For purposes of this research guide, foreign law is defined as the domestic law of any country other than the United States. Comparative law is the study of the similarities and differences between the laws of two or more countries, or between two or more types of legal systems.
Access to foreign law varies greatly by jurisdiction. Some foreign governments make many types of legal materials freely available online, while others struggle to keep print sources up to date. Countries experiencing political upheavals or economic distress may suspend the publication of legal materials indefinitely.
For non-English-speaking jurisdictions, it is often difficult to find English translations of legal materials. This is especially true for non-commercial legislation and for court decisions in civil law jurisdictions. Americans researching foreign law should be prepared to adjust their expectations with respect to the availability and currentness of English translations.
If you need assistance with foreign and comparative law research, visit the Research Help page of the Georgetown University Law Library's website. Or contact the Law Library's International and Foreign Law Department by phone (202-662-4195) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Georgetown Law Center students may schedule a one-on-one research consultation with a librarian.
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The Georgetown Law Library maintains in-depth legal research guides for a limited number of foreign jurisdictions. If your topic involves one of the jurisdictions listed below, start with the research guide for that jurisdiction.
Revised 12/2017 (chb)
Updated 11/2013 (mms)
Revised 10/2012 (ajs)
Content Added 06/2010 (mms)