Foreign law refers to the law of another country. This is different to comparative law, which is the study of the differences and similarities between the law of different countries, and international law, the public and private rules governing multiple countries.
If you are researching foreign law for the first time, it is helpful to plan your research. Start by considering the following:
What is the legal system of the country?
- Common law
What is the area of law?
- Criminal, civil, family, administrative, constitutional, etc
What type of information do you need?
- Case, code, statute, treaty, article
- Authorised/reported judgment
- English translation
Who to contact for help?
- Government departments - look for the 'contact us' link on legislation and parliament websites
- Law Libraries
Foreign law resources
There are free foreign law resources available online and via public libraries, and there are those behind a paywall - these 'subscription' resources are available to the legal profession and public via the computers in the Supreme Court Library. Court staff and judiciary can access subscription resources via the Law Library's page on the CSV intranet or via JOIN (see your jurisdictional librarian for assistance).
Hard copy resources are available to use within the Supreme Court Library. Browse titles on the Law Library catalogue or the Holdings List of journals, law reports and legislation (PDF, 3MB).
- Legal Information Institute (LII) - provide current and historical unreported judgments, statutes, regulations, reports, and journal articles. Free Access to Law Movement (FATLM) lists all LII websites including WorldLII.
- WorldLII - provides single search for databases located on the following LIIs: AustLII; BAILII; CanLII; HKLII; LII (Cornell); PacLII. Comprised of databases not found on other LIIs including decisions of international Courts and Tribunals, databases from South Africa and a number of Asian countries.
Law reports and case citators
- AustLII – provides case citations via LawCite for international judgments.
- Canadian Digests^ - Canadian case summaries from 1803 and reported and unreported cases from 1986.
- ICLR^ - full text law reports of the Superior and Appellate Courts in England and Wales: The Law Reports - Appeal Cases (AC), (Chancery & Family (C&F), Queens Bench Division (QB), Kings Bench Division (KB) and Weekly Law Reports.
- Justis^ - judgments from England and Wales, and EU Human Rights case law. Provides superior court judgments dating back to 1852. JustCite available via the same link.
- JustCite^ – case citator with links to full text (in external resources). Find leading cases, articles and legislation for the UK, EU, USA, Canada, Australia, and other common law countries. Access via Justis.
- Westlaw^ - provides case law (reported and unreported) and legislation for the USA, Canada, UK, New Zealand, and some European, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries. Click ‘International Materials’ on the homepage for non-USA material.
- Westlaw UK^ - over 120 full text UK reports series, including Fleet Street Reports and Session Cases, as well as case law (reported and unreported) for Europe, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.
- Government sites - Library of Congress Guide to Law Online links to government legislation resources for most countries.
- Legal Information Institute (LII) - provides current and historical unreported judgments, statutes, regulations, reports, and journal articles. Free Access to Law Movement (FATLM) lists all LII websites.
Guides to foreign law and resources
- GlobaLex - produced and regularly updated by the New York University Law School. Provides commentary on resources, compares laws, lists resources including internet and hard copy.
- Halsbury’s Laws of England available via the Law Library of Victoria.
- Library of Congress Guide to Law Online - provides links to online resources for US law (federal and state) and foreign law.
- Library guides - Law school and public library guides provide news, guides to legal research for individual countries, and publication details of primary and secondary resources. Some resources accessible only to organisation members. Google search ‘foreign law library guide’.
- Textbooks available via the Law Library of Victoria collection.
- Cardiff Abbreviations - lists abbreviations for English language legal publications from the British Isles, the Commonwealth, and the USA. Some foreign language publications also included.
News, articles and alerts
- HeinOnline^ - full text law journals from the USA, Canada, UK, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe, as well as Australian Law Reform Commission Reports, Canada Supreme Court Reports, English Reports (1220-1867), US primary materials, United Nations Law Collection and Foreign & International Law Resources.
- Jurist – world legal news and commentary.
- Oxford Law Journals^ - full text journals on topics including criminology, human rights, medical law, law and economics, and intellectual property, from the UK and USA, with some comparative and international titles.
- Westlaw^ - contains a large collection of USA publications, comparison law journals, and legal journals and law reviews from Canada, UK, New Zealand, and some European, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries. Click ‘International Materials’ on the homepage for non-USA material.
- High Court of Australia Overseas Decisions Bulletin - includes decisions of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Supreme Court of the United States, the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the Supreme Court of New Zealand and the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. Available as an email alert.
See the Supreme Court Library’s Holdings List of journals, law reports and legislation (PDF, 3MB) for a list of journals available in the collection.
^Subscription resource. Contact the Law Library for more information on how to access these resources.