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International Legal Research: Codes

This Guide covers essential print and electronic resources for researching international and foreign law.

Introduction

As discussed under research strategies, there are two approaches to researching foreign law: by subject or by jurisdiction. Generally, the subject approach is easiest.

However, occasionally it is possible to find a resource in print or online, which provides access to the major code(s) of a particular country in english such as the German Law Resources in English website at the University of Saarland. Note that there is often a trade off between currency and availability in english. This website, for example, is archival only.

 

More frequently, one can find websites which relate to a particular subject and which collect the laws of many countries on that subject, such as the NATLEX website. NATLEX is a database of national labor, social security and related human rights legislation maintained by the International Labor Standards Department.

Subscription Website Full Text

 

 

The Foreign Law Guide ("FLG") is the gold standard for finding the law of foreign countries. This set may also be known by the names of the law librarians who created it, Thomas H. Reynolds and Arturo A. Flores ("Reynolds and Flores").

Reynolds and Flores put foreign legal research in perspective by observing in the introduction to FLG that "it is difficult for an American lawyer, faced with overabundance and infinite duplication of legislation and judicial decisions at both the federal and state level, to comprehend the problems of printing or publishing the laws of a nation with a total population less than that of the legal community practicing in Washington, D.C."

Nevertheless, the laws of other countries are more available now than ever before and access to such laws keeps increasing. The FLG, formerly in print and now exclusively online, attempts to keep up with ongoing developments in access to foreign law. FLG allows one to access foreign law, by jurisdiction, as shown above. For each country, FLG provides a brief introduction to the legal and court system, a listing of major codes and an alphabetical list of specific legal topics.

To learn more about using FLG to find the law of another country, please see this brief tutorial: How to Use the Foreign Law Guide and Worldcat

  

   

Subscription Website Summaries

 

 

Martindale Hubbell International Law Digest KF190 .M365 

The Martindale Hubbell International Law Digest is part of the Martindale Hubbell Directory set and is therefore a staple of every U.S. law office. The one volume International Law Digest provides concise practical summaries of the law of many countries on important, commonly encountered topics i.e. inheritance, contracts etc. An online version is available via Lexis (MARHUB Library;INTDIG File).

 

For those researchers trying to find practical information as to how to do business in another country, there are many so called "Doing Business Guides" available at the Baker & McKenzie website. Lexis also provides access to its Doing Business Series via the following path: Legal > Area of Law - By Topic > International Law > Search Analysis & CLE Materials > Doing Business Series

Free Websites

While the Foreign Law Guide is the best tool available, providing the most comprehensive, consistent coverage, there are many free websites that are helpful, if not a complete substitute for FLG. WLII (World Legal Information Institute) and GLIN (Global Legal Information Network)are two of the better known websites that provide free access to foreign laws.

 

 

 

GLIN is hosted at the Library of Congress website. Also available through the LC website is LC's Global Legal Information Catalog.The Multinational Collections Database lists items which reprint the laws and regulations of international jurisdictions on a particular legal topic, comparative in nature. The purpose of the database is to provide additional identifying information about titles, beyond that which is provided in LC's catalog.

 

 

As mentioned earlier on the first page of the Foreign Law tab, electronic research guides (Globalex, LLRX, Harvard Law Library LibGuides) are written by law librarian experts on specific countries. The guides provide valuable introductory information and links to the laws themselves. They are an excellent starting point for foreign legal research.