Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Legal Research Basics for Summer Clerkships: Foreign Law Resources

What is "foreign law" and how do you research it?

"Foreign law" is the domestic law of a country (other than your own).

When researching the laws of another country, you will use many of the same skills you use for U.S. legal research; however, there are some additional processes you might need to implement as well as additional resources you might need to consult. You will frequently need to use at least some of the following procedures:

  • Obtain background information about the country.
  • Evaluate the structure of the country's legal system (i.e. determine the type of legal system and sources of law for the country in question).
  • Consult secondary sources of law from/about that country.
  • Consult primary sources of law for that country.

Background information about a country

When beginning to research the laws of a given country, it is often useful to start by doing some general research regarding the country. Obtaining Information regarding issues such as demographics, major economic issues and industries, foreign relations issues, and sources for statistical information often help augment legal research.  Listed here are a variety of resources that can be consulted for such information.

Type of Legal System

There are a number of useful resources for determining the type of legal system for a given country. Furthermore, many works provide in-depth analysis of the features of legal systems.

There are many in-depth treatises that examine different types of legal systems in general as well as the given type of legal system in place in specific countries. Several of the major treatises in this area are listed below. Consult the "World Legal Systems Web Site: General Bibliography" for an extensive listing of articles and books addressing this topic.

Finding the sources of law for a given country

To locate the specific sources of law (i.e. primary legal material) for a given country and analytical secondary material, there are many different tools and resources that you might need to consult. Listed here are four "Best Bets" that will often lead you to primary legal material and many useful secondary resources.