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Researching Foreign Law: Print & Online Resources   Tags: abbreviations, acronyms, citation guides, foreign law, translations  

Highlights resources available at/via the Tulane Law Library as well as on free, reliable websites. Coverage includes primary & secondary sources. Feel free to contact me whenever you need more help researching foreign law.
Last Updated: Sep 22, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Roy L. Sturgeon

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Roy L. Sturgeon, Foreign, Comparative, & International Law/Reference Librarian
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Tulane University Law School
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6329 Freret St.
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Free, Reliable Websites

In addition to the Law Library's subscription databases, foreign law information can be found on free, reliable (i.e., reasonably accurate & current) websites. Among the best are:

Reel Foreign Law


What is Foreign Law?

Foreign law usually means the law of a nation, or group of nations with a shared legal system like the European Union, not one's own. It is sometimes mistaken for international law, which is the law between or among nations that have expressly or tacitly agreed to be bound by it. Foreign law may consist of constitutions (written & unwritten), codes/statutes, regulations, & court decisions. It lacks effect outside that nation's borders, but may regulate or bind foreign persons & entities inside that nation.


Should U.S. Judges Use Foreign Law?: A Debate [2005]

See what 2 of America's most eminent jurists, Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia & Stephen Breyer, had to say below:


Citation Guides

For help in citing to foreign law, see:

Cover Art
Guide to Foreign & International Legal Citations (2d ed.) - N.Y.U. J. Int'l L. & Pol.
Call Number: K89 .G84 2009
Has country & organization profiles as well as selected references.

A Citation Manual for European Union Materials (2015–16 ed.) - Fordham Int'l L.J.
Covers treaties, court decisions, legislation, commission & council decisions, & miscellaneous sources. Follows strict set of standards for EU sources that differs from Bluebook by requiring more detailed information both in 1st (full) citation & later (short) cites. NOTE: click "EU Guide" near top of web page if link doesn't take you there directly.

Australian Guide to Legal Citation (3d ed., 2010) - Melb. U. L. Rev. Ass'n
Part V (pp. 197–283) covers foreign (i.e., non-Australian) sources.

Cover Art
Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (20th ed.) - Colum. L. Rev., Harv. L. Rev., U. Pa. L. Rev., & Yale L.J.
Call Number: KF245 .U5 2015
Rule 20 (pp. 193–9) & Table 2 (pp. 307–490) cover foreign (i.e., non-US) sources.

Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (8th ed.) - McGill L.J.
Call Number: KE259 .C25 2014
Chapter 7 (pp. E163–229) covers foreign (i.e., non-Canadian) sources.

Chinese University of Hong Kong Legal Citation Style Guide (2016) - Faculty of Law, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Covers commonly used, English-language Hong Kong primary & secondary sources.

New Zealand Law Style Guide (2d ed., 2013) - Geoff McLay et al.
Chapters 8–9 & Appendices 2–4 cover foreign (i.e., non-New Zealand) sources.

Cover Art
OSCOLA: Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities (4th ed.) - Faculty of Law, University of Oxford
Call Number: KD400 .O83 2012
Sections 2.6–2.8 (pp. 28–32) cover foreign (i.e., non-British) sources. Also, Section 4.3 (pp. 49–50) lists citation guides for foreign jurisdictions.

Singapore Academy of Law Style Guide (2004 ed.) - Publications & Law Reporting Departments, Singapore Academy of Law
Appendix 2 (pp. 147–60) covers foreign (i.e., non-Singaporean) words & phrases.


Print Resources

Over many decades, the Law Library has built a substantial collection of foreign law print resources numbering in the tens of thousands—many not available online. The bulk are shelved on the 5th & 6th floors. These include caselaw, statutes/codes, journals, & treatises. And a lot are in the vernacular. Our collection is particularly strong in French, German, & United Kingdom law. Additional print resources are shelved on the 3d floor in New BooksReserve, Reference, the Comparative Law Collection, & the Maritime Collection; 4th floor in Special/Rare Collections & Microforms; & 5th floor in Government Documents.

For more details, search the Law Library's online catalog & see boxes below.


Most foreign law in non-common law jurisdictions is difficult, if not impossible, to find in English translation (accurate or not, official or not). The best translations are done by qualified humans. But if you lack access to one, then try a machine translator. Although often unreliable & unintelligible, they can be useful as a preliminary step until getting a human translator (or consulting a bilingual print dictionary, which the Law Library owns many of) to help you:


Abbreviations & Acronyms

For help with deciphering (or creating) them, see my international law LibGuide.



This information was published as a LibGuide by Roy L. Sturgeon in August 2011 for Tulane University Law School in Louisiana.


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