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Foreign Law Research: Where to Begin
Starting points to either collect foreign law sources or conduct in-depth foreign law research.
For source collection, choose the relevant source page: Constitutions, Legislation, etc., and use the Source Collection resources. Also, consult Bluebook Table 2: Foreign Jurisdictions for country-specific guidance.
For in-depth research, or if your initial source collection efforts are unsuccessful, follow the steps below to locate additional country-specific guidance.
Step 1: Learn the type of legal system you're researching
Knowing the legal system (civil law, common law, mixed, etc.) for the country you're researching will frame your research. For example, judicial opinions will be far more important, and potentially easier to locate, in common law jurisdictions than civil law jurisdictions.
The U.S. follows a common law system, but much of the world follows the civil law system. Unsure what this means? This primer from the Federal Judicial Center explains the civil law system for a U.S. audience.
Step 2: Find a research guide on your country
Country research guides will introduce you to the country's sources of law. Using guides at the beginning of your research will save time by helping you understand the country's legal system, laws you can expect to find, and the most likely places to find them.
Background information on the history and legal system of approximately 190 countries. Includes citations to each country's laws, reference to English translations where available, and links to online resources.
Guides from the Hauser Global Law School Program at NYU School of Law. Foreign Law Research includes over 160 individual country guides and Comparative Law Research contains additional general or comparative guides.
Bluebook Table 2 has citation examples and lists of preferred primary sources for materials from jurisdictions outside the United States. In the 21st Edition of the Bluebook, Table 2 is now available exclusively and freely online.
Step 3: Find an introductory book on your country (or region)
Going beyond what you find in online research guides, consider an introductory book on your country. For deep research on a country it's helpful to look beyond guides for these often more detailed discussions of the country's laws and legal system. Search for works on the country and the relevant region.
Relevant titles may include Introduction to [country/region] law/legal system, Law and legal system of [country/region] or, for business-specific information, Doing business in [country/region].