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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
JuriGlobe World Legal Systems
JuriGlobe provides a quick, simple, and reliable way to identify a country's legal system. The database can be accessed by clicking through an interactive map, or it can be browsed by country or region, type of legal system, language or linguistical space, and more. JuriGlobe should always be your first step in researching foreign law, whether you need to identify or simply confirm the type of legal system with which you'll be working.
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
The Foreign Law Guide is a subscription database providing information on primary and secondary sources of law for approximately 190 different countries. It includes complete bibliographic citations to legislation, reports the existence of any available English translations, and offers selected references to secondary sources such as books and journal articles. Links to online sources are provided where available. A brief legal history and overview of the legislative and judicial systems are provided for each country. The database is also searchable by subject heading to facilitate comparison of different countries' legislation on specific topics.
GlobaLex is an electronic legal publication dedicated to international and foreign law research. Published by the Hauser Global Law School Program at NYU School of Law, GlobaLex is committed to the dissemination of high-level international, foreign, and comparative law research tools in order to accommodate the needs of an increasingly global educational and practicing legal world. The information and articles published by GlobaLex represent both research and teaching resources used by legal academics, practitioners and other specialists around the world who are active either in foreign, international, and comparative law research or those focusing on their own domestic law. The guides and articles published are written by scholars well known in their respective fields and are recommended as a legal resource by universities, library schools, and legal training courses.
Library of Congress Guide to Law Online
The Guide to Law Online, prepared by the Law Library of Congress Public Services Division, is an annotated guide to sources of information on government and law available online. It includes selected links to useful and reliable sites for legal information. The Guide to Law Online is an annotated compendium of Internet links; a portal of Internet sources of interest to legal researchers. In compiling this list, emphasis wherever possible is on sites offering the full texts of laws, regulations, and court decisions, along with commentary from lawyers writing primarily for other lawyers. Materials related to law and government that were written by or for lay persons are also included, as are government sites that provide general information about themselves or their agencies.
Foreign Law Guide: Video Tutorial
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