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Zimmerman's Research Guide


Foreign Laws

Secondary Sources: I often start my foreign law research with secondary sources. Some of the best follow.

  • The subscription-based Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World by Reynolds and Flores explains the legal bibliographies of most foreign countries, including subject-specific treatises in English [formerly published by F. B. Rothman as a looseleaf under the title Foreign Laws].
  • The blue pages of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation.
  • The foreign law research guides on GlobaLex.
  • The Foreign and International Legal Research Guides from the Library of Congress.
  • A legal encyclopedia explaining the law for a particular country; as discussed in the "Legal" section of the Encyclopedias entry.
  • The "Doing Business in ..." guides listed in the Doing Business in Foreign Countries entry (for summaries of foreign countries' corporate, securities, banking, customs, tax, and other business-related laws).
  • The volumes in the Getting the Deal Through series (print and online), which explain the laws of foreign countries in dozens of business-related practice areas.
  • The Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals can help you find articles on particular subjects. The Index is available in print (William S. Hein & Co.; formerly University of California Press) and on HeinOnline (1985-Current).

Primary Materials / Internet Sources: To find Internet links to primary legal materials for specific countries, (1) look up the entry for the country by name in this Guide and/or (2) check the links posted by the World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII) and/or (3) check the links posted in the Guide to Law Online by the Library of Congress.

Primary Materials / Print Sources: Some publishers publish English translations of the key laws of foreign countries, notably the Central & Eastern European Legal Materials series by Columbia University's Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law. There are also many subject-specific compilations of English translations of foreign laws, such as:

Air Laws and Treaties of the World (Hein)

International Securities Laws Handbooks (Aspen, formerly Bowne)

Investment Laws of the World (Oxford University Press, formerly Oceana)

Mergers and Acquisitions in Europe

Trademarks Throughout the World (West) (Also in Westlaw's TMWORLD database)

For similar books on other topics, check WorldCat, the Library of Congress or the Harvard, Columbia, NYU or Georgetown law school library catalogs.

Constitutions: Oxford University Press (formerly Oceana) publishes the definitive multi-volume Constitutions of the Countries of the World and Constitutions of Dependencies and Territories, each providing high quality English translations. Subscribers can access online editions. Alternatively, the subscription-based World Constitutions Illustrated library in HeinOnline includes the current constitution for all countries (with an English translation), "constitutional histories" for selected countries, plus hundreds of books and articles on constitutional law. Great stuff if you have a password.

If you don't, the constitutions of many foreign countries are available free on the Internet at the University of Richmond's Constitution Finder. Georgetown University posts Constitutions from North, South and Central America, and the Caribbean. Constitute not only posts the constitutions of many countries, it allows you to pick a topic and drill down to the related section in each country's constitution.

Legislation: Most countries publish new laws in a Gazette (the equivalent of the U.S. Congressional Record). Many of these Gazettes are posted online; and you can link to most online Gazettes through Government Gazettes Online. If that doesn't do the trick, see if the Gazette is available on Lexis, Westlaw or at one of the libraries discussed above.

The Global Legal monitor reports on significant legal developments in over 150 countries, covering over 100 subject areas.

English translations of corporate, commercial, tax and other business-related laws for most countries are included in RIA's World Wide Tax Law Service, which includes Commercial Laws of the World and Tax Laws of the World. The Service is available by subscription through Checkpoint.

In case of emergency: Guideline (formerly Find/SVP) has offices in 30 countries that do document retrieval of foreign legal materials. See also the separate entry for "Document Retrieval Services."

For more information: Foreign laws are further discussed in the entries for specific countries (e.g., "Australia," "United Kingdom") and specific subjects (e.g., "Patents," "Environmental Law").

For Truly Tough Questions: If you have a truly tough question, try searching the archives of the INT-LAW listserv. If that doesn't work, try posting your question to the list.

See Also
Country Information
Doing Business in Foreign Countries
International Law
International Trade
Treaties - U.S.
Treaties - Foreign

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2015 Andrew Zimmerman