contracts • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

New Research Guide: Researching “Civil Law” Topics at the HLS Library

Over the last several months, I have been working on a research guide that, hopefully, will help bridge one of the gaps that researchers from civil law jurisdictions face when they do legal research in the United States.  The guide, Researching “Civil Law” Subjects at the Harvard Law School Library, was published today, and can be found at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/civil-law.

I designed this resource to provide suggested searches for topics that are normally covered in the civil code in a civil law jurisdiction:

  • Picture of a paperback copy of the German civil code that features many colorful tabs on the pages on the side.Legal Obligations under Contract and Tort
  • Family Law
  • Property Law
  • Law of Succession
  • Remedies

While I was working on this project, I really tried to channel my civil-law self, and my heavily-used copy of the German Civil Code (pictured at right) came in very handy during this process.

The guide provides links to pre-populated searches, by subject, of the Harvard Library HOLLIS catalog.  Searching by subject keyword is a great way to make sure that you are finding materials across multiple languages during your search.

The challenge, of course, is that there is not one single, all-encompassing controlled vocabulary for subject keywords across all types of materials.

What does that mean?  When cataloging books, our library catalogers generally use the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) controlled vocabulary.  However, library catalogers do not catalog individual periodical articles too, of course.  Unfortunately, there is not a similar controlled vocabulary for all periodical articles across all journals and databases — at least not one that I’ve found.  So “subject” keywords can technically be assigned by anyone — authors, editors, database administrators, etc., which means that multiple subject keywords may be used to represent the same concept.

So what’s the big deal about that?  Since, as of a few years ago, HOLLIS can be used to search for both books AND periodical articles, it can be hard to feel assured that you’ve found everything that is relevant to your research when searching by subject.  This is why I have included both LCSH and non-LCSH subject keyword searches — as many as I could think of that are relevant.  I readily admit that the guide is still a work in progress, and that I will likely find and add many additional subject searches as I discover them.

I hope civil law researchers find the guide to be helpful, and welcome any comments and feedback.

Welcome LL.M. Students!

Welcome to the nearly 200 LL.M. students who will be attending Harvard Law School this academic year!

Please visit the law library’s research services homepage to learn about all of the services the library’s research services team offers to the Harvard Law School community.

We are providing special library tours for LL.M. students over the next two weeks, and you can sign up for a tour on this page as well (under Upcoming Events).

Highlighting New Comparative Law Books in the Law Library’s Collection

Research librarians here in the law library spend a lot of time talking to LL.M. students about their paper topics every year.  Because so many students decide to write their LL.M. papers on comparative law topics, I like to write posts for our library blog about comparative law titles that I find in our collection that might be of interest to them.

In this post, I am highlighting one of our newest books on comparative company law.

International Handbook on Shareholders’ Agreements: Regulation, Practice, and Comparative Analysis
Editors: Sebastian Mock, Kristian Csach, and Bohnmil Havel
Published by DeGruyter, 2018
ISBN 9783110501568
View this book’s record in Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog

According to the editors of this volume, shareholder agreements are “an integral part of company law and especially its legal practice.”  They are “traditionally dominated by contract law and not by company law”; however, it is sometimes the case that contract law lacks the depth to provide sufficient legal regulation of what can be complex legal situations and relationships, especially “in the case of cross-border shareholders’ agreements including shareholders from several jurisdictions.”

This volume attempts to fill that gap.  It begins with introductory chapters covering the differences between contract law and corporate law when it comes to shareholders’ agreements, the impact of shareholders’ agreements on how a company is managed, and as issues related to conflict of laws (private international law), corporate insolvency, and competition law.

The bulk of the book, however, is dedicated to reports on the relevant legal framework for shareholders’ agreements in the following jurisdictions: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, England/Wales, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United States.  Some of these country reports include English-language excerpts of applicable statutory provisions.

Harvard Library Collection

This book is part of the DeGruyter Handbook series.  Almost all of the other titles in this series that are in the Harvard Library collection are in German (DeGruyter is a German publishing company), and cover legal topics.

However, Harvard does have one other English-language title from this series.  It is held by the Widener Library, Harvard’s flagship library.  All LL.M. students have access and borrowing privileges at Widener, along with the other libraries at Harvard.

This other book actually has nothing to do with law at all:

Sign Languages of the World: A Comparative Handbook
Edited by Julie Bakken Jepsen, Goedele De Clerck, Sam Lutalo-Kiingi, William B. McGregor
Published by De Gruyter, 2015
ISBN 9781614517962
View this book’s record in Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog

I am a member of the law library’s Accessibility Design team, so one of my interests is learning more about how we can make the library accessible and accommodating to people with all kinds of disabilities.  So I am actually really interested in having a look at this book sometime!

Using HeinOnline for Accessing Legal Journals

I am curious to learn more about how the various sign languages around the world have developed their legal terminology throughout history.  In fact, just thinking about that led me to wonder about how issues related to deafness have been explored in the legal literature.

One of the best options for this kind of research is our  HeinOnline subscription legal database.  HeinOnline contains a very comprehensive collections of U.S. and foreign legal journals.  I find this database to be an invaluable part of any legal research project that I am working on.

So I decided to try a proximity search in HeinOnline for articles about sign language and legal terms.  Here is the search query I used:

“sign language legal terms”~50

This search query uses HeinOnline’s unique syntax for finding those four words within 50 words of each other.

When I did that search and limited the search results to articles from HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library, I got 77 results, covering various topics such as professional challenges faced by deaf lawyers, the representation of deaf clients in legal matters, the fitness of deaf defendants for trial, accommodating law faculty with disabilities, and more.

Perhaps one day an LL.M. student will write on deafness and law as well.  Whatever our newest LL.M.s decide to write about this year, the law library’s research services team is eager to help them navigate our resources and research their papers.

We’re looking forward to seeing you in the law library!

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