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Georgetown Law Library

Foreign and Comparative Law Research Guide

Foreign law is the national (also referred to as domestic or internal) law of any country other than the United States and research methods will vary depending on the country you are researching. This guide provides starting points.

Multi-Jurisdictional, Multi-Subject Resources


Introduction

The electronic resources described below are good starting points for researching laws and regulations from multiple jurisdictions on a wide variety of subjects.  Universal Resources cover all, or almost all, national jurisdictions worldwide  -- or, in the case of Global Regulation, all national jurisdictions which provide free electronic access to their official gazettes.  Regional Resources provide online access to laws governing selected subjects for countries within a geographic region.
 

Universal Resources

The following resources cover national jurisdictions throughout the world.  Use The Foreign Law Guide, GlobaLex, and the World Legal Information Institute to obtain background information about a jurisdiction's legal system and to identify its primary sources of law.  These resources also provide citations and/or direct links to a selection of each jurisdiction's most significant laws.  Use Global Regulation to search by keyword in English for laws in 90 jurisdictions which provide free online access to their official gazettes.

  • The Foreign Law Guide
    Content within this subscription database is organized by country and by subject.  From the homepage, scroll down to the Countries menu to select the desired jurisdiction.  When the page refreshes, you will see the following menu displayed:
     
    • Government & Legal System:  Use the links in this section to learn about the jurisdiction's government, legal system, and the formatting of legal citations.  Consult the Research Guidance section for tips on how to conduct legal research.
       
    • Primary Sources:  This section provides information about the jurisdiction's official gazette, codes (for civil law jurisdictions), statutory compilations, and session laws.  In addition to the names of print publications, you will find links to online versions of these resources, if available. 
       
    • Laws by Subject:  Scroll through the alphabetical list for a selection of the jurisdiction's most important laws arranged by subject.  In some cases, you may find a direct link to the full text of a law in its original language or in English translation.  In other cases, only a citation to a print publication is provided.
       
  • Global Regulation
    This user-friendly subscription database allows you to search by keyword in English across the official gazettes of 90 jurisdictions worldwide.  For non-English speaking jurisdictions, machine-generated English translations are provided, as are links to laws and regulations in their original language.
     
  • GlobaLex
    This free resource includes legal research guides for nearly every jurisdiction in the world.  Each guide describes the jurisdiction's primary legal sources, including the names of print publications and links to electronic resources, if available.  Many guides also include links to legislative, judicial, and government agency websites, which often provide free access to certain types of legal information.
     
  • World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII)
    This free resource aggregates content from national and regional organizations which provide open access to legal information from their respective jurisdictions.  Although the interface is text-heavy and some links may be broken, it can still be a reliable source of information.  Bear in mind that content varies considerably by jurisdiction and is almost always selective, not comprehensive.
     
    • Browse by Country -- Click on the name of the desired jurisdiction to access a menu of links to government websites that provide free access to legal information, as well as a menu of links to laws by subject.  In some cases, you may find a direct link to a law in its original language or in English translation.
       
    • Browse by Database -- WorldLII provides free access to searchable databases of legislation and case law for selected jurisdictions.  Databases are grouped by region and arranged alphabetically by jurisdiction.  Bear in mind that the search capabilities of these free databases are less robust than those of their commercial counterparts.
       


Regional Resources

The following resources provide free online access to national laws governing selected subjects within a geographic region.

  • Legislation Online (Europe)
    The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) maintains this collection of national laws on human rights and related subjects. Use the menu on the left side of the homepage to browse by topic.  Scroll all the way down to browse by country.  Laws are provided in their original language or in English translation (sometimes both).
     
    • Jurisdictional Coverage:  All OSCE member states, which include all countries that are located wholly or partly within the European continent, including Russia and Turkey, plus the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, Mongolia, the U.S. and Canada.
       
    • Additional Topical Coverage:  The OSCE also maintains separate collections of national Criminal Codes and Constitutional Texts, many of which are available in both their original language and in English translation.
       
  • Foreign Trade Information System (Western Hemisphere)
    The Organization of American States (OAS) maintains this collection of national laws pertaining to international trade and related subjects, such as competition policy, electronic commerce, government procurement, labor and employment law, and intellectual property.  Coverage extends to all countries in the Western Hemisphere, except Cuba, which is not an OAS member state.  Most laws are provided in their original language, but a handful of English translations also are included.