to determine at least the year in which it was passed before beginning your search.

Locating Foreign Gazettes
The Foreign Law Guide

The Foreign Law Guide is an excellent tool for researchers seeking to learn more about the specific legal system of a foreign country. The database provides complete bibliographic citations to legislation and clearly identifies when English translations are available. Most country pages in this database also provide links to official gazettes and highlight whether English translations are available.  (Available to UNC Faculty & Students)

Center for Research Libraries' Foreign Official Gazette Database

The Foreign Official Gazette Database (FOG) provides an overview of both print and online access to the official gazettes of hundreds of countries. For each foreign jurisdiction included in the database, you can see where print versions of official gazettes are available in the United States, and the FOG provides a link to gazettes available through government websites.

University of Michigan Law Library's Government Gazettes Online

The University of Michigan Law Library compiled a list of all online government gazettes and their characteristics. In addition to providing links to official foreign gazettes, this website also provides a description of the contents of each online gazette, the dates of availability, and the publication languages.

Foreign Case Law

Foreign Court Decisions

Court decisions from other countries' domestic courts are rarely translated. Moreover, judicial opinions carry different levels of authority depending upon the legal system adopted by the country. Due to the importance of case law in the common law system, it is easiest to locate cases in common law jurisdictions, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and India. The following are suggested resources that provide varying levels of access to foreign case law.

The Foreign Law Guide

The Foreign Law Guide is an excellent tool for researchers seeking to learn more about the specific legal system of a foreign country. The database provides complete bibliographic citations to legislation and clearly identifies when English translations are available. Most country pages in this database also provide links to online government websites that publish judicial opinions when they are available, and it should also highlight for you those websites that provide translated copies of cases.  (Available to UNC Faculty & Students)


Westlaw Edge: International Materials

Westlaw Edge provides limited access to foreign court decisions. The most comprehensive collections of court decisions are available for other common law jurisdictions, like Canada or the United Kingdom. However, the availability of materials is inconsistent, so be sure to check out the "Information" icon for each jurisdiction so that you understand the coverage. (Available to UNC Law Faculty & Students)


Lexis Advance: International

Lexis Advance also provides access to a court decisions from other common law jurisdictions. Be sure to check the "Information" icon available for each foreign jurisdiction to understand the depth of coverage. (Available to UNC Law Faculty & Students) 


Foreign Law Translations from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law

This database is a resource for French, German, Austrian, and Israeli legal materials. Thecollection includes about 1,000 judicial decisions on constitutional, administrative, contract, and tort law issues.

Foreign Law Research Guides

Foreign Law Research Guides

Many law schools have created country-specific legal research guides that review how to conduct legal research in a specific foreign jurisdiction, identify the major sources of primary law, and provide links to any English-language primary material online. The following research guides are excellent places to review as your begin your research in a specific foreign jurisdiction: 

  • Country Research Guide by Yale Law School's Lillian Goldman Library - This research guide is divided into individual countries and highlights useful research databases and sources for each jurisdiction. You can view your country of interest and access links to government websites (typically for gazettes), nonprofit organization translations of laws, and general country overviews.
  • Resources for Jurisdictions Research Guides by Oxford University - This research guide provides links to a variety of country-specific legal research guides. Within each country's research guide, resources are listed by type of access: electronic resources, printed resources, etc. In addition, each individual country guide provides an overview of how to identify the major types of primary law.