Skip to main content

Foreign Legal Systems - Basic Research Resources

Resources for starting a search for: information about foreign legal systems; for the text of foreign laws or cases; or for discussions of how other countries approach specific legal issues or topics.

Introduction

This page includes two types of sources and sites.

  1. Sites — most of them free — that have built their own extensive collection of links and citations to foreign primary law.
  2. Fee-based sites and sources. These include subscription-based foreign-law databases that from the Zief Law Library's digital collection. They also include Lexis and Westlaw sources with foreign law from non-common-law jurisdictions. The subscription-based databases from the Zief Library's digital collection and Lexis and Westlaw contain the texts of legal authorities.

Best Places to Start — For Citations & Links

Constitutions

The Zief Library subscribes to these two excellent sources for finding foreign constitutions in English. Both also contain some background information and commentary.

Legal Information Institutes - Free Access to Law

Legal Information Institutes support "free, independent and non-profit access to worldwide law." Visit the World Legal Information Institute for laws, court decisions, legal journals, and other materials. The WorldLII site is organized by country and by region.

Links to Legal Information Institutes for specific countries (e.g., Canada and the Philippines) and regions (e.g., Asia and Southern Africa) are on the Free Access to Law Movement site and at the bottom of the WorldLII home page

More Free Web Sites Linking to Foreign Primary Law - By Country

Below are some sites that do a good job leading researchers to foreign legal materials for individual countries. These sites strive to provide current and accurate materials, linking to materials in English (where available) and original languages. 

Note that while the internet is ever more useful for finding the text of foreign law, much is still not available in digital form, and very little is available in English.

More Free Web Sites Linking to Foreign Primary Law - By Topic

Below are some guides that point researchers to organizations and sites that collect foreign law on particular topics.

Foreign Law from the Zief Digital Collection

USF's Zief Law Library subscribes to the following specialized databases for researching foreign law.

Foreign Primary Law on Lexis & Westlaw

Apart from the European Union and the major common law jurisdictions (e.g., United Kingdom, USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland), coverage of foreign law on Westlaw (and on Lexis) is disappointing.

On Westlaw, the only non-common-law jurisdictions with substantial primary law content are the Republic of Korea and Hong Kong (and it's a stretch to treat Hong Kong as non-common-law). Links to the Westlaw databases are below.

Lexis's foreign-law offerings (which are very sparse for non-common-law countries) are still on Lexis.com, which is accessible via Lexis Advance.

Changes are always possible. To see if Lexis or Westlaw might have materials relevant to the country you are researching, check the following: Cornell's "Foreign and International Law Guide (countries)" guide and Yale's "Country-by-Country Guide to Foreign Law Research" guide. (See More Free Web Sites…, in this guide, for links). For a given jurisdiction, these guides will sometimes say whether there are any relevant Lexis or Westlaw sources or databases.

School of Law | 2130 Fulton Street | San Francisco, CA 94117-1080 | (415) 422-6307