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Foreign Legal Research: Background Sources

This guide contains tips and resources for researching the laws of foreign countries.

Using Background Sources

When working with an unfamiliar legal system, your goal is to learn as much about it as possible before you begin looking up primary law or even scholarly commentary.

The sources on this page are specifically designed to provide you with background information. These sources will help you to understand the history and structure of a country's legal system, identify and define unfamiliar terminology, understand how the country's law are published, and identify the most reliable primary sources, including online and cost-effective resources and resources in English translation.

Although you should always always start with the sources on this page, it is important to remember that these are not scholarly resources and cannot be cited in a paper or law review article.  Instead, you should rely on these sources to point you toward scholarly commentary, such as books or journal articles, and toward sources of primary law.

Determining Your Country's Legal System

World divided by legal systems (map)

Locating Additional Research Guides

Depending on the country that you have chosen to research, you may be able to locate online research guides that specifically address legal research in that country. These types of research guides can easily be found using Google.  Make sure that you choose one from a reputable law school library or other reliable source.

You can also search the LibGuides platform directly by using the search boxes on the LibGuides Community Site.

Getting Background Information on Your Country

Foreign Law Guide: Video Tutorial

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