This section provides information about researching foreign law materials when you do not already have a citation.
Step 1: Begin by understanding the background of the legal system you are researching; this will provide information about what kind of materials you should be looking for and where you might be able to find them. Terms that you may be familiar with in U.S. law may have a different meaning in a different legal system. See the section below on Resources for Understanding Foreign Legal Systems for more information.
Step 2: Look for jurisdiction-specific research guides. Research guides are especially relevant when researching an unfamiliar legal system and jurisdiction to give context and provide guidance for what to search. Jurisdiction-specific research guides can be found at the Library of Congress: Guide to Law Online, or even just by searching online for: [jurisdiction] "research guide."
Step 3: Read through secondary sources. Steps 1 and 2 likely provided some leads on primary law and secondary sources for the foreign legal system you are researching. Avoid jumping to the primary law and look through secondary sources first. Books, treatises, law journal articles, etc. will provide information in a more plain-language format, especially if the primary sources are based in a foreign language. In addition to the resources mentioned in Steps 1 and 2, other places to find secondary sources include SearchWorks and HeinOnline.
Step 4: Verify the information found in primary sources. Some primary sources may be directly linked from resources already found. Otherwise, you can check for the name of the publication (such as the title of the law reports) in SearchWorks to see if our library has a copy available electronically or in hard copy format. Stop by the reference desk or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you get stuck. We will help you find the source or let you know if submitting an interlibrary loan request is necessary!
This section provides guidance for finding legal materials from other countries.
Step 1: Identify the jurisdiction of the source. What country is the document from? Abbreviations for countries and regions are set out in Bluebook Table 10.3.
Step 2: Using Bluebook Table 2, identify the document type. Is it a case, statute, section of the constitution, etc.? Look up the country in Bluebook Table 2. (As of the 21st edition of the Bluebook, Table 2 no longer appears in print, but is available for free on the Bluebook's website.) Decipher any abbreviations using one of the research tools mentioned under the Abbreviations section of this guide.
Step 3: Visit the Foreign Law Guide (SUNet ID login required) and look up the country. For each country, the guide contains links and information about primary and secondary sources and will note where English translations are available. If the information you are looking for is not available in the Foreign Law Guide, check the resources provided under Additional Foreign Law Resources.
Step 4: Check for the name of the publication (such as the title of the law reports) in SearchWorks to see if our library has a copy available electronically or in hard copy format. Stop by the reference desk or email us at email@example.com if you get stuck. We will help you find the source or let you know if submitting an interlibrary loan request is necessary!
These resources are a great way to provide background necessary for understanding your topic and building your research:
This section lists some selected databases that compile useful links for foreign legal research by country.
Please see the Additional Resources section of this guide for a more comprehensive list of all databases pertaining to foreign, comparative, and international law subscribed to by Stanford Law School or Stanford University Libraries as well as useful, free web resources.
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