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Foreign and International Law Library Guide: The Americas

This guide will enable you to research foreign law using specialised databases such as Westlaw and Heinonline

Where to start

North America

Most subscription databases contain legal materials for the United States and Canada. You can access these materials on Westlaw, LexisNexis Academic and HeinOnline.

For resources not available on the subscription databases, the Legal Information Institute contains cases and statutes from the USA while the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CANLII) contains cases and statutes from Canada.

When researching the United States, it is important to become familiar with the legal system, as it differs from the South African procedures. Federal laws apply across all states, but are generally guidelines, while each state then enacts its own law to follow the policy or the decisions of each state's legislature. So often there will not be only one Act (as we have in South Africa) but rather a specific Act for each State.

South America and Central America

Some South American materials are available on Westlaw and LexisNexis academic, but not all. Free resources need to be relied on at this point, usually from Government websites.

Legal Information Institute (USA)

The LII (hosted by Cornell) works with using usual searching techniques, including your Boolean operators. Visit the SAFLII how-to box for some tips!

If you have any questions or are struggling, there is also a virtual reference desk at this link, where there are librarians ready to assist you!

Canadian Legal Information Institute (CANLII)