Introduction to Foreign Legal Research: Primary Law

Databases publishing foreign primary law vary significantly in their coverage, and do not always offer translations of foreign legal materials.  You will sometimes need to consult multiple databases in searching for foreign primary law using commercial or web-based platforms.  Consulting a foreign legal research guide may help you determine whether the jurisdiction publishes various primary materials on the web, and if not, whether commercial databases do.  In consulting a research guide, you may identify commercial databases offering coverage of your jurisdiction that are not available at Vanderbilt, and/or are not widely available in U.S. libraries.  If you have a strong need for the material, investigate whether the vendor offers trial or short-term subscriptions for academic researchers.  If you have identified a particular document available in a database we do not host at Vanderbilt, our interlibrary loan staff can sometimes obtain it from a library who subscribes to that resource.


vLexJustis (formerly two distinct platforms, vLex and JustisOne) offers both primary and secondary materials for more than 130 jurisdictions.  To browse available content for a jurisdiction, select Browse > All Jurisdictions > the appropriate region > and the appropriate jurisdiction.  Content is provided in the official language of the particular jurisdiction, though the platform offers a machine translation tool.


There are several foreign primary law databases within HeinOnline.  Below are a few examples:

Westlaw and Lexis

Westlaw and Lexis both provide some primary law materials from foreign jurisdictions, but coverage varies significantly between platforms and across jurisdictions, and researchers should bear in mind that only U.S. content is searchable from the main search bar these platforms.  As such, researchers may gain a more accurate sense of what is available for their jurisdiction by first selecting:

and narrowing to their jurisdiction, or seeing what, if any, primary source materials are available for that jurisdiction in the platform.

The International Materials Index in Westlaw is another tool that researchers can use to determine whether a particular primary source is available in the platform.  (For example, per the below screenshot, in browsing the index at letter "A" one quickly sees that statutes, regulations, legislation, cases, and more for Alberta, Canada are available.)

Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (UK Law)

Dalloz (French Law)


You may, in the past, have utilized Cornell's Legal Information Institute (LII) to quickly locate certain U.S. legal materials, such as the text of a U.S. Code or Code of Federal Regulations provision.  A number of similar legal information institutes exist outside the U.S.  WorldLII's free database compiles legal materials from countries and legal institutions around the world.  Much of this content is provided by local or regional legal information institutes, and you may wish to consult such jurisdiction-specific "LIIs" when available.  A few example of region- or jurisdiction-specific LII's are:

Foreign Law Compilations

Just as some subject treatises discuss foreign laws, international organizations with legal subject area expertise sometimes offer compilations of relevant foreign laws on the web.  Below are a few examples: