New Resources: UN Women’s Family Law Database

By Gabriela Femenia

The Global Women’s Leadership Project (GWLP) at Penn Law has launched a new database of national laws governing women’s status in the family. Developed under the auspices of Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN Women’s Family Law Database is the first mapping of its kind that goes beyond the boundaries of traditional family law to examine the entire legal system of a country to identify the law’s subtle and powerful impact on a woman’s status in her family.

UN Women’s Family Law Database Home.png

Lead by Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Penn Law’s Associate Dean of International Affairs and Project Director, and compiled by Penn Law students and research fellows, this project maps the full range of laws that regulate a woman’s role in the family and society, including laws governing property, inheritance, custody, guardianship, marriage, divorce, residence, citizenship, domicile, age of marriage, guardianship, female genital mutilation (FGM), “husband obedience “ and sex-selective reproductive decisions.

The first phase of the database surveyed the 54 African countries; the 19 civil law countries in Latin America and 32 states of Mexico; the 51 independent states of Europe; Israel; India; and Pakistan. The data is currently available via the Biddle Law Library as a Google document and map, and will ultimately be accessible and searchable through a UN-designed database interface. Phase 2, now underway, will identify the relevant laws for the Middle East region, in addition to presenting a series of analytical reports on the data.

Feedback and questions about the database are most welcome and can be directed to Gabriela Femenia.

Teaching FCIL Research Series: Teaching FCIL Research? Consider Not Requiring a Textbook

AJ-Books-2By Mary Rumsey

After years of teaching, I’m convinced legal research instructors shouldn’t make students buy textbooks.

We all know the tremendous financial strain affecting most law students; they accrue appalling debt. We shouldn’t impose any costs on students unless the benefits greatly outweigh those costs. Unfortunately, the benefits of textbooks don’t outweigh the costs.

Researchers can use an FCIL research text in two different ways. First, they can look up specific tasks or questions as needed. Second, they can read assigned sections before doing research.

The latter practice doesn’t work for most students. The information isn’t “sticky,” because it’s arbitrary and—let’s face it—boring. Students find nothing interesting in instructions for finding treaties on the OAS site, for example. Unlike other subjects in law school, legal research techniques have no human interest or policy implications to help students remember them.

Well, how about using textbooks as needed? That will help sometimes, but the lifespan of an FCIL research textbook is short. Websites, the primary tool for FCIL research, change often. For example, the Council of Europe’s HUDOC site, the UN Treaties database, and the EU’s legal research site have been completely overhauled at least once in the last several years. Databases such as GLIN (which had thousands of foreign laws), EISIL, and the WHO Health Law database have disappeared. Foreign government websites, particularly from developing countries, flicker on and off. New websites, such as the UN’s Women’s Family Law database (a work in progress) arrive without warning. Moreover, reading about a research process will never implant it as firmly as using that process.

For these reasons, teachers should focus on helping students navigate the legal information landscape. In my experience teaching and observing students over the past twenty years, the most effective method for learning legal research techniques is doing legal research; the least effective is reading about it. In practice, lawyers will be jumping into unfamiliar databases and figuring out how they work, so it makes sense to have them practice doing that.

Better than reading:

  • Use research problems for practice and to assess their learning
  • Show students how to find and use “about this site” information, FAQs, search tips, help pages, and updated research guides
  • Push them to think about what organizations might collect information on topics—literacy rates, patents, or denials of asylum—and to test their ideas
  • Provide a target case in a foreign language and ask them to use online translation tools to find it on a court website
  • Use brief demonstrations (live, or on video) to show how to find information on complex databases (e.g., EUR-LEX), or how to do things like use Google site-searching instead of a site’s own search engine
  • Let students work together rather than read alone
  • Ask them to write descriptions of how they found information, or to teach other students
  • Instead of reading assignments, give them problems to research outside of class

Lots of practice along these lines will be more effective than teaching from a mandatory textbook. Granted, if we could pour the contents of a recently published textbook into students’ brains, they’d learn a lot about FCIL research. But since we can’t, consider making textbooks optional and placing one on reserve. Your class can be just as effective and you’ll have done your small part in reducing the crushing debts many of your students are accruing.

New FCIL Librarian Series: Creating a New Research Guide

By Jessica Pierucci

This is the fifth in a series of posts documenting my first year as a foreign, comparative, and international law (FCIL) librarian. I started in this newly-created role at the UCI Law Library in July 2017. The aim of this series is to document my year in the hope of inspiring aspiring FCIL librarians to join the field (and hopefully not scaring them away!) by discussing one librarian’s experience entering the field.

When I attended the 2017 AALL Annual Meeting a few weeks into my new job last year, I ended up at a table next to Marci Hoffman at an FCIL-SIS interest group meeting. She provided some excellent wisdom I took to heart. She advised me to create guides on FCIL topics as a way of getting to know the field. Creating a guide requires thinking in depth about how to start and organize a particular type of research in order to convey that to other researchers.

Following Ms. Hoffman’s words of wisdom, I’m pleased to have added a brand new Foreign Law Research guide to the UCI Law Libraries series of LibGuides. This guide is the result of reviewing established guides (most notably Georgetown’s fantastic guide), consulting books on the topic (most notably the Hoffman & Rumsey Coursebook), responding to and assisting with faculty and student questions on foreign law, and identifying some of the sources requested through Int-Law as time permitted throughout this past year.


This guide’s target audience is UCI Law students who are either collecting sources for work on a law journal or engaging in independent foreign law research for a class, to write a student note, or just for fun. I also created this guide for fellow UCI Law librarians to assist students with this research. Students working on our newest law journal, the UC Irvine Journal of International, Transnational, and Comparative Law, and students working on certain articles in the UC Irvine Law Review, may be tasked with collecting foreign law sources for the first time. This was a relatively frequent question on my reference desk shifts last year, so I thought a new guide to aid students in this process, along with added information for those wanting to do more than locate a source, would be a great addition to the library’s guides.

One of the most interesting aspects of creating this guide was considering which aspects of foreign law research are universal and which aspects are country-specific. Through this guide, I aim to share the universal information in digestible chunks and continuously remind users to locate country-specific resources if needed, particularly if they move beyond source collection. Considering how to create streamlined, but comprehensive steps and how to select resources for source collection across countries was a valuable learning process that I believe will improve my reference desk interactions on this topic. I’m sure I’ll continue to edit the guide and my approach as I put the guide into action and see how it works in practice.

I’m tremendously thankful to all the librarians who created the resources already out there that I was able to draw upon in creating this guide. As part of the learning process, I would encourage other newer FCIL librarians to similarly spend time with established resources and then use what they learn to create their own guides. Creating a guide from scratch forced me to consider how to convey foreign law research topics in a manner that makes sense to me and I hope will make sense to UCI Law students. This pushed me to understand the topic in a deeper way than I believe would have been possible without having to put my understanding of the topic onto virtual paper.

May/June GlobaLex Issue Now Live

By Lucie Olejnikova

In the May/June 2018 issue of GlobaLex we bring you eight updated articles. Please see the line-up below. Congratulations to all authors!

UPDATE: Introduction to the Norms and Institutions of the African Union by Ufuoma Lamikanra.

Ufuoma Lamikanra is a Lawyer and Principal Librarian at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Lagos, Nigeria, who is currently on a study leave pursuing a Ph.D. degree at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. Ms. Lamikanra’s publications include: “Law Libraries and Law Librarianship in Nigeria” in the IALL International Handbook of Legal Information Management (Danner, Richard A. & Jules Winterton, eds., Farnham: Ashgate, 2011); “Challenges of Sourcing for Legal Materials in a Globalized Economy,” 1 Babcock University Socio-Legal J. 66 (2009); and “Nigeria: Index to Federal Statutes in Force 2003” 232 et seq. (Lagos, Berean Club Pub. 2004).


UPDATE: Contemporary Land Grabbing, Research, and Bibliography by Jootaek Lee.

Jootaek (“Juice”) Lee is a Senior Law Librarian (Research Librarian for Foreign, Comparative & International Law), Adjunct Professor, and Affiliated Faculty for the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) at the Northeastern University School of Law. He is one of the Global Law Advisors and serves the Law School’s Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court team coach. He teaches international and foreign legal research, international business transactions and advanced legal research. He received a B.A. from Korea University where he also received an M.A. in international law. Jootaek completed his J.D. at Florida State University, where he was also awarded M.L.S. He worked before as a librarian assistant professor at the University of Miami School of Law. He, a prolific scholar and author, has been publishing articles relating to legal informatics, legal pedagogy, human rights, and foreign and comparative law sources.


UPDATE: Research Guide on Global Health Law by Julienne E. Grant.

Julienne E. Grant serves as Reference Librarian/Foreign & International Research Specialist at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law Library. Her previous publications include contributions to “Research Guide to Mexican Law” (Legal Reference Services Quarterly 35.1 (2016): 18-76) and “Guide to Cuban Law and Legal Research” (International Journal of Legal Information 45.2 (2017): 76-188). She also co-authored a book chapter (with Teresa M. Miguel-Stearns) on the history of Latin American materials in U.S. law libraries (forthcoming, McFarland, 2018). In addition, Ms. Grant is a regular contributor to the DipLawMatic Dialogues blog, which is sponsored by the American Association of Law Libraries’ Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Special Interest Section (FCIL-SIS). She is a member of the FCIL-SIS and served as Chair of its Latin American Law Interest Group from 2013 to 2017. Ms. Grant earned a B.A. magna cum laude in Spanish from Middlebury College, an M.A. in Ibero-American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an M.A.L.S. from Rosary College (now Dominican University), and a J.D. cum laude from DePaul University.


UPDATE: Sustainable Development Law (SDL) Research Guide by Sarah Sullivan.

Sarah Sullivan is a Research Librarian at Baker McKenzie in San Francisco, California. She has a J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law, an MLIS from San Jose State University, and a BA from UC Santa Cruz.


UPDATE: Algerian Legal Research by Vincent Ramette.

Vincent Ramette holds an MA in Business Law, and is an Expert in Business Process Management, Lean Certified.


UPDATE: The Legal System of the Kingdom of Bahrain (Bahrain) by Abdulla Al Doseri & Essa Jawahery.

Abdulla Al Doseri and Essa Jawahery of Elham Ali Hassan & Associates , Lawyers and Legal Consultants (EAH Law), Kingdom of Bahrain.


UPDATE: Introduction to the Moroccan Legal System by Netty Butera & Kevashinee Pillay.

Netty Butera is a Rwandan national. She is an independent Governance consultant. She received her master’s degree in Project Management from Maastricht School of Management (Netherlands) in 2010. She has been working in Rwanda, London, Kenya and South Africa.

Kevashine Pillay is an admitted attorney of the Republic of South Africa. She is a holder of an LLB (bachelor of laws) from the University of KwaZulu Natal and an LLM in Human Rights and Democratization in Africa from the University of Pretoria. She is currently reading towards a doctoral degree in Public law at the Nelson Mandela University in South Africa.


UPDATE: Researching Applicable Law in Wales – What is Unique in Wales? by Lillian Stevenson & Dr. Catrin Fflur Huws.

Dr. Catrin Fflur Huws is currently a senior lecturer at Aberystwyth Law School Aberystwyth University, specializing in issues of linguistic equality, the diversification of Welsh and English law post devolution, and property law in a devolved context. Catrin provided the first section on The Welsh Legal System of this article.

Lillian Stevenson was Academic Services Manager and Law Librarian at Aberystwyth University until August 2015. She studied law at Birmingham University and Sheffield University and information studies as a postgraduate at the College of Librarianship Wales, now the Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University. Subsequently she worked in legal publishing and as law librarian at Manchester Metropolitan University and Norton Rose, City Law Firm in the United Kingdom.


For more articles, visit where you find the International Law, Comparative Law, and Foreign Law categories.

Getting to Know the IFLP, Part III: Come See Us in Baltimore!

By Alyson Drake

IFLPIn this third installment of our series on Getting to Know the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (IFLP or “the Index”), we’re extending an invitation to join us in Baltimore to learn more about the Index and the Advisory Board.  The IFLP Advisory Board will be in full force—and we’ve even got an exciting opportunity for chances to win prizes, including a one-year subscription to the Index.

So how can you get to know the Index better in Baltimore?

  • If you’re attending CONELL on Saturday, July 14th, stop by the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals table in the CONELL Marketplace and meet Marci Hoffman, General Editor of the Index, and Susan Gualtier, a member of the IFLP Advisory Board. They’ll be happy to tell you more about why the Index is an important resource and how one can eventually participate on the Advisory Board.  You can also enter our drawing at CONELL (see more on that below).
  • Join us at the IFLP Advisory Board on Saturday, July 14th, from 4:00-5:00pm in Hilton Douglass. We’ll be there to answer questions about the Advisory Board’s work and the Index.  We’ll also be having a working session to decide whether to add a few titles to Index—a great opportunity for those interested in serving on the Board someday to get an inside look at how the process works!
  • And now for the prizes! This year at AALL, we’ll be doing a game at the HeinOnline booth in the Exhibit Hall.  Answer a few quick questions (see this brochure and our last two posts on the Index to study up) and you’ll be entered to win a drawing for one of three prizes:
    1. One-year subscription to HeinOnline (need not be present to win and current subscribers can win the free subscription)
    2. Our IFLP Legal Eagle
    3. Geotze Caramels

We’ll draw the winners on Monday, July 16th at 1:30pm at the HeinOnline booth in the Exhibit Hall.  You must answer all questions correctly to win.

We’re looking forward to seeing you all in Baltimore!

From the Reference Desk: Researching Global Mental Health Law

By Lora Johns

This May for Mental Health Awareness Week, the U.K. charity Mind released a survey of 44,000 employees on attitudes toward mental health at work. Most strikingly, it shows that U.K. employees who experience poor mental still feel uncomfortable expressing their needs to their employers—indicating that the stigma against mental illness is alive and well in the workplace.


Image via

For instance, only half of employees would tell their employers about their mental health struggles, and over 80% would still go into work when experiencing poor mental health (in contrast to the 50% who would go to work with a physical illness).

These alarming statistics do not plague the U.K. alone. People suffering from mental health experience stigma both public and internal. According to a World Health Organization study, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. It contributes heavily to the overall global burden of disease.

Within the last decade, anti-stigma initiatives have begun to appear across geographic boundaries, reflecting a growing international interest in mental health in the workplace. Globally, governments and private organizations have increasingly promoted mental health and pushed to reform public health policy, legislation, and regulations.

In short, now is a great time to explore how to research global mental health policy.

Julienne E. Grant’s newly updated GlobaLex Research Guide on Global Health Law is an invaluable resource for this kind of research. It encompasses not only traditional international health law–the rules governing international relations–but also the actions of non-state actors, individual nations, and international regimes that intersect with health policy. It is the perfect gateway to anyone researching global health law in the context of human rights, international trade, and intellectual property.


Other Resources:

WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020

International Academy of Law and Mental Health (IALMH)


See more resources at

From the Reference Desk: When Librarians Google

By Lora Johns

Google.pngToday’s post is a reminder that sometimes, even for information professionals, Google really is the answer.

A patron forwarded a Google Alert to the library that linked to an article on India Today. The article reported a ruling from one of India’s High Courts holding that solitary confinement, even for death row prisoners, amounted to torture and violated basic human rights. It runs afoul of the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the “Nelson Mandela Rules”) and the Constitution of India.

The patron wanted to read the ruling itself. Easy! I thought to myself. I can find that. While I am far from an expert in the law of India, I knew from GlobaLex that Judis would surely contain the ruling I wanted. Off I went to the High Court website and searched by Court and date of judgment.

No dice. What the heck?

Here’s what I knew from the news article:

  • The article about the ruling was published April 27
  • The issuing court was the Uttarakhandi High Court
  • The petitioners were two men sentenced to capital punishment and solitary confinement
  • The justices who wrote the opinion were Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Alok Sing

I tried searching by justice (both names), multiple dates (just in case the article was off)… and still, I found nothing.

Sensing that the task may require an expert rather than a neophyte, I consulted my colleague John Nann, who literally wrote the book on legal research and is more adept at finding obscure Commonwealth case law than any other human being alive. Half an hour later, like magic, the ruling materialized in my inbox and the patron’s.

Rather awed, I asked John how he executed this feat of librarianship, when even the official court website was useless. I felt a tiny bit less self-critical once he said he’d followed the same research path that I had, without luck — except that he had additionally consulted SCC Online, “India’s premier legal database,” which also had no trace of the ruling.

So John — the consummate reference librarian par excellence — turned to Google. Pulling key terms from the India Today article, John added a twist that, in its simplicity, betrayed sheer genius. He added the word “judgment” to the Google search.

When I recreated his research trail (partly because I wanted to read the judgment, partly to practice being a better reference librarian for next time), Google immediately gave me another news article, published on Its headline proclaimed, Solitary Confinement of a Death Convict Before the Exhaustion of His Complete Legal and Constitutional Remedies Unconstitutional: Uttarakhand HC [Read Judgment].

Published two days after the judgment issued, the article had embedded a PDF of the court’s judgment at the end. Success at last!

What are the takeaways of this story?

  • Sometimes, the “right,” librarian-y methods are not necessarily the best or fastest path to an answer. I would have saved time if I’d tried Googling first. In fairness to me and John starting with more specific sources, it’s still a mystery why both the High Court website and the paid database both lacked this important judgment.
  • Google pays software engineers full-time salaries to design the best and brightest search algorithms. There is no shame in using them. (With the caveat, of course, that we must acknowledge that algorithms are as prone to bias as any human.)
  • I have brilliant, patient, and kind colleagues who invite me to reach out to them for help and generously lend me a hand when I need it. Especially as a baby librarian, I am grateful for the mentorship and guidance, and I hope to pay it back someday when I’m older and wiser.
  • I will be bookmarking in and following Apoorva Mandhani, the reporter who wrote the story, on Twitter to keep up-to-date with developments in Indian courts. Who knows when it may come in handy?