Friday, March 8, 2013

Spotlight: World Legal Information Institute

By, Andrew Moreno, J.D. Candidate 2014, Pace Law School

For those seeking access to international law materials, the search process can be a chore and one that can very quickly eat up more time that would be better spent actually articulating the ideas you wish to give form to.  This is also even truer when it comes to researching the subset the topic of environmental law within the international context.  A website I have found to be helpful as a starting place for international environmental law research is the World Legal Information Institute,  WorldLII stands for World Legal Information Institute, which is a non-profit global legal research group that endeavors to provide an aggregate search of over 270 databases.  The database was formed with the cooperation of six other Legal Information institutes (Canadian, Hong Kong, Australia, British and Irish, the LII of Cornell and the Pacific Islands LII) and Wits University Law School.  In terms of scope the website offers quite a bit, so if you were in the mood to do some side research on the banking and finance laws of Belarus you would be met with some interesting links to get your research going.  The site isn’t perfect and should not be the only resource you rely on, as there are still some countries that have a spotty amount of resources contained in their links.  As for doing some environmental law research on the site I would recommend searching either by country by clicking on the ‘All countries’ tab under the Global heading in the top left of the site and searching for your jurisdiction on the next screen:

For example, I clicked at random on Moldova.  Among the links was a page linking to “introductions to Modolvan Law” ( where there were two links, one of which was a guide to performing legal research in the Moldovan law context.
For those who wish to narrow their search by subject, you can simply click on “subject” under catalog on the lower left of the home screen and be taken to a menu laying out a number of different subjects which may be searched by.  Environmental Law is among them.  Once there you can continue to narrow by searching by Country.  You can also check out a select number of other resources that you may find helpful such as Ecolex, given at the bottom of the screen.  Getting back to searching environmental laws by country, once you have selected to do so by Country you can then survey the different countries that this site has materials for.  For example we’ll use Australia.  Clicking on it’s link we are taken to a page with a number of different resources for those seeking to find material on Australian environmental law. 

Of course, if there isn’t enough to your liking at any particular link for a country you can try your luck with some other indexes, which WorldLII has provided after you decided to search by subject.  A quick look will yield some good resources, some of which have great tips for conducting online research.  One of those indexes provided by WorldLII is the American Society of International Law’s Electronic ResourceGuide on International environmental Law, which provides a number of great search tips and access to important international agreements and recommendations as to what treatises you should endeavor to read.

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