Introduction to Foreign Legal Research

Vanderbilt subscription databases and free sources of foreign law online

Though secondary sources are undoubtedly valuable research tools for domestic legal research, they are even more valuable for researchers investigating laws outside their home jurisdiction.  Secondary sources may explain foreign legal systems, describe particular foreign legal frameworks, provide citations to relevant foreign law, and sometimes even publish those laws in English.  Consider locating secondary sources that are either jurisdiction- or subject-specific.  Consider, too, searching for comparative law publications offering global or regional discussion of your subject.  In addition to the resources below wherein you can locate books, encyclopedias, treatises, and journal articles, you may find valuable content for free on the web.  Considering focusing your web research on materials published by intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and on government websites.

Catalogs

HeinOnline

International Encyclopaedia of Laws

v|lex

vLex offers both primary and secondary materials for more than 130 jurisdictions.  To browse available content for a jurisdiction, select Browse, All jurisdictions, and the appropriate region, the appropriate jurisdiction, and browse available books, journals, and blogs.

Westlaw and Lexis

Westlaw and Lexis both provide some books and journals covering foreign law, but 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:

  • the International Materials link in Westlaw, or
  • or the International tab in Lexis,

and narrowing to their jurisdiction, or searching across international secondary sources. The International Materials Index in Westlaw is another tool that researchers can use to browse both available secondary and primary sources.

Researchers may also wish to explore Westlaw's Practical Law platform, and toggle from the U.S. law default view to Global Home.  Researchers can browse content by practice area or by jurisdiction.