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Foreign and Comparative Law

Undertaking Legal Research in a New Jurisdiction 

Approaching legal research in a jurisdiction that is new to you can be a daunting prospect. Legal systems can vary from country to country. Understanding the legal system in a country helps make locating relevant resources easier.

This guide is designed to help you approach legal research in a new jurisdiction by outlining the following:

  • how to determine a country's legal system
  • where you can access primary sources of legal material such as legislation, codes, case law, etc
  • how to locate relevant secondary sources
  • point you to resources useful for comparative research
  • other resources to assist in foreign legal research

Determining a Country's Primary Legal Sources 

The types of materials produced in the law making process may vary depending on the jurisdiction you are researching. This will depend on the type of legal system in a particular jurisdiction i.e. common law, civil law, customary law, religious law, or mixed systems.

The following resources will help you determine the type of legal system in a particular jurisdiction and primary sources of law within that jurisdiction:

Foreign Law Guide


The Foreign Law Guide (UniMelb staff & students) is a database that contains information on over 170 jurisdiction and includes information such as:

  • introductory information about the legal system, legal history, legislation and judicial system
  • citations (and links where possible) to publications such as major codes, official gazettes, compilations or official codifications, session laws, court reports, etc
  • laws by subject across jurisdictions

You can either search or browse by jurisdiction or laws on a subject.

Once you have located a chapter on a jurisdiction of interest, you can navigate to summaries on the government structure and legal system, types of primary sources or laws by subject.



Juriglobe is a free resource produced by the University of Ottawa that helps you determine a country's legal system classification and related information. 

It also contains general information about the different legal systems and information on demographic distribution, world Gross Domestic Product (GDP), international trade and official languages.

CIA World Factbook


The CIA World Factbook contains facts and figures on 200+ countries. It provides information on the legal system of countries, as well as the history, people, government, economy, energy, geography, communications, transportation, military and transnational issues.

It also contains a list of countries and their legal systems.

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