What is foreign law? It is the national (also referred to as domestic or internal) law of any country other than the United States and usually refers to constitutions, legislation, and cases. Foreign law has no effect outside the foreign jurisdiction, but it may regulate foreign entities within state boundaries.Comparative law is "the study of the similarities and differences between the laws of two or more countries, or between two or more legal systems. Comparative law is not itself a system of law or a body of rules, but rather a method or approach to legal inquiry." (Berring, How to Find the Law Williams KF240 .C5383 1989, 9th ed., p.565).
Access to foreign law varies greatly among legal systems. Governments may or may not publish their legal materials and any published materials may be woefully out of date. American legal researchers often have to adjust their expectations with regard to current law and English language availability. Most researchers want foreign laws in English and this is often not possible. Typically, foreign governments do not provide "official" English translations of their statues or cases. The internet has certainly broadened access to legal resources on foreign government web sites, but these materials are usually in the local language. Note that materials marked TryIt are recommended and have been very useful to the librarians.
Research methods will vary depending on the country you are researching. When beginning to research a legal system, you will want to consider the following:
If you have questions, please feel free to contact the Wolff International & Comparative Law Library reference desk at 202-662-4195 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.