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Conflict of Laws

A guide to researching Conflict of Laws

What is Private International Law?

Private International Law is the body of law that governs private relationships that cross national borders. In the United States, we often refer to it as "Conflict of Laws" or "Choice of Law," because the central concern is the determination of which nation's laws will govern a transnational matter. But the substantive rules that will apply are also a part of private international law. The American Society of International Law defines it as "the body of conventions, model laws, national laws, legal guides, and other documents and instruments that regulate private relationships across national borders." 

National laws are the primary sources of Private International Law, but is also embodied in treaties and conventions, model laws, legal guides, and other instruments that regulate transactions. 

PIL deals with a variety of topics, such as international contracts, torts, family matters, recognition of judgments, child adoption and abduction, real property, and intellectual property.


Journals and Periodicals

There are several excellent journals that focus on topics related to private international law. The following represent a selection of those available at CUA Law Library.

Journal Articles

In addition to the subject-specific journals listed above, there is excellent discussion to be found in a wide range of law reviews and journals. Relevant articles can be located in the full-text journal databases of Lexis and Westlaw, but searching legal periodical indexes can yield more accurate and inclusive results. We recommend these indexes in particular:

Indexes can be searched by author, title or keyword. For the most comprehensive results, try a subject search with some combination of the following subject terms:

  • conflict of laws--(name of country)
  • conflict of laws--(legal topic)
  • international commercial law

A useful bibliography of articles is compiled each year in the spring issue of the American Journal of Comparative Law. The most recent is S.C. Symonides, "Private International Law Bibliography 2021: U.S. and Foreign Sources in English," 70 Am. J. Comp. L. ____ (2022).

Research Strategies

1.  Consult secondary sources to get a general overview of the topic and discussion of where to find applicable law, and to determine whether a treaty applies.

2. If national law applies, research the law of the foreign jurisdiction. 

Current Awareness

Useful Websites