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Foreign & Comparative Law

Finding Sources of Primary Law Using a Research Guide

Once you have a better understanding on the country's legal system, you can find information about its laws (and where to find them) from a secondary source. Using a secondary source that has already gathered information about where to find primary law in your country will save you a lot of time and will greatly reduce wheel-spinning and frustration. Each of these resources provides country-specific guides to help you identify and locate foreign law.

Where can I find an English translation?

It can be tempting when researching non-U.S. law to assume that everything you're looking for will be available in English, but that is definitely not always the case. It is expensive and time-consuming for a government to create official versions of their law in other languages and is not necessarily a priority. Some countries do have official translations of some or all of their statutes and (less often) judicial decisions and these are obviously preferred sources.

So how do you track down English-language translations?

There are a few options if you aren't able to find an official translation of a law you're interested in reading. First, it is worth reviewing the country's entry in the Brill Foreign Law Guide, GlobaLex or the Law Library of Congress' Foreign Law Guide (links above) to see if they provide links to sources of English-language translations. If no translations exist, you may have to use an online translator (like Google Translate or Chrome's webpage translation function), though you should be cautious when relying on a machine created translation as they are not always totally accurate or reliable.

Journal Articles & Treatises

Secondary sources like journal articles and topical treatises can be particularly fruitful sources for finding primary law on a particular subject. Below are a few sources for finding articles and books that discuss foreign laws.

Journal Articles

For journal articles, the best starting place is the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (IFLP), which is available through HeinOnline. The IFLP is an index to articles from nearly 600 legal journals published worldwide. Note that the "I" in IFLP stands for index, which means that not all of the articles referenced will be available in full text through HeinOnline. If you find a title that interests you but is not available there, search for the title of the article or journal in the library catalog to see if you have access through another UW Libraries resource. If not, you can also try a general web search for the title as it may be available elsewhere. You can also search in other sources for law journals articles, though many primarily focus on U.S. publications (but that does not mean that there won't be relevant articles available).

Topical Books and Treatises

If you are researching a specific area of law in a particular country, it can be incredibly helpful to find a treatise on the topic. To find books, use the library's catalog and enter your country name and applicable search term(s):

If your search does not retrieve any relevant results, you may try a broader search such as "law of [X country]" to see if you can find a more general treatise related to your country. Here are a few examples of country-specific legal treatises that you might find:

Other Research Guides

The guides below are another starting point for your country-specific research. Remember, though, that you can always try an online search for "Research guide law of [country name]" to see if anyone has complied a list of useful resources. These will often lead not only to sources of primary law but also helpful secondary sources.