January 6th, 2021

The Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, the Only Multilingual Index to Legal Scholarship

As the field of law evolves to become ever more global, legal information professionals employed by law firms and government agencies increasingly support the work of multilingual attorneys whose legal practices are transnational in scope.  Similarly, academic law librarians are often asked to assist faculty members and students in researching comparative law topics involving foreign legal systems, and to provide research instruction for advanced degree students who received their primary legal training in foreign jurisdictions.  Although many of us have some working knowledge of at least one foreign language, our familiarity with foreign legal terminology is often limited.  It can be especially challenging to assist patrons in locating jurisdiction-specific secondary law sources in languages other than English if we are completely unfamiliar with the language of the jurisdiction. 

The best tool for locating credible secondary sources on foreign, comparative, and international law topics in multiple languages is the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (IFLP), the world’s only multilingual legal journal index.  Established in 1960 as a print resource, the IFLP is now fully integrated with HeinOnline’s electronic research platform.  If your library already subscribes to HeinOnline, the IFLP is available as an affordable, cost-effective add-on to your subscription.  What follows is a brief introduction to the IFLP and an overview of its key features.

Breadth of Coverage

The majority of articles indexed by the IFLP are published in law journals based outside the United States, but the Index also includes articles published in selected U.S. journals that focus exclusively on foreign, comparative, and international law topics.  The breadth of coverage is impressive.  The Index includes more than 394,000 records of articles and book reviews published in over 700 of the world’s leading law journals.  Articles from almost four dozen international, regional, jurisdiction-specific, and subject-specific legal yearbooks also are included.  In addition, the IFLP analyzes the contents of approximately 50 individually published collections of essays, festschriften, mélanges, and congress reports each year.  Approximately half of the articles indexed are published in languages other than English.  In total, 26 languages are represented, making the IFLP the only truly multilingual index to legal scholarship worldwide. 

A key benefit of the IFLP’s migration to HeinOnline is that more than 77,000 of the articles indexed by the IFLP are now available in full text on Hein’s legal research platform.  Direct linking enables easy access to the full-text articles.  As with other Hein databases, image-based scans of the articles, with their original formatting and pagination, are available for download as searchable PDF files. For those articles that are not available in full text on HeinOnline, the IFLP provides users with a complete citation to facilitate inter-library loan borrowing. 

Diversity of Subject Matter – Not Limited to Academic Research

Equally impressive is the diversity of subjects covered by the IFLP.  These include public international law, private international law, comparative law, civil law, common law, the law of foreign jurisdictions, and even U.S. law analyzed from a non-American perspective.  A common misconception is that Index is primarily for academic research.  In fact, many of the articles indexed in the IFLP focus on various aspects of international economic law, including bankruptcy, competition law, international commercial arbitration, investor-state dispute settlement, international trade, regulatory compliance, and other topics that will be of interest to legal practitioners representing multinational enterprises whose operations cross jurisdictional lines.  Bear in mind that many of the English language journals covered by the Index publish articles that focus on non-English speaking jurisdictions, making the law of those jurisdictions more accessible to students and practitioners whose primary language is English.

Key Features of the IFLP

Each article indexed in the IFLP is assigned one or more subject headings in English, French, German, and Spanish, thereby making it possible to search or browse by subject in these languages for articles published in the same or any language. IFLP subject headings with the most entries include bankruptcy, civil law, constitutional law, international law, and international trade.   

To view the alphabetical list of subject headings, with cross-references to equivalent terms in all four languages, click on the “Subjects” tab in the center of the IFLP homepage.  For example, if you go to M and look for “Mergers,” it will direct you to the hyperlinked subject “Corporations: Consolidation and Merger,” which is the index term used by IFLP. You’ll also notice a scope note that gives the various subjects for which the index term is used. For example, “Corporations: Consolidation and Merger” is used for the subjects “takeovers,” “fusión,” and “rachat de sociétés,” among many others. You’ll also see broader and narrower related index terms that you might be interested in.

Browsing the list of subject headings is particularly useful for monolingual librarians with little or no knowledge of foreign legal terminology.  For example, navigating to the subject heading “close corporations” will enable the monoglot English speaker to quickly identify the French, German, and Spanish equivalents of this term without having to consult multiple dictionaries. 

You could also choose to begin with a Country Subject. Say you wanted to research women’s rights in Uganda. You could click “Country Subject,” then navigate to Uganda. This creates a results list of 224 articles predominantly about Uganda. If you use the filters on the left and narrow your results to those having the subject ‘women,” you will find 24 on-point articles. You can also combine browsing by subject with keyword searching by clicking the “search within results” arrow icon.

The IFLP’s search interface supports keyword searching and field searching in multiple languages.  When you click the “Search IFLP” tab, you can do a keyword search across all the fields and use AND, OR, and other connectors to link terms. You can also choose to restrict your search terms to particular fields like author, journal title, or article title. The hints on the search page advise you that for author searches, to search by last name or by last name and first initial. So if you wanted to see all of the articles by Philippe Malaurie, you could select the field “Author” from the drop-down menu and type “Malaurie, P.” in the search box. If you were only interested in Malaurie’s articles relating to contracts, you could additionally type the term “Contracts” in the next field, changing the dropdown to “Subject,” or you could instead use the post-search filters to refine you results after searching by author.

Post-search filters enable users to refine search results by date, language of publication, subject, country, and geographic region.  Users may save search queries to their MyHein account and set up email alerts to notify them when new records that meet their search criteria are added to the Index.  To organize their saved content, users may add a descriptive tag to each saved query or alert. You can also search digitized copies of the print volumes from 1960 to 2019 by clicking the “Print Edition (1960-)” tab.

Editorial Process Relies on Human Indexers

The IFLP is produced at the Law Library of the University of California at Berkeley on behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), which owns the copyright.  The IFLP’s Editorial Board relies on a team of multilingual human indexers, not machines, to analyze articles and assign subject headings.  It also draws upon the resources of the Berkeley Law Library’s international and foreign law collection, the largest and most comprehensive in the western United States.  The IFLP Advisory Board, comprised of specialist FCIL librarians, evaluates prospective journals for inclusion in the Index.

Learn More About the IFLP at a Free Webinar on January 13, 2021

IALL members interested in learning more about the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals and how it can help them to meet the needs of practitioners, faculty members, and students who are researching foreign, international, and comparative law topics are encouraged to register for a free webinar on Wednesday, January 13, 2021, beginning at 11:00 a.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).  Marci Hoffman, the IFLP’s Editor-in-Chief, and members of the IFLP Advisory Board will explain how to effectively search and browse the IFLP.  They also will answer any questions you may have about the Index.  Click here to register.

Charles Bjork
International and Foreign Law Reference Librarian
and Adjunct Professor of Law
Georgetown University Law Center
Washington, D.C.

Mariana Newman
Reference Librarian and Lecturer in Law
Columbia Law School
New York 

Both serve as members of the IFLP Advisory Board.

This Blog contains entries by members of the International Association of Law Libraries on issues germane to the Association’s areas of focus. Views expressed in an individual entry only represent the views of the author.