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Changes in Cross-Border Corporate & Transactional Law Research

Lawyers and researchers looking into legal issues in international business transactions face a changing research landscape. Traditional tools for cross-border research are falling by the wayside. Lexis stopped updating the Martindale-Hubbell International Law Digests (summaries of foreign law authored by local law firms) after the 2011 edition. Lexis last updated its (now archived) International Multi-Jurisdictional Surveys in 2009. Westlaw no longer includes access to Practising Law Institute (PLI) course materials. Many researchers find print looseleafs difficult to use. Luckily, new research tools are filling the gap. Researchers looking into issues in transnational transactions have some really great, viable online options now. 

Because some standard tools have migrated from print to online, they remain useful tools for researchers. These include Reynolds & Flores’ Foreign Law Guide and “doing business in” general and legal guides published by accounting firms, government agencies, law firms, and bar associations. Westlaw still includes the ALI-ABA and ASPATORE practice materials, the Business Laws of [country] series, and over 50 multi-national treatises on international business law topics. And there are born-digital resources to use such as the World Bank’s Doing Business Law Library.

Researchers also benefit from wonderful new databases. Practical Law Company (PLC) is a relatively new kid on the block. The PLC database includes a global law department and cross-border resources sections. It has multi-jurisdictional topical legal guides, country Q&A comparison tools, checklists, practice notes, and kits for doing international deals.

The Practising Law Institute (PLI) Discover Plus database includes annually-updated practitioner-oriented course handbooks on international patent and trademark law, insolvency law, M&A, corporate governance, consumer data privacy, and other topics. PLI has a series on Doing Deals in Latin America.

Getting the Deal Through (GTDT) online has comparative guides to 56 practice areas (from Acquisition Finance to Vertical Agreements) for over 150 jurisdictions.

The International and Comparative Legal Guides (ICLG): Practical Insights into Cross-Border Law has similar content as the GTDT, but full access to the online content, while not intuitive, is free. The ICLG covers 34 practice areas (from Alternative Investment Funds to Trade Marks) for 120 jurisdictions.

Bloomberg Law incorporates the GTDT and PLI databases (except for the course handbooks), international news, DealMaker Documents, and other transactional resources. Bloomberg BNA publishes the following newsletters with accompanying e-alerts: World Securities Law Report (a recent issue includes an article in the cross-border securities regulation section discussed the Ontario Securities Commission’s new “serious offenses” unit for criminally prosecuting securities fraud); World Data Protection Report; World Intellectual Property Report; and the World Communications Regulation Report.

Last, but not least, Kluwer Law International’s International Encyclopaedia of Laws (IEL) comprises monographic treatments on the laws of selected countries and international organizations. Updates are irregular (some chapters are updated more often than others). The IEL is available in looseleaf format and online via the web. The IEL covers 25 topics: civil procedure, commercial and economic law, constitutional law, contracts, corporations and partnerships, criminal law, cyber law, energy law, environmental law, family and succession law, insurance law, intellectual property, intergovernmental organisations (including the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA), labour law and industrial relations, media law, medical law, migration law, private international law, property and trust law, religion law, social security law, sports law, tort law, transport law. For example, Canada is covered in the following 12 IEL sets: Civil Procedure (2006), Competition Law (2013), Constitutional Law (1996), Corporations and Partnerships (2008), Criminal Law (2012), Environmental Law (2011), Family and Succession Law (1997), Insurance Law (2002), Intellectual Property (2012), Labour Law and Industrial Relations (2000), Medical Law (2011), and Tort Law (2010).

Several of the resources have drawbacks. Many are subscription databases. Some, like certain IEL chapters for Canada, are woefully out of date. Not all countries are covered by each multi-jurisdictional topical legal guide. It is possible to locate pockets of free multi-jurisdictional collections such as the International Bar Association Arbitration Committee’s country arbitration guides and the European Corporate Governance Institute’s country corporate governance links. But overall, the new resources for conducting comparative corporate & transactional law research make transnational research easier. Please comment below if you know of other useful tools for researchers in this area.

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  1. P.S. In addition to the Foreign Law Guide, there is also GlobaLex, a free resource including legal research guides for 150+ jurisdictions. The guides usually includes sections on corporate law resources:

    http://www.nyulawglobal.org/Globalex/