The following are brief caveats for conducting legal research in a foreign nation. Keep these caveats in mind as you begin your research and recognize that foreign law research is different and oftentimes more complicated than researching in US law.
When in doubt, stop by the UNC Law Library Reference Desk! The librarians are happy to work with you in identifying and locating primary law materials for your jurisdiction of interest.
One of the biggest roadblocks in conducting foreign legal research is encountering materials in a language other than English. The following are some suggested machine language translation services that can be used to roughly translate legal materials. Be sure to approach machine translations of foreign legal materials with skepticism, as you have no way of assessing the accuracy or reliability of the translations.
The following databases are available UNC to students and faculty. In order to access these databases, you need to either be on the campus network or use the proxy links provided via the UNC Law Library's website to access the sites remotely. To access these databases remotely, please visit the UNC Law Library's Legal Databases page.
The Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems, edited by Richard A. Danner & Marie-Louise H. Bernal, is available via HeinOnline. It provides overviews of the legal systems of selected civil law nations, including France, Mexico, China, Taiwan, and Japan. For each country, the work identifies sources of statutes, codes, and case law. The Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems also contains chapters on acquiring legal materials from more challenging jurisdictions, like countries in Eastern Europe.
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. Moreover, each country page provides overviews of the nation's legal and governmental systems.
The following resources are freely available online and do not require UNC affiliation to access.
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.
The Library of Congress's Foreign and International Law page provides access to individualized country research guides for a variety of jurisdictions. Each research guide includes an introduction to the legal system, official sources of law, print resources, and web resources. Research guides for the following jursidictions are currently available: Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Eritrea, France, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, Russia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
The UNC Law Library's print collection contains a variety of resources covering specific foreign jurisdictions. Use the UNC Law Library catalog to search for the country of interest, and search either by "Keyword" or "Anywhere" to ensure the largest number of search results. Your results in the catalog will include print works, electronic titles, and relevant legal journals. The following image is an example of a search for a work on Mexican law:
The following books are examples of titles addressing foreign legal systems, both generally and in specific practice areas, that can be found in UNC Law Library's print collection: