Legal Research in Germany between Print and Electronic Media: An Overview

By Rita Exter and Martina Kammer

Published February 2008

Rita Exter is the head of the library at the Düsseldorf office of Linklaters.
Martina Kammer is the knowhow and information manager for Germany at the same firm.


Table of Contents

1. General Introduction to the German Legal System

2. The Legislative Process and Its Sources

2.1 Federal Legislative Process

2.2 The State Legislative Process

3. Federal and State Laws

3.1 Federal Statutes and Ordinances

3.2 International and EU Law

3.3 State Laws and Subordinate Legislation

3.4 Federal Administrative Rules and Regulations

3.5 State Administrative Rules and Regulations

4. Court Practice and Court Decisions

5. Legal Literature

5.1 Commentaries

5.2 Handbooks

5.3 Form Books and Standard Contracts

5.4 Legal Journals, Essays and Article Literature

5.5 Major Law Dictionaries

6. Citations to German Legal Sources

7. Translations of German Legal Resources into English

8. Overview of Fee-based Legal Databases

8.1 juris

8.2 beck-online

8.3 LexisNexis Recht

8.4 Legios

9. Legal Online News and Current Awareness Services

9.1 RSS Feeds

9.2 Electronic Newsletters, Newstickers, Blogs and Podcasts

10. Useful Links

8.1 Government

8.2 Courts

8.3 Major Legal Publishers

8.4 University and Central Libraries

8.5 Legal Internet Projects

8.6 Major Professional Organizations


Starting with a brief introduction to the German legal system and legal tradition, this article looks at legal research from a practitioner's point of view and provides an overview of the major sources for German legal research with a focus on business and commercial law, both print and online. Due to the wealth of German legal literature it presents but a selection of the most essential sources and does not make a claim to comprehensive portrayal or completeness. Most of the materials mentioned here are in German, as any substantive law research will have to be conducted in the vernacular. To assist the foreign researcher though, references have been included to translations of German laws and cases as well as select literature and Web sites on German law in English. Kommentare (commentaries) and Festschriften as forms of publication specific to German legal research are highlighted as is the way German case law is published and the issues this involves. Extensive coverage is given to legal databases and their growing importance to the researcher.

It will become clear that, while there is a wide variety of sources available, materials have not always been published in a consistent manner. Hence, researchers will find it difficult at times to locate certain items, notably when it comes to court decisions or administrative regulations.

Not included here are business information sources such as commercial and company registers etc which supplement research in business and commercial law.

Since the 1990s the number of legal resources accessible electronically or online has grown considerably. This includes both commercial, fee-based services as well as sites that are available for free. Special mention should be made of legal resources offered on government websites and on the homepages of major legal publishers. A number of materials are made available through collaborative efforts by the government and database providers, or between several publishers. Many sources are offered under license by more than one provider. The growing market with a wide range of products that partly overlap, and shifting provider collaborations sometimes make it hard for the legal researcher to keep track. It needs to be said, however, that with Juris, Beck-online, LexisNexis and Legios there are four strong contenders in the market who bundle a multitude of sources pivotal in conducting legal research.


At the same time, in spite of the tremendous growth in the electronic product area, legal print literature upholds its importance.


1. General Introduction to the German Legal System

Germany has a federal system of government built on democratic principles, which is made up of 16 Länder (federal states), and is a member of the European Union, the association of a growing number of European states. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, which is known as the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) lies at the foundation of all other legislation. The highest legislative bodies are the Bundestag and the Bundesrat as the two chambers of parliament. The Federal Constitutional Court is the highest body of the judiciary, and the Federal President and Federal Government are the highest bodies of the state executive. This structure is mirrored at the level of the states with state parliaments, the state constitutional courts, and state governors and governments.

German law is governed by the federal nature of the Federal Republic of Germany and is thus not dissimilar to legal systems such as the ones in the United States or Australia. However, in contrast to these jurisdictions, the federal principle is not confined to national borders, i.e. the relations among the individual states and their relations towards the Federation. It extends to, and is crucially influenced by, Germany’s membership of the European Union, which by now affords an extensive body of legislation that is binding on its individual member states directly or needs to be implemented in national law. There are basic treaties, regulations and directives. Bilateral and multilateral agreements between EU member states are now mostly replaced by EU treaties.

Germany is a civil law jurisdiction. The law is divided into three major areas: private law, public law and criminal law.

The sources of the law in Germany comprise statutory law as the central and primary source which includes the constitution, statutes and ordinances, regulations, decrees and charters. Court decisions are another source. However, in contrast to jurisdictions such as the UK or the US they do not have a precedent function in that courts are not bound to follow the decisions of higher courts in a previous case. Courts are bound by the law rather than by precedents. Custom is generally recognized to be yet another source of the law as are interpretations of the law.

The German legal tradition and culture go back to the law of the Roman Empire, which made a strong impact on its emergence and development. German law is codified law. The idea of codification dates back to the period of European Enlightenment during the 17th and 18th centuries and, propelled by the aspirations for unification during the 19th century, resulted in the creation of law codes for the major areas of the law.1 The development of the law in Germany must also be seen in the context of similar developments in other parts of continental Europe. There has always been strong mutual influence and exchange, which is now culminating in the rapprochement of legal systems as mentioned above.

Codification was first promoted by the enlightened rulers of Prussia and Austria (Prussia's Allgemeines Landesrecht of 1794 and Austria's Allgemeines Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) as a means for people to know their rights and duties. Another strong impetus emanated from the adoption in 1804 of the Code Napoleon.

By the time of the establishment of the German Reich in 1871 there were only two states, Prussia and Saxony, which had codified their private law. The other German territories were governed by different types of law from ius commune to Austrian and Danish law. With the beginning of industrialization and the need for open markets the unification of the law became an important issue. A draft of a general German commercial code had been adopted by most of the states in the Deutscher Bund (German Union) by 1866. Once the German Reich had been founded, the development of a uniform law code for the whole of Germany took on added importance. In the years following the founding of the German Reich a number of laws were adopted in 1879 that set the scene for a common civil code: The Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz (court statutes), Konkursordnung (insolvency code), Zivilprozessordnung (code of civil procedure), and the Strafprozessordnung (code of criminal procedure), which have, with some amendments, retained their validity to date. With a procedural framework in place, work on a uniform civil code was begun, which was to take 26 years from the initial drafting until it took force on January 1, 1900. The Commercial Code (Handelsgesetzbuch) came into force on the same date. The Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch), which comprehensively covers the field of private law, is the mainstay of the German civil-law system. The result of fine 19th century scholarship, it is written in a highly technical language and thus not easily accessible. It has been lauded for its doctrinal refinement and conceptual abstraction that leaves room for interpretation, but is not addressed to the lay person. A century after its adoption its stipulations are still largely the same, the most significant amendments having been made to the book on family law, which has seen major change,2 and the book on the law of obligations, major parts of which have been revised by the 2001 reform of the law of obligations. The German Civil Code has also served as a model for other countries in developing their civil law codifications. Among them are Japan and Greece.

Nazi rule during the period from 1933 through 1945 has left deep imprints on the development of the law in Germany after World War II. Legislative thinking has been guided by the idea of preventing any such catastrophe from ever happening again.

Another important aspect to be considered is the reunification on October 3, 1990 of the Federal Republic of Germany and the former German Democratic Republic. The legal systems had completely grown apart during the years of division. During the years since 1990 a legal system modeled on the one in the old Federal Republic has been set up in the eastern part of Germany as well. Under the Unification Treaty, certain parts of East German law have continued to retain their validity. Additional laws and regulations had to be enacted in various different fields of law to cover the specific situation that had arisen out of the joining of two completely different systems.

Select Literature:

·       Danner, Richard A./Bernal, Marie-Louise H. Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems. New York: Oceana Publications, 1994.

·       Ebke, Werner F./Finkin, Matthew W. Introduction to German Law. The Hague: Kluwer, 1996.

·       Foster, Nigel, G./Sule, Satish, German Legal System and Law. 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

·       Modern Legal Systems Encyclopedia. Volume Three. Buffalo, NY: William S. Hein & Co., 1990.

·       Reimann, Matthias/Zekoll, Joachim (eds). Introduction to German Law. 2nd edition. München: C H Beck, 2005.

·       Reynolds, Thomas H./Flores, Arturo A. Foreign Law: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World. Volume II - Western and Eastern Europe. Littleton: F.B. Rothman, 1989-.

·       Robbers, Gerhard. An Introduction to German Law. 4th edition. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2006.

·       Robbers, Gerhard. Einführung in das deutsche Recht. 4th edition. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2006.

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2. The Legislative Process and Its Sources

2.1 Federal Legislative Process and Session Laws

The federal legislative process may involve any of the following bodies: The Bundestag (German parliament) as the elected representative body of the people, the Bundesrat as the representative body of the states, the federal government and the parliamentary committees. Legislative initiative may emanate from the government, members of Parliament (a parliamentary group, party or other group) or the Bundesrat. There is legislation that requires approval from the Bundesrat, e.g., legislation amending the Constitution or touching on the foundations of the federation, and there is simple legislation that does not require such Bundesrat approval. Once a bill has been passed, it is countersigned by the government minister in charge and the Federal Chancellor, executed by the Federal President and promulgated in the Bundesgesetzblatt (Federal Law Gazette). Unless otherwise stipulated, it will enter into force on the 14th day after publication in the Federal Law Gazette. Ordinances are passed by the Executive, i.e. the federal government or federal ministers. Bundesrat approval is required if they affect the interests of the states. The legislative procedure on the federal level is explained in detail on the Web site of the German Bundestag.

Documents that are produced and published as part of the legislative process do not only comprise the texts of prospective new laws or statutory amendments. They also include the reasoning of the bodies initiating such legislation, which may be used as a source for construing the future law.

Important preliminary draft bills used to be accessible to a wider interested public only in print and by placing a request with the respective government ministry. Major legislative projects were published in journals. Now they have begun to be published on the home pages of the government ministries in charge of the legislative project or can be accessed through the link to legislative projects (Gesetzesvorhaben und Neuregelungen) on the home page of the German Federal Government.


The official legislative process is triggered by a bill being submitted by either the Bundesrat, the Federal Government or a parliamentary group within the Bundestag. This process, i.e. the passage of the bill through all chambers of parliament, is accompanied by a large number of documents. The full text of draft bills, complete with reasoning, and amendments proposed by the parliamentary committees is published in Bundestags-Drucksachen or Bundesrats-Drucksachen (Printed Matters of the Bundestag and Bundesrat), a serial publication of the Bundestag and Bundesrat, respectively. The debates of bills in the Bundestag and Bundesrat are recorded in the minutes of plenary sessions (Stenographische Berichte des Deutschen Bundestages and Stenographische Berichte des Deutschen Bundesrates, also called Plenarprotokolle). These sources are indexed in the Register zu den Verhandlungen des Deutschen Bundestags und des Bundesrats (Index to the Sessions of the German Bundestag and Bundesrat), a publication of the German Parliament’s department of documentation. It has appeared as a bound set at the end of each parliamentary term since 1949. Materials of parliamentary terms (starting from 1972) are also published in bound sets by  Nomos and Bundesanzeiger publishers.


Much of this information is now available on the Internet through DIP (short for Dokumentations- und Informationssystem für Parlamentarische Vorgänge – Documentation and Information System for Parliamentary Activities), a gateway to parliamentary information set up by the German Bundestag. It provides free online access to legislative materials, including the full text of draft bills as published in the Bundestags-Drucksachen, and all other documents of the legislative history, with full texts of parliamentary printed matter, and links to the full text of Part I of the Bundesgesetzblatt (Federal Law Gazette starting from 1998). DIP also provides information on initiatives that require approval by the Bundesrat or, if applicable, on EU Directives that need to be implemented by a particular law, as well as the minutes of plenary sessions, activities of members of the Bundestag and Bundesrat, and information on parliamentary activities starting from the 8th parliamentary term (i.e. late 1976).


It should be noted that the content of DIP is accessed through two separate gateways with different search interfaces: one for the 8th-15th parliamentary terms and one for the 16th,, i.e. the current and future parliamentary terms. 16th term: subject index and three search interfaces (searchable by consultation processes, activities, and documents) / 8-15th term: variety of search interfaces graded by level of difficulty).

Alternatively, there is the Parlamentsspiegel parliamentary database, an initiative launched by the 16 German state parliaments, which covers the federal materials published in the Bundestags- and Bundesrats-Drucksachen for approximately the same period as DIP, as well as the legislative materials of the states (see below at 2.2). Minutes of plenary sessions of the Bundesrat are available from as early as the 1st parliamentary term. DIP provides access to some of the full text data from Parlamentsspiegel by linking to that information.  In documenting printed matters at federal level, Parlamentsspiegel primarily covers Bundesrat materials, the reason being that the Bundesrat is the representation of Germany’s federal states. A list of the federal data it covers can be found here. Parlamentsspiegel is the source to use for federal law research before 2002. Research after that date should be conducted in DIP. Inquiries regarding federal legislative materials not published in DIP or Parlamentsspiegel (up to the 7th parliamentary term in 1976) can be directed to Sach-und Sprechregister des Deutschen Bundestages, the official documentation center of the German Parliament (phone no. +49-30-227 3 23 50/E-mail); materials in print and electronic formats can also be ordered from the document service of Bundesanzeiger Verlag, the Bonn-based official parliamentary and government publisher.

In 2007 juris, a partially government-owned legal database provider, in association with Bundesanzeiger publishers launched a fee-based Legislation Portal (Gesetzesportal). It provides in-depth coverage of the legislative process starting from the 15th parliamentary term.

2.2 The State Legislative Process

The documents created as part of the legislative process at the Länder or state levels are published in print format. Some states make legislative materials available on their internet homepages as well. Despite some major progress, a number of federal states still do not put these materials online, The ones available vary in content, scope and ease of searching. Given this situation, all the more importance attaches to the Parlamentsspiegel, which makes it its goal to build an integrated parliamentary information system. The Internet version was launched in 2000. It is based on the Parlamentsspiegel print version (1957-1994/95) which has been discontinued.

The printed matters of the federal states currently available are listed here.  Two of the 16 states (Baden-Wurttemberg and Hesse) dropped out of the project in early 2004, which meant a substantial setback to the importance of this database as a comprehensive tool. An overview of internet homepages of the different federal states and the state materials accessible there can be found on the Parlamentsspiegel website.

If state legislative materials cannot be found either on the respective states’ homepages or in the Parlamentsspiegel database, they will have to be obtained directly, usually for a fee, from the respective departments of the state parliaments.

Select Literature and Databases:

·       Bundestags-Drucksachen (BT-Dr. or BT-Drucks.). Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1949-

·       Bundesrats-Drucksachen (BR-Dr. or BR-Drucks.). Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1949-

·       Stenographische Berichte des Deutschen Bundestags. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1949-

·       Stenographische Berichte des Deutschen Bundesrats. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1949-

·       Register zu den Verhandlungen des Deutschen Bundestags. Bonn: Heger/Bundesanzeiger, 1949/1953-

·       Register zu den Verhandlungen des Deutschen Bundesrats. Bonn: Heger/Bundesanzeiger, 1949/1952-

·       Stand der Gesetzgebung des Bundes. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1972-

·       DIP

·       Parlamentsspiegel

·       Bundesanzeiger

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3. Federal and State Laws

Germany’s federal system is reflected in the law. Legislative power is shared between the Federation and the Länder (states). When it comes to legal issues that need to be regulated uniformly for all states, exclusive legislative power rests with the Federation.  This includes foreign affairs, defence, transportation, the legal protection of industrial property rights, copyright, post and telecommunications, etc. Concurrent legislation applies to fields of law which, although uniform regulation for the federation is required, allow for state legislation as well. State legislation is repealed, however, if a federal law exists or is enacted in the same respect (e.g., civil code, criminal law, business and labor law, certain aspects of tax law). Federal laws may be supplemented by state laws when additional legal issues need to be covered and require augmentation by state law. Framework legislation, i.e. general guiding directives, is provided by the federation for certain areas that will have to be fleshed out by state laws. This applies to higher education, the protection of nature and soil, the water balance, and urban planning.

Laws at federal and state levels are adopted through the official legislative process described above. The body of statutory materials also comprises ordinances (Rechtsverordnungen) issued by the Executive (the federal or state governments) on the basis of an enacted law, and municipal orders and ordinances adopted by the local authorities. Further, there are administrative rules and regulations issued by the Executive, which serve to interpret the law. As for the latter, we will consider here generally applicable administrative regulations by federal or state authorities that require publication.

3.1 Federal Statutes and Ordinances

3.1.1    Federal Law Gazette (Bundesgesetzblatt - BGBl)

The Federal Law Gazette (Bundesgesetzblatt), Parts I and II, is the official source of Germany’s valid laws, of most subordinate legislation and ordinances (Rechtsverordnungen), and of important notices. It is published in print and online by Bundesanzeiger publishers on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Justice (Bundesgesetzblatt - BGBl. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger, 1949-).

New federal laws and major ordinances and amendments thereof have appeared in Part I since 1949. Issues of the print version are published, as required, approximately 50 times per year.

Part II publishes the international agreements concluded by the Federal Republic of Germany, and national laws and orders adopted for their validation and enforcement (also see 3.2 below). The text is usually provided in German and in the official languages of the agreement.

A discontinued Part III of the Bundesgesetzblatt, which used to be published in looseleaf format, contains a consolidated compilation of Germany’s federal laws as amended at the time of publication between 1958 and 1969. Because of the complicated legal situation that had arisen after World War II with laws from the German Reich still in force, and new laws and decrees enacted by the Allied Powers and, later, the German parliament, the German legislators decided to review German laws and repeal obsolete statutes. The beginning and end of this process were marked by the adoption of two laws (Gesetz über die Sammlung des Bundesrechts of July 10, 1958 and Gesetz über den Abschluß der Sammlung des Bundesrechts of December 28, 1968). This compilation is still useful today in researching older versions of the law.

The Federal Law Gazette is available online in German through the following services:

Part I


·       Bundesanzeiger: fee-based version with materials from 1949.

·       Bundesanzeiger: free read-only version with materials from 1998 to date.

·       Makrolog - Recht für Deutschland Permanent: fee-based service, complete coverage from the start of the print version (1949); click here for additional info in German.

·       Makrolog - Recht für Deutschland Locator: free service after registration; searching and full-text access to records from 2003 to date, except for the issues of the last four weeks; click here for additional info in German.

·       Parlamentsspiegel: free service from 1980 to date, search by formal criteria such as year, issue number, page.


Part II


·       Makrolog – Recht für Deutschland: fee-based service: complete coverage from the start in 1951 to date (cf. above).

·       Bundesanzeiger: fee-based version with materials from 1951.

·       Bundesanzeiger: free read-only service; full text of all issues from 2002 to date.


Part III


·       Makrolog – Recht für Deutschland: fee-based service, complete coverage from 1958 through 1969.

Bundesgesetzblatt Access Tools

Valid federal law is officially indexed in Fundstellennachweis A (FNA), an indispensable tool in accessing the statutory materials of Bundesgesetzblatt I. It features a subject, keyword and abbreviations index and an index of valid laws of the former German Democratic Republic and related federal laws, with a separate keyword index. Fundstellennachweis A is published by the Federal Ministry of Justice at the beginning of each year, with a mid-year supplement. It appears in print (light blue supplement to Bundesgesetzblatt), as a CD-ROM and online. For any classical federal law research using print sources Fundstellennachweis A will be the first "port of call."

Fundstellennachweis B (FNB) is the official index of Bundesgesetzblatt II (see above and below at 3.2) and published in print (red supplement to Bundesgesetzblatt) and online.

Alternatively, the Bundesgesetzblatt Gesamtregister (Comprehensive Index to the Federal Law Gazette) covering Parts I and II from 1949 - 2000 indexes the valid law and, in addition, laws and ordinances that have gone out of force. It was published in cooperation with C.H. Beck (last edition in 2001/2002). By contrast, when laws are amended, the Fundstellennachweis indexes sources of the old versions for the last time in the year of amendment.

While publishing amendments, Bundesgesetzblatt I does not usually provide consolidated or revised versions of laws. The complete text of the new law as amended is only published in the event of landmark changes (e.g., anti-trust law as revised in 1998). For this reason, Bundesgesetzblatt I is not a convenient tool for practical law research if a law has been amended multiple times.

Consolidated versions of the law (for a selection see below) are offered in a wide range of publications from various German legal publishers, who publish the German federal laws complete or by subject area. Many of these are also available electronically, on CD-ROM or online, as a free or fee-based service. Texts found in unofficial publications by commercial vendors should be checked for their currency against Bundesgesetzblatt I.


3.1.2    Bundesanzeiger


Ordinances are also officially published in Bundesanzeiger (BAnz), a publication of the Federal Ministry of Justice. Commercial vendors who publish these materials online include Makrolog – Recht für Deutschland (starting from 2001) and GBI/Genios (starting from 2003).


3.1.3    Federal Tax Gazette (Bundessteuerblatt – BStBl)


Federal tax legislation is officially published in Bundessteuerblatt, the official publication of the Federal Ministry of Finance (Federal Tax Gazette - BStBl, Stollfuss, 1951-; also on CD-ROM, 1992- with online updates).  Like Bundesgesetzblatt, it appears in two parts: Part I includes federal tax laws as well as federal ordinances and administrative rules and regulations. Decisions of the Federal Tax Court (Bundesfinanzhof) are published in Part II.


Makrolog – Recht für Deutschland offers online access to the full texts of BStBl I and II complete from 1951, as well as of BStBl III with tax rulings from 1951 to 1967.

3.1.4    Reich Law Gazette (Reichsgesetzblatt – RGBl) and GDR Law Gazette (Gesetzblatt der DDR)

The official publication for most laws and ordinances prior to 1945 were the Reichsgesetzblatt and Reichsanzeiger, the predecessors to Bundesgesetzblatt and Bundesanzeiger.


Parallel to the Bundesgesetzblatt, East Germany published the Gesetzblatt der DDR (Law Gazette of the German Democratic Republic) from 1949-1990. As some former East German laws are still valid, this source may be of some relevance as well. 


Both Reichsgesetzblatt and Gesetzblatt der DDR are available online (near complete) from Makrolog – Recht für Deutschland.

3.1.5    Commercial Online Publishers of Statutes and Ordinances

Commercial online publishers of German statutes beyond the ones mentioned above include the following:

The foremost commercial database of German federal law is Juris (also see below at 8.1).  First established in the early 1970s one of its goals has been to document the development of the law over time. It covers federal and state laws, rules and regulations, EU law, case law, journal articles, press announcements on high court decisions, industrial bargaining agreements, and technology law. Federal laws are covered in full text, however, starting from different points in time. All versions of a law since that time are available in full text, including the texts of laws from the Reichsgesetzblatt and other official statutory publications prior to the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany that are still in force. juris also gives citations to much older texts. It perceives its mission as offering consolidated versions of laws including historical versions, to the extent they have been documented.  In this respect, juris is currently the first, and in terms of its scope, single choice.  Its Bundesrecht (Federal Law) database feeds on information from the Federal Ministry of Justice and, in the field of tax, from the Federal Ministry of Finance. It holds valid federal laws based on Fundstellennachweis A as well as previous versions of federal laws and ordinances, including the laws and regulations of the former German Democratic Republic still in force.


Access to the consolidated federal statutes including their historical versions, the Bundestag Drucksachen (printed matters) and the Bundesgesetzblatt, both beginning from the 15th parliamentary term, is also provided through the fee-based legislation portal Gesetzesportal launched by juris in association with Bundesanzeiger publishers in 2007.

Beck-online, the fee-based legal database service of C.H. Beck, the No. 1 legal publisher in Germany, features a large federal law collection, based on its ubiquitous looseleaf services, and in addition 3,000 statutes and ordinances from the Nomos federal law database, augmented by a collection of state laws (see below at 8.2). beck-online has started to include older versions of laws, with a selection starting from 2000 now available.

Das Deutsche Bundesrecht by Nomos publishers is another commercial product accessible via the Internet (20 updates per year; annual subscription or chip account; also available as a looseleaf service with monthly updates, and on CD-ROM with four updates per year). It offers complete coverage of current federal laws (including laws of the former East Germany still in force), based on Bundesgesetzblatt I, as well as select ordinances.  It is also offered through beck-online (cf. above), with annotations of a number of laws as an added feature.

LexisNexis Recht, relatively new to Germany as a legal database provider, has established itself in the German legal information market among others by acquiring MBO publishers and obtaining licenses from other German publishers. Its legislation database, based on MBO content, covers about 8,000 federal rules of law, a wide selection of EU laws, and, almost completely, the laws of the 16 federal states.

Further providers of statutes databases include

·       Makrolog - Recht für Deutschland in cooperation with Boorberg and Deubner publishers (some 2,000 consolidated federal statutes; also accessible from the Federal Law Gazette) and

·       Legios, a database maintained by Otto Schmidt publishers (some 600 EU and German federal and state statutes, based on Boorberg publishers’ content).

3.1.6    Free Law Portals

The German Federal Government and juris in a joint project named Gesetze im Internet (Statutes on the Internet) have undertaken to put online major laws which fall within the sphere of competence of the Federal Government Ministries. They are offered as unofficial versions and can be accessed by subject, alphabetically and by ministry (the latter with a free-text search option). Also included is an English translation by a team of translators at Langenscheidt publishers of the First and Second Books of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch).

A cooperation between the Ministry of Justice of North Rhine/Westphalia (NRW) and LexisNexis has resulted in the free Web portal justiz-online featuring a selection of approx. 3,000 laws and regulations, both federal and of all 16 states with a focus on NRW. These materials are updated monthly.

3.2 International and EU Law

For international treaties and agreements concluded by the Federal Republic of Germany to take effect nationally, a federal law needs to be enacted. The legislative process is recorded in the DIP and Parlamentsspiegel databases mentioned above at 2.1.

The official publication for Germany’s international treaties since 1951 is Bundesgesetzblatt Teil II (BGBl. II), which publishes both the international treaty or agreement concluded and the related federal law (available from the Web as a fee-based serviced at this site). Parlamentsspiegel and Das Deutsche Bundesrecht publish a selection.

The materials published in Bundesgesetzblatt II and its predecessor, Reichsgesetzblatt Teil II, are indexed in Fundstellennachweis B (cf. above at 3.1.1). It also provides an index of other signatory states. Other access tools include the Bundesgesetzblatt Gesamtregister (Comprehensive Index to the Federal Law Gazette) as well as a number of commercial looseleaf publications.

The laws of the European Union increasingly influence the national laws of all its member states. This applies to the Federal Republic of Germany as well, which was among the founding members in 1951. National laws in EU countries often implement EU directives, and it is therefore necessary to check for applicable EU law. EU regulations apply directly. Without going into the details of EU law research, the major sources from a German perspective shall be mentioned here.

EU treaties and their amendments, which constitute primary EU law, are published in the Official Journal Series L and in the CELEX (free service no longer updated since 2005) and EUR-Lex databases, as are EU directives and regulations once they have been passed into law. For Germany, EU legislation of crucial import is also published in Bundesgesetzblatt II.


Series C of the Official Journal publishes promulgations and drafts of directives and regulations as well as Commission documents. Both series appear in print and, for the past few years, in CD-ROM format (distributed in Germany by Bundesanzeiger Verlag). Free issues of the Official Journal are available online from EUR-Lex from 1998 to date. The German version of the European Union law databases CELEX/EUR-Lex is offered via juris. Some of the major directives and regulations can be found in Parlamentsspiegel. However, documentation of EU law was discontinued in 2001.


beck-online recently released its EU law module comprising EU laws and decisions underpinned by commentaries and handbooks.

Selections of EU law are also offered through the commercial services Legios and LexisNexis Recht.

German print sources on EU law include the Handbuch des europäischen Rechts (European Law Handbook), a looseleaf service with monthly updates which covers EU treaties with comments, as well as communications, directives, and regulations. Sartorius II: Internationale Verträge und Europarecht includes EU treaties and other EU texts.

EU case law is available in full text from the web site of the European Court of Justice (from 1997), or via EUR-Lex and the fee-based CELEX database. The official print publication for EU cases is the Sammlung der Rechtsprechung des Europäischen Gerichtshofs, which covers the decisions of the European Court of Justice since 1954. A number of commercial services are available as well.

3.3 State Laws and Subordinate Legislation

3.3.1 Print Sources

All German states publish their enacted state laws and ordinances in state law gazettes and gazettes of ordinances (the old states starting from 1947 and the new states of the former East Germany from 1990). The publishing authority may vary from one state to another and can be the state parliament, the ministry of the interior or ministry of justice, or others. In addition, most of the states publish administrative gazettes with administrative rules and ordinances. Consolidated versions are available in looseleaf format or on CD-ROM.

Some states such as Bavaria, which existed before World War II, published law gazettes as early as then. The laws of such states were revised after the war as necessary. In the 1950s most German states published compilations of revised laws to reflect the changes and amendments that had been made after World War II.

Commercial publishers put out consolidated compilations of state laws in looseleaf format. One of the major names to be mentioned here is C.H. Beck.

Official Gazettes of the Laws and Subordinate Legislation of the states in print format:

·       Gesetzblatt für Baden-Württemberg

·       Bayerisches Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt

·       Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt für Berlin

·       Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt Brandenburg

·       Gesetzblatt der Freien Hansestadt Bremen

·       Hamburgisches Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt

·       Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt des Landes Hessen

·       Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt für das Land Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

·       Niedersächsisches Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt

·       Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt für das Land Nordrhein-Westfalen

·       Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt für das Land Rheinland-Pfalz

·       Amtsblatt des Saarlandes

·       Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt

·       Sächsisches Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt

·       Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt für Schleswig-Holstein

·       Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt für das Land Thüringen

Major tools for accessing both federal and state legislation include the following:

·       Schlegelberger, Franz/Friedrich,Walther, Das Recht der Gegenwart, a looseleaf service published by Vahlen publishers, which indexes state and federal laws by keyword (one complete update at the beginning of each year).

·       The weekly Sammelblatt für Rechtsvorschriften des Bundes und der Länder, issued in journal format since 1950 with semi-annual indexes. It publishes the full-text of nearly all federal laws and major state laws and ordinances and references the complete tables of contents of the state law gazettes, of Bundesgesetzblatt I and II, and the Bundesanzeiger.

3.3.2 Online Sources

·       Parlamentsspiegel provides free online access to most state law gazettes through one gateway. Complete records are currently available for North-Rhine Westphalia only.

An overview of the state law gazettes included in Parlamentsspiegel can be found here.

·       Makrolog - Recht für Deutschland offers the facsimile editions of all state law gazettes as a fee-based service.

Most federal states provide online access to their state law gazettes in one way or another, some for free and some fee-based. An excellent overview is available from the joint portal of the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Justice Departments of the states at Justizportal des Bundes und der Länder.

Besides federal laws, current versions of laws and ordinances of some or all states are accessible through juris (14 states), beck-online (all states), and LexisNexis Recht (all states).

3.4 Federal Administrative Rules and Regulations

Universally binding administrative rules and regulations are published in Bundesanzeiger, and in Gemeinsames Ministerialblatt (Joint Gazette of the Government Ministries), a publication of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The latter has published since 1950 the federal administrative rules and regulations of various federal ministries.

In addition, there are publications on certain areas of the law, such as the Bundesarbeitsblatt (Federal Labor Law Gazette) published by the Federal Ministry of Labor or the Bundessteuerblatt (Federal Tax Gazette) of the Federal Ministry of Finance. 

The aforementioned publications are all included in Makrolog - Recht für Deutschland, though not all volumes of the print edition.

juris offers the full text of tax administrative rules and regulations (from 1978), both federal and of the 16 states, and abstracts and citations of administrative rules and regulations for labor law (from 1986) and social welfare law (from 1954), in addition the administrative rules and regulations of Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Schleswig-Holstein (Thuringia is currently under preparation). This will tremendously facilitate legal research in this field, all the more so because they are to be cross-referenced with statutory laws and major court decisions.

As of recently, the German government in association with juris have set up an internet portal for federal administrative rules and regulations (Verwaltungsvorschriften im Internet) giving the general public free access to current administrative rules and regulations issued by various federal government ministries. These are “living documents”, meaning that they are continuously updated by the competent federal authorities.

Finding federal administrative rules and regulations outside of the juris databases can be very tedious. One may have to fall back on statutory compilations and commentaries, which frequently provide footnote references to the relevant administrative rules.

3.5 State Administrative Rules and Regulations

The administrative rules and regulations of the states are published in print form in official gazettes of different types. juris has offered the full text of tax regulations and citations to employment law regulations as a fee-based service for quite some time. However, as with federal rules and regulations, completeness is a issue.


Beck-online has started to give increasing coverage to federal and state administrative rules and regulations, among others by offering its standard title Praxis der Kommunalverwaltung as a fee-based online service.


A number of states have put some of the relevant materials on the Internet. In January 2008 these included:


·       Baden Württemberg: free state law service in cooperation with juris including current administrative rules.

·       Baden-Württemberg: fee-based subscription-only service for administrative rules research.


·       Bavaria: free state law database for non-commercial use in cooperation with juris including some administrative rules and regulations; fee-based service via Juris covering all administrative rules and regulations valid and published as per January 1, 2007 and those that became invalid after that date.


·       Berlin: free administrative rules service of the Berlin Senate justice department

·       Berlin: subscription service for Amtsblatt Berlin, free read-only version of the most recent five issues.


·       Brandenburg: BRAVORS - free state law database including administrative rules and regulations.


·       Lower Saxony: VORIS – free state law service in cooperation with juris including administrative rules and regulations.


·       Lower Saxony: fee-based access to the Ministerial Gazette (Ministerialblatt) of Lower Saxony with administrative rules and regulations.


·       North Rhine/Westphalia - NRW: free access to administrative rules of the state ministry of justice.


·       Rhineland-Palatinate: free service in cooperation with juris including a core full-text service of a large number of major current administrative rules and regulations as currently valid for personal use (print and download); fee-based service via juris covering all administrative rules valid and published as per November 1, 2006 and all those that became invalid after that date.


·       Saarland: free database of administrative rules and regulations with newsletter subscription service.


·       Saxony: REVOSax free state law service including administrative rules and regulations.


·       Schleswig-Holstein: free state law service in cooperation with juris including a list of current administrative rules and regulations; fee-based service via juris covering the full text of all administrative rules and regulations published in the official gazette of the state ministry of the interior since 1950 including directives, circulars, and notifications.

As with federal rules and regulations, the legal researcher will frequently have to fall back on statutory compilations and commentaries to find references to such rules and regulations. Contacting the respective state ministries of justice may also prove helpful.

Select Literature and Databases:

Official Publications and Indexes of Federal Laws and Regulations (Print and CD-ROM):

·       Bundesgesetzblatt I and II. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1949- (annual CD-ROM edition: Part I since 1998, Part II since 1999); online cf below at Databases of Federal Law

·       Fundstellennachweis. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1952-1968 (continued as separate indexes A and B from 1968, cf. below)

·       Fundstellennachweis A. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1968- (print;  since 1998 CD-ROM; online with subscription)

·       Fundstellennachweis B. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1968- (print; online with subscription)

·       Bundessteuerblatt I-II. Bonn: Stollfuss, 1951- (CD-ROM 1992- with online updates); online cf below at Databases of Federal Law

·       Bundesarbeitsblatt. Bonn: Kohlhammer, 1950-

·       Bundesanzeiger. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1949-

·       Gemeinsames Ministerialblatt. Köln: Carl Heymanns, 1950 -

·       Reichsgesetzblatt. Berlin: [Various publishers],1871-1921/Reichsverlagsamt, 1922-1945 (published in Parts I and II since 1922); online cf. juris and Databases of Federal Law below

·       Gesetzblatt der DDR. Deutscher Zentralverlag/Staatsverlag der DDR, 1949-1990; online cf. juris and Databases of Federal Law below

Official Publications of State Laws and Regulations:

·       See official state gazettes above.

Major Publications of Consolidated Federal Laws:

·       All Federal Laws:
Das Deutsche Bundesrecht. Systematische Sammlung der Gesetze und Verordnungen mit Erläuterungen.
Baden-Baden: Nomos (34-volume looseleaf service with monthly updates (also online as a fee-based service at and on CD-ROM).

·       Constitutional and Administrative Laws:
Sartorius, Carl.
Verfassungs- und Verwaltungsgesetze der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. München: C.H. Beck [Sartorius I] (looseleaf service, 3-5 updates per year) (online via beck-online).

·       Civil and Criminal Laws:
Schönfelder, Heinrich. Deutsche Gesetze. München: C.H. Beck (looseleaf service, 3-5 updates per year) (electronic version via beck-online).

·       Tax Laws:
Steuergesetze. München: C.H. Beck (looseleaf service, 3-5 updates per year).
Steuerrichtlinien. C.H. Beck (looseleaf service, 2 updates per year) (both offered in beck-online).

·       Labor Laws:
Nipperdey, Hans C. Arbeitsrecht. München: C.H. Beck (looseleaf service, about 2 updates per year) (electronic version via beck-online).

·       EU Laws:
Khan, Daniel-Erasmus (ed.). Internationale Verträge – Europarecht.
München: C.H. Beck [Sartorius II] (looseleaf service with about 2 updates per year).
Borries, Reimer von (ed.). Europäisches Wirtschaftsrecht. München: C.H. Beck (looseleaf service).
Groeben, Hans von der (ed.). Handbuch des Europäischen Rechts.
Baden-Baden: Nomos (31-volume looseleaf service with monthly updates).

Databases of Federal Laws:

·       Gesetze im Internet (Federal Laws on the Internet): Free service to the public provided by the Federal Ministry of Justice in cooperation with juris; features the current consolidated versions of nearly all federal laws.

·       Makrolog – Recht für Deutschland: Part free, part fee-based online service offering the Federal Law Gazette and other official compilations/law gazettes such as the Federal Tax Gazette, the Reich Law Gazette and the Law Gazette of the former German Democratic Republic (fee-based service with complete coverage of all gazettes; free read-only service of the Federal Law Gazette Part I from 2003 excluding the last four weeks after registration at this site. Makrolog offers a number of options for subscriptions including a direct purchase option by credit card for individual documents.

·       Bundesanzeiger Verlag: free read-only versions of the Federal Law Gazette I and II (Part I from 1998, Part II from 2002) here. The fee-based service by the same provider contains all issues of the Federal Law Gazette, Parts I and II, since the launch of the print versions in 1949 and 1951, respectively.

·       juris: Fee-based legal database service with premium coverage of consolidated federal statutes including historical versions. Launched in 2007: Federal Law Portal (Gesetzesportal).

·       beck-online: Fee-based legal database offering major full-text statutory compilations based on the publisher’s widely-used print sources (approx. 8,000 federal, state and EU laws).

·       LexisNexis Recht: Fee-based legal database service including approx. 8,000 federal rules of law.

·       Legios: Fee-based legal database; features 600 laws including federal ones.

·       Das Deutsche Bundesrecht (also in print and CD-ROM formats): Fee-based service by Nomos publishers.

·       Labor Law Collection via the home page of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs - free service.

·       Transpatent: Industrial property law database operated by attorney Dr. Jochen Krieger with full texts of pertinent laws and supplementary literature; free service.


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4. Court Practice and Court Decisions

The fundamental legal provisions underlying court practice and adjudication in the Federal Republic of Germany can be found in Articles 92 and 93 of the Basic Law. The structure of the court system follows the federal principle with courts at the federal and at state levels.

The Federal Constitutional Court holds a special position and, as an organ of the constitution, is the highest German court and an independent court of the Federal Republic. It rules exclusively on constitutional issues. The Federal Constitutional Court is complemented by constitutional courts in the federal states.

Besides the constitutional courts, there are the following major categories of jurisdiction: There is ordinary jurisdiction which falls into civil and criminal jurisdiction with local, regional and higher regional courts (Amtsgerichte, Landgerichte, Oberlandesgerichte) at the state level, and, at federal leve, the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice - BGH) as the highest court. Furthermore, there is administrative, fiscal, labor and social jurisdiction with courts at regional, higher regional, and federal levels. The regional and higher regional courts are, at the same time, courts of appeal of their respective states. There is a Joint Panel of the Highest Federal Courts which acts as a supreme body of jurisdiction across all court levels and jurisdictions and decides on issues of divergent adjudication by other courts. Its authority is, however, largely restricted and cannot be compared to that of a (Federal) Supreme Court in other countries (as, for example, in the United States). Courts are divided into panels and divisions based on areas of law.

German courts of all levels pass a total of about 4.5 to 5 million decisions per year. Each case is assigned a case number that reflects the type of court, level of appeal, and subdivision. The case number and date are of great importance in citing and finding cases. When a court decision is published, it is preceded by a summary, comparable to headnotes, authored by judges, press departments with the courts, or the editorial board of the publishing journal. As a rule, the names of the parties involved are not mentioned.

Court decisions by the highest courts are most completely recorded in print format in various quasi-official reporters put together by the judges of the respective courts. They are published in the large legal publishing houses, however, with much delay.

Legal journals are usually much faster in publishing court decisions. Some of them have specialized almost entirely in the publication of cases, and publish decisions of regional and higher regional courts as well (e.g., NJW-Rechtsprechungs-Report, NZA-Rechtsprechungs-Report, NVwZ-Rechtsprechungs-Report). Many of them also appear on CD-ROM. Aside from quasi-official compilations, there are various commercial publications of court decisions, at both federal and state levels, most of them in looseleaf format, but also on CD-ROM, and focused on specific fields of law. Two of the major ones are listed below.

Commercial publishers have set up databases of court decisions to be made accessible via the World Wide Web, either based on existing print versions or by cooperating with other providers. This market has undergone fundamental changes since the late 1990s and is still in flux.

juris is the most established and oldest German database also when it comes to court reports. It currently holds over 930,000 decisions, about one third of which in full text. It covers almost completely the decisions of the highest federal courts of the past 20 or so years; older decisions are gradually being included. Juris case records are prepared at the federal courts. Lower courts are requested to report decisions to the federal courts’ documentation departments, which select the decisions to be included in the juris database system. In addition, these departments evaluate 630 journals and compilations of court decisions. Juris also references case citations in essays and articles, and indexes discussions of decisions and judgments. Information regarding the documentation centers and a list of journals complete with scope of coverage evaluated for court decisions can be found here.

The approx, 350,000 – 400,000 cases offered through Beck-online originate either from the journals it provides online or, more recently, from direct cooperation with the courts.

Legios holds some 420,000 court decisions based on the print journals and case reporters it licenses, among them some of the major titles such as BGHZ and BGHSt from Heymanns publishers.

LexisNexis Recht currently offers over 520,000 cases, about 450,000 of which in full text.

The highest courts, as well as a number of courts at the lower level, are now making the full text of more recent decisions accessible for free on their homepages (cf. below).

Finding decisions is sometimes not easy, even with improved access thanks to free Internet pages and extensive online collections such as the ones in juris and other databases. Court decisions passed prior to the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany, which may still be relevant today, can only be  found in juris, which provides access to the decisions published in RGZ and RGSt. Looking for other references the researcher will depend on these being referred to in commentaries or other legal literature. Another problem is that juris does not sufficiently cover a large portion of court decisions from the lower courts, or does not provide the full text of decisions. The only option then is to order such decisions directly from the courts. This requires the case number and date to be known.

Increasingly, courts offer a case ordering service by e-mail via their homepages (e.g., the Federal Court of Justice, the Federal Labor Court, the Federal Tax Court). Publishers sometimes provide the full text of decisions for a small fee. Some courts such as the Federal Court of Justice and the Federal Labor Court have established a subscription service and, for a fee, mail out all their decisions in print or on disk. The names of the parties in a case are usually removed before mailing or posting on the Internet.

Select Literature and Databases:

Case Reporters of the Highest Courts:

·       Federal Constitutional Court: Entscheidungen des Bundesverfassungsgerichts. BVerfGE. Tübingen: Mohr, 1952-

·       Federal Court of Justice: Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofes in Zivilsachen. BGHZ. Köln: Heymanns, 1951-. (online in Legios) (Prior to 1945: Entscheidungen des Reichsgerichts in Zivilsachen. RGZ. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1880-1945.) (online in juris)

·       Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofes in Strafsachen. BGHSt. Köln: Heymanns, 1951- (online in Legios). (Prior to 1945: Entscheidungen des Reichsgerichts in Strafsachen. RGSt. Berlin: Veith & Comp./de Gruyter, 1880-1944.) (online in juris)

·       Federal Administrative Court: Entscheidungen des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts. BVerwGE. Köln: Heymanns, 1958-. (online in Legios)

·       Federal Labor Court: Entscheidungen des Bundesarbeitsgerichts. BAGE. Heidelberg: Recht und Wirtschaft, 1955-

·       Federal Social Welfare Court: Entscheidungen des Bundessozialgerichts. BSGE. Köln: Heymanns, 1956-

·       Federal Tax Court: Sammlung der Entscheidungen des Bundesfinanzhofs. BFHE. Bonn: Stollfuss, 1952- (Prior to 1945: Sammlung der Entscheidungen und Gutachten des Reichsfinanzhofs. Bonn: Stollfuss, 1920-1952.)

Case Reporters of Higher Regional Courts

·       Entscheidungen der Oberlandesgerichte in Zivilsachen. OLGZ. München: Beck, 1965-1995. Continued by Praxis der Freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit (FGPrax). München: Beck, 1995-

·       Entscheidungen der Oberverwaltungsgerichte Münster und Lüneburg. OVGE. Münster: Aschendorff, 1949-

·       Entscheidungen des Oberverwaltungsgerichts Berlin. OVGE Bln. Heymanns, 1954-

·       Entscheidungen des Bayerischen Obersten Landesgerichts in Zivilsachen. BayObLGZ. München: Oldenbourg, Neue Folge (new series) 1950/51-

·       Entscheidungen des Bayerischen Obersten Landesgerichts in Strafsachen. BayObLGSt. München: Oldenbourg, Neue Folge (new series) 1950/51-

·       OLG Report. OLGR. Köln: Otto Schmidt, [different starting dates depending on the court]. A journal issued by region, which publishes decisions of the higher regional court of Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamm, Köln, Berlin, Bayerisches Oberlandesgericht, München/Bamberg/Nürnberg, Bremen/Hamburg/Schleswig, Celle/Braunschweig/Oldenburg, Koblenz/Saarbrücken/Zweibrücken, Karlsruhe/Stuttgart, Brandenburg/Dresden/Jena/Naumburg/Rostock. (Also available on CD-ROM published once a year.) Its free Web site publishes the headnotes of the most recent higher regional court decisions by field of law. (online in Legios)

Major Commercial Case Reporters:

·       Federal Court of Justice (BGH) Cases:

         Lindenmaier, Fritz/Möhring Philipp (founders). Nachschlagewerk des Bundesgerichtshofs. LM. München: C.H. Beck, 1961- [various bound short editions and looseleaf series starting from 1961] – this looseleaf service has been discontinued as of recently. beck-online in 2004 put it online  starting 2003 with an updating service for subscribers including annotations.

·       Federal Labor Court Cases:

         Nipperdey, Hans Carl/Hueck, Alfred (founders). Nachschlagewerk des Bundesarbeitsgerichts. - Arbeitsrechtliche Praxis. AP. München: Beck, 1954- [in various bound short editions and looseleaf series starting from 1954] (from 1971 online in beck-online).

·       Federal Administrative Court Cases:

         Buchholz, Karl (Hrsg.). Sammlung- und Nachschlagewerk der Rechtsprechung des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts. Köln: Carl Heymanns, 1957- [looseleaf service in various series starting from 1957] (also online in Legios).

Case Databases (free or mostly free):

·, a database with more than 23,600 cases of the German Federal Court of Justice (starting from Sept. 1998) and approx. 2,000 cases of the Federal Constitutional Court (starting from Jan. 1998)

·       Justizportal des Bundes und der Länder (Federal And State Justice Portal) offers access to the cases published by the federal and state courts on their homepages (mostly free)

·       Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht),  cases from 1998

·       Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof - BGB), cases from 2000

·       Federal Court of Justice (BGH) cases in civil matters from January 1, 1999 via RWS publishers - free service

·       Federal Tax Court (Bundesfinanzhof), cases from 2001

·       Federal Labor Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht), cases from 2001

·       Federal Social Welfare Court (Bundessozialgericht), cases from 2001

·       Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht), cases from 2002

·       Federal Cartel Office: Anti-trust law cases (pdf format) 1998/99 to date

·       Hamburg cases

·       Hesse (Hessen) cases

·       Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) cases

·       North Rhine Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen – NRW) cases

·       Rhineland Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz) cases

·       Saarland cases

Case Databases: (commercial/fee-based):

·       Juris database with over 930,000 cases (January 2008)

·       Beck-online, online service of the most important German legal publisher, with ca. 350,000-400,000 cases (January 2008)

·       LexisNexis Recht with 520,000 cases, 450,000 of which in full text (January 2008)

·       Legios, online database of Otto Schmidt publishers with 420,000 cases (January 2008)

·       Deutsche Rechtsprechung by Verlag Recht und Praxis publishers offers over 195,000 cases in full text across all levels of jurisdiction. plus 450,000 further cases via a citation database

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5. Legal Literature

German law and its development is documented by a wealth of legal literature. Commentaries, handbooks, textbooks, journals and dictionaries are often the first tools used by the legal researcher to obtain an overview of the field or to find leads to laws and cases. Brief descriptions and lists of some of the major ones will be given below.

5.1 Commentaries (Kommentare)

This typical genre of German legal literature is central to practice-oriented legal research and often the source to which the legal researcher turns first. It provides commentary section by section on a particular law with extensive footnoting and references to cases and court decisions, articles, monographs and other legal literature. The text of the law is usually included as well. By explaining and interpreting the text of statutes and linking to relevant cases and court decisions, commentaries link together two major sources of law. There are commentaries for both federal and state laws, however, by far not for all of them. In such cases one needs to examine if and to what extent such laws are considered in other commentaries. Ideally, commentaries, aside from pointing to cases, including those not otherwise published in databases or case reporters, also make reference to subordinate legislation, administrative rules and regulations and legislative materials as well as applicable EU legislation pertaining to the law they are annotating. They are often known by the names of their authors, rather than by their actual titles, for example Palandt as the major short commentary on the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) or Baumbach/Hueck, the commentary on the German Commercial Code (Handelsgesetzbuch).

Commentaries appear in two major formats: Kurzkommentare (hand commentaries) and Grosskommentare (large commentaries). Published as single-volume sets, hand commentaries are strongly geared to practice needs and are re-edited more frequently. They are much more current than the multi-volume large commentaries which may take up to a decade to be published in their entirety. Some of the major hand commentaries are re-edited regularly, such as Palandt which appears each year in December (with major amendments recently being downloadable from the homepage of the publisher, C.H. Beck). Unfortunately, commentaries are not re-edited with the same regularity in all fields of law. Even hand commentaries may take years to be updated. This is because frequent changes in the law make it very difficult to keep commentaries up to date. Some publishers take account of this situation by publishing an increasing number of commentaries in looseleaf format.

In recent years commercial providers have made a growing number of commentaries available online. All the major legal databases offer at least some online commentaries. These are updated more frequently, thus alleviating the situation in the print market described above.

Special mention in this context should be made of C.H. Beck publishers. Already the market leader as far as print products are concerned, Beck-online with currently about 180 online commentaries is top of the list here too.

The other legal database providers make available online commentaries as well:

·       LexisNexis Recht: more than 100 written in-house and 26 under license

·       Juris: 10 of their own and 27 under license

·       Legios in cooperation with major legal publishers such as Carl Heymanns and Otto Schmidt: 66 online books, 10 of which commentaries.


Selection of Major Commentaries:


Basic Law

·       Maunz, Theodor / Dürig, Günter: Grundgesetz. Kommentar. München: C.H. Beck (five-volume looseleaf service).


Civil Code

·       Münchener Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch. 5th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2006- (published since the late 1970s; each edition completed after 3-4 years; appears now in 11 volumes with an additional looseleaf volume for current developments). (also available online in beck-online).

·       Palandt, Otto. Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch. 67th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2008 (new edition published yearly in December).

·       Staudinger, J. von. Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch mit Einführungsgesetz und Nebengesetzen. 13th revised edition. Berlin: Sellier / de Gruyter, 1993- (the most comprehensive commentary on the Civil Code; high scholarly value; appears in individual bound volumes;  revised edition has simultaneously been published since 1998). (also available online in juris, beck-online and Wolters Kluwer publishers).


Code of Civil Procedure

·       Baumbach, Adolf/Lauterbach, Wolfgang. Zivilprozessordnung. 66th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2008 (new edition published every year).

·       Lüke, G./Walchshöfer, A. Münchener Kommentar zur Zivilprozessordnung. 2nd edition. München: Beck, 2000-2001 (3 volumes plus 2002 supplement) – currently out of print.

·       Stein, Friedrich/Jonas Martin (founders).. Kommentar zur Zivilprozeßordnung. 22nd edition. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002ff.

·       Zöller, Richard. Zivilprozessordnung. 26th edition. Köln: Otto Schmidt, 2007 (new edition published every two years).


Code of Criminal Procedure

·       Meyer-Goßner, Lutz/Kleinknecht, Theodor: Strafprozeßordnung mit GVG und Nebengesetzen. 55th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2007.

·       Löwe-Rosenberg (founder). Die Strafprozeßordnung und das Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz. Großkommentar. 25th rev. edition. Berlin: de Gruyter,1997-2005 (also available online in LexisNexis Recht; 26th edition – ten volumes planned until 2010).

·       Pfeiffer, Gerd (ed.). Karlsruher Kommentar zur Strafprozeßordnung und zum Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz mit Nebengesetzen. 5th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2005 (also available online in beck-online).


Commercial Code

·       Baumbach, Adolf/Hueck, Alfred. Handelsgesetzbuch. 33rd edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2008 (appears every two to three years; also available online in beck-online).

·       Heymann, Ernst (founder). Handelsgesetzbuch. Kommentar. 2nd edition. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1995-2005 (4 volumes).

·       Münchener Kommentar zum Handelsgesetzbuch. 2nd edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2005-2008 (scheduled) (seven volumes plus supplementary volume to vol. 1).

·       Staub, Hermann (founder). Handelsgesetzbuch. Grosskommentar. 4th edition. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1982- (appears in releases which are subsequently bound; 5th edition in 15 volumes scheduled to start in 2008).


Competition Law

·       Hefermehl, Wolfgang/Köhler, Helmut. Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb.. 25th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2007 (also available online in beck-online; 26th ed. due to be published in 2008).


Criminal Code

·       Fischer/Dreher/Tröndle, Herbert. Strafgesetzbuch. 54th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2007 (new edition every 2-3 years).

·       Strafgesetzbuch. Leipziger Kommentar. Großkommentar. 11th ed.Berlin: de Gruyter, 1992- (published in releases, subsequently bound). (also available online in LexisNexis Recht)


EU Law

·       Groeben, Hans von der (ed.). Kommentar zum Vertrag über die EU und zur Gründung der EG.. 6th edition. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2003 ff- (four volumes).


Family Law

·       Weinrich,Gerd / Klein, Michael. Kompaktkommentar Familienrecht. 3rd edition. Neuwied: Luchterhand, 2008.


Labor Law

·       Dieterich, Thomas. Erfurter Kommentar zum Arbeitsrecht. 8th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2008 (new edition every year; also available online in beck-online).


Law of Succession

·       Damrau, Jürgen. Erbrecht. Handkommentar. 1st edition. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2004 (2nd edition scheduled to be released in 2008).


Rental Law

·       Schmidt-Futterer, Wolfgang. Mietrecht. 9th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2007 (also available online in beck-online).


Social Code

·       Hauck, Karl. Sozialgesetzbuch. Berlin: E. Schmidt (ca. 30-volume looseleaf on all parts of the Social Code).


Tax Law

·       Schmidt, Ludwig. Einkommensteuergesetz. 26th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2007 (new edition published annually in spring).

·       Tipke, Klaus. Abgabenordnung. Köln: Otto Schmidt (three-volume looseleaf).


5.2 Handbooks



·       Brambring, Günter/Jerschke, Hans. (eds). Beck’sches Notar-Handbuch. 4th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2006 (also available in beck-online.

·       Büchting, Hans/Heussen, Benno (eds.). Beck’sches Rechtsanwalts-Handbuch . 9th edition. München: C.H: Beck, 2007 (also available online in beck-online).


Administrative Law

·       Achterberg, Norbert. Allgemeines Verwaltungsrecht. Ein Lehrbuch. 2nd edition. Heidelberg: C.F. Müller, 1986.

·       Achterberg, Norbert/Püttner, Günter (eds.). Besonderes Verwaltungsrecht. Ein Lehrbuch. 2nd edition. Heidelberg: C.F. Müller, 2000 (in two volumes).

·       Wolff, Hans/Bachof, Otto. Verwaltungsrecht. Ein Studienbuch. 12th edition (vol. 1). München: C.H. Beck, 2008. (vol. 2 under preparation for the mid-2008).


Business and Commercial Law

·       Münchener Handbuch des Gesellschaftsrechts. 3rd edition. München: C. H. Beck, 2007 – (in 5 volumes).

·       Schmidt, Karsten. Gesellschaftsrecht. 4th edition. Köln: Carl Heymanns Verlag, 2002.

·       Schmidt, Karsten. Handelsrecht. 5th edition. Köln: Carl Heymanns Verlag, 1999.


Competition Law

·       Gloy, Wolfgang/Loschelder, Michael (eds.). Handbuch des Wettbewerbsrechts. 3rd edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2005.

·       Walter, Reinhard/Grüber, Bernd (eds.). Anwalts-Handbuch Wettbewerbspraxis. Köln: O. Schmidt, 1998.


Criminal Law

·       Bockemühl, Jan (ed.). Handbuch des Fachanwalts Strafrecht. 3rd edition. Neuwied: Luchterhand, 2005.

·       Dahs, Hans. Handbuch des Strafverteidigers. 7th edition. Köln : O. Schmidt, 2005.


Family Law

·       Schnitzler, Klaus. Münchener Anwaltshandbuch Familienrecht. München: C.H. Beck, 2002 (2nd edition scheduled for 2008).

·       Gernhuber, Joachim/ Cester-Waltjen, Dagmar. Familienrecht. 5th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2006.

·       Gerhard, Peter /v. Heintschel-Heinegg, Bernd / Klein, Michael. Handbuch des Fachanwalts Familienrecht: FA-FamR. 6th edition. Neuwied: Luchterhand, 2008.


Labor Law

·       Leinemann, Wolfgang. Handbuch zum Arbeitsrecht. Neuwied: Luchterhand, ( looseleaf service in eight volumes).

·       Richardi, Reinhard/Wlotzke, Otfried. Münchener Handbuch Arbeitsrecht. 2nd edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2000 (in three volumes plus supplement 1st ed. 2001) (also available online via beck-online).

·       Schaub, Günter: Arbeitsrechts-Handbuch. 12th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2007.

·       Tschöpe, Ulrich (ed.). Anwalts-Handbuch Arbeitsrecht. 4th edition. Köln: O. Schmidt, 2005-.


Law of Succession

·       Brox, Hans / Walker, Wolf-Dietrich. Erbrecht. 22nd edition. Köln: Carl Heymanns, 2007.

·       Scherer, Stephan (ed.). Münchener Anwaltshandbuch Erbrecht. 2nd edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2006.


Rental Law

·       Lützenkirchen, Klaus (ed.). Anwalts-Handbuch Mietrecht. 3rd edition.Köln: O. Schmidt, 2007.


5.3 Form Books and Standard Contracts

Standard documents, forms, and standard contracts are published in the German legal book market as single-volume editions on a particular subject of law and as multi-volume sets covering a wider range of subjects with detailed tables of contents and indexes providing adequate overview. Some of these books not only offer standard documents and forms but also annotations and short commentary as an additional aid for the user. Aside from one- and multi-volume bound sets, there are entire serials, with each of the volumes dealing with one particular subject. Another form in which this type of legal literature is published is a combined monograph of the subject and pertinent forms complete with explanations. Handbooks and textbooks, too, sometimes provide standard documents and forms on the subject they are treating. This type of legal literature, largely the works which until now were on the market as print versions, is meanwhile available in the major legal databases as well. A number of Web sites offer contract forms, some free and some for a fee. These include and

Selection of Major Sources:

Form Books Covering Several Areas of Law

·       Heidel/Pauly (ed.) AnwaltFormulare.  5th edition. Bonn: Deutscher Anwaltverlag, 2005 (legal practice forms).

·       Hoffmann-Becking, M./Schippel, H. (eds). Beck’sches Formularbuch zum Bürgerlichen, Handels- und Wirtschaftsrecht. 9th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2006. (new edition every 3-4 years; covers civil, commercial and business law); (also available online in beck-online).

·       Hopt, Klaus J. (ed.) Vertrags- und Formularbuch zum Handels-, Gesellschafts- und Bankrecht. 3rd edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2007. (covers commercial, corporate and transportation law).

·       Münchener Vertragshandbuch. 6th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2005- (in 6 volumes; new edition started every four years and completed within two years; extensive coverage of corporate law, commercial and business law incl. international business law, civil law).

·       Locher, H./Mes, P. (eds). Beck’sches Prozessformularbuch. 10th edition. München: Beck, 2006. (new edition every 3-4 years; compilation of forms on procedural issues in different subject areas; also available online in beck-online).

·       Wurm/Wagner/Zartmann. Das Rechtsformularbuch. Praktische Erläuterungen und Muster für das Bürgerliche Recht, Arbeits-, Handels-, Wirtschafts- und Gesellschaftsrecht mit steuer- und kostenrechtlichen Hinweisen. 15th edition. Köln: O. Schmidt, 2006-. (practice forms and standard documents covering civil, labor, commercial, business and corporate law).

·       Beck’sche Musterverträge. München: C.H. Beck (various years of publication; some 50 different contracts currently available including annotations).

·       Heidelberger Musterverträge. Heidelberg: Recht und Wirtschaft (various years of publication; some 80 different standard contracts available covering a wide range of subjects).

·       RWS-Vertragsmuster. Köln: RWS-Verlag (some 15 titles with introduction and explanations, various years of publication; standard contracts).

Special-Subject Form Books and Standard Contract Compilations

·       Industrial property law/copyright law: Beck’sche Formularsammlung zum gewerblichen Rechtsschutz mit Urheberrecht. 3rd edition. München: Beck, 2005 – 4th edition under preparation for 2008.

·       Coypright law: Pagenberg, Jochen. Lizenzverträge. License Agreements. Kommentierte Vertragsmuster nach deutschem und europäischem Recht. 5th edition. Köln: Heymanns, 2003. (standard contracts with comments and annotations).

·       Family law: Bergschneider, Ludwig (ed.). Beck’sches Formularbuch Familienrecht. München: C.H. Beck, 2004 (2nd edition scheduled for 2008).

·       Labor law: Schaub, Günter. Arbeitsrechtliche Formularsammlung und Arbeitsgerichtsverfahren. 8th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2004. Labor law forms compilation; also available online in beck-online). (Print edition currently not available.)

·       Law of succession: Brambring, Günter / Mutter, Christoph. Beck’sches Formularbuch Erbrecht. München: C.H. Beck, 2007.

·       Tax law: Formularbuch Recht und Steuern.  Gesellschaftsverträge, Sonstige Verträge, Besteuerungsverfahren, Rechtsmittelverfahren, Steuerstrafverfahren. 5th edition. München: Beck, 2004. (tax law contracts and forms including articles of association, taxation procedures, legal redress, tax criminal law; also available online in beck-online).

5.4 Legal Journals, Essays and Article Literature

There are over 600 legal journals in Germany published by a range of commercial vendors and covering every field of law. Unlike, for example, in the US, they are not written by law schools. They usually consist of three parts: scholarly treatises, cases, statutory laws and regulations, and documentation. In addition, they publish essays, discussions of cases, book reviews and information on developments of the law. As mentioned in paragraph 4. above, some journals specialize in publishing court decisions. They also give more extensive coverage than other journals of decisions of lower courts.

A special form of publication for essays is what is known as Festschriften. These are compilations of scholarly essays, usually on a certain topic, devoted to the anniversaries of important personalities or institutions. They are generally published in single-volume sets.

Access Tools:

Essays and articles can be accessed electronically through juris, which indexes over 600 legal journals as well as the contents of Festschriften and yearbooks. For copyright reasons, juris does not provide the full text of these articles and essays, but only abstracts and citations. However, juris has entered into contractual relations with a number of publishers and, through its own databases, now does offer 31 journals in full text.

Journals can also be accessed through a number of other databases. These include beck-online, Legios, and LexisNexis Recht.

beck-online has expanded its contents rapidly over the past few years and now holds some 75 journals in full text. Most of them are C.H. Beck publications with some journals such as Betriebs-Berater licensed from other publishers as well.

LexisNexis Recht offers the full text of 15 journals and, additionally, abstracts of about 170 journals. Legios holds 55 journals in full text plus 16 case collections.

The Karlsruher Juristische Bibliographie is another major access tool which indexes German legal literature since 1965. It is published monthly and includes books and essays, including those from Festschriften and anthologies, as well as doctoral theses on legal topics. It is arranged by subject and, under each subject, by author, and has annual indexes.

NJW Leitsatzkartei auf CD-ROM, published by C.H. Beck on CD-ROM, is a journal index with four annual updates, including headnotes of court reports and article abstracts of an estimated over 600,000 documents from 170 legal journals since 1981 (with 20,000 documents added every year) searchable by section, court, date, case number, author, and keywords. This journal index is also part of beck-online.

Fundhefte, published by C.H. Beck, are specialized bibliographies for certain fields of law (such as public law and civil law, indexing the literature and important cases in that field (published with one year’s delay). They appear annually and index their content after quite some delay. They are mentioned here for the sake of completeness as their importance has diminished greatly over the past few years.

Kuselit-R, published by Kuselit Verlag, is a bibliography of legal literature with more than 2 million index records from over 750 journals, yearbooks, monographies, Festschriften, and looseleaf services, available as an online service in combination with an annual CD-ROM. The database is updated twice a week. Festschriften from 1862 up until 1996 can be accessed through a ten-volume set Bibliography of Legal Festschriften Titles and Contents. Bibliographie juristischer Festschriften und Festschriftenbeiträge. (also on CD-ROM) edited by Helmut Dau and published by Verlag Müller, Karlsruhe/Verlag Runge, Bielefeld/Verlag Arno Spitz, Berlin/BWV Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag between 1962 and 1999. Kuselit offers a free journal contents service delivered twice a week.

As full text is a frequent problem with databases, obtaining articles and also doctoral theses, extracts from books and other materials is facilitated by document delivery services. Prominent here is Subito, the document delivery service of the German library unions, which covers a large number of state and university libraries and, for a fee, provides copies from journals and magazines, books, doctoral theses, etc. by fax, mail or e-mail.

Select Literature and Databases:

Major Legal Journals:

General and Civil Law

·       Juristen-Zeitung (JZ). Tübingen: Mohr, 1945- (1951-2002 online; 1998- as online summaries; articles from 2006 online).

·       Monatsschrift für deutsches Recht. Köln: Otto Schmidt, 1947-  (available online from 1981 in Legios).

·       Neue Juristische Wochenschrift (NJW). München: C.H. Beck, 1947-(cases from 1947 and editorial part from 1981 available in beck-online).

·       Neue Juristische Wochenschrift. Rechtsprechungs-Report Zivilrecht (NJW-RR). München: C.H. Beck, 1986- (available in beck-online from 1986).


Administrative Law

·       Deutsches Verwaltungsblatt (DVBl). Köln: Heymanns, 1948- (available online in LexisNexis Recht from 1995).

·       Neue Zeitschrift für Verwaltungsrecht (NVwZ). München: C.H. Beck, 1982- (available in beck-online from 1982).

·       Neue Zeitschrift für Verwaltungsrecht. Rechtsprechungsreport Verwaltungsrecht. München: C.H. Beck, 1988- (available in beck-online from 1988).


Business and Commercial Law

·       Betriebs-Berater (BB). Heidelberg: Recht und Wirtschaft, 1946- (available online from 1991 in various databases, including beck-online and juris).

·       Der Betrieb (DB). Düsseldorf: Handelsblatt, 1948- (available online for a fee from 1989 in Legios and directly from the publisher).

·       Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsrecht (ZIP). Köln: RWS, 1980-.


Competition Law

·       Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht (GRUR). Weinheim: Wiley-VCH, C.H. Beck (from 2001), 1896-1944/1948- (available online from 1948 in various databases, including beck-online and juris).

·       GRUR-Rechtsprechungs-Report Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht (GRUR-RR). Weinheim: Wiley-VCH, C.H. Beck (from 2001), 2001- (complete online coverage in beck-online and in juris).

·       Wettbewerb in Recht und Praxis (wrp). Frankfurt/Main: Deutscher Fachverlag, 1955- (online from 1985 in juris and Genios-GBI).


European Law

·       Europäische Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsrecht (EuZW). München: Beck, 1990- (available in beck-online from 1998).


Labor Law

·       Neue Zeitschrift für Arbeitsrecht (NZA). München: C.H. Beck, 1984- (available in beck-online from 1984).

·       Neue Zeitschrift für Arbeitsrecht. Rechtsprechungs-Report Arbeitsrecht (NZA-RR). München: C. H. Beck, 1996- (available in beck-online from 1996).


Tax Law

·       BFH-NV. Sammlung amtlich nicht veröffentlichter Entscheidungen des Bundesfinanzhofs. Freiburg: Haufe, 1985/86- (available online in Legios from 1985).

·       Bundessteuerblatt (BStBl). Bonn: Stollfuß, 1951- (available online from 1992 for registered subscribers of the CD-ROM and offering free guest access to a restricted number of issues). Also Makrolog - Recht für Deutschland offers online access to the full texts of BStBl I and II complete from 1951, as well as of BStBl III with tax rulings from 1951 to 1967.

·       Deutsches Steuerrecht (DStR). München: C.H. Beck, 1962- (available in beck-online from 1991).

·       DStR-Entscheidungsdienst (DStRE). München: C.H. Beck, 1997. (available completely in beck-online).

·       Höchstrichterliche Finanzrechtsprechung (HFR). Bonn: Stollfuß, 1961- (available in Stotax) from 1995).

·       Entscheidungen der Finanzgerichte (EFG). Bonn: Stollfuß, 1956- (available in Stotax from 1995.

Journal Databases

·       beck-online with the full text of ca. 75 journals.

·       Legios with currently some 70 journals in full text.

·       LexisNexis Recht with currently 15 journals in full text (indexing and providing abstracts of 170).

·       juris with currently 33 journals in full text (indexing and providing abstracts of 630).

·       GENIOS German Business Information - merger of the two major German providers (GBI and Genios) of news and business information with over 800 sources from 250 publishers and other content partners with ca. 4 legal and tax journals and six legal e-books.

5.5 Major Law Dictionaries

·       Ergänzbares Lexikon des Rechts (LdR). Neuwied: Luchterhand (eight-volume looseleaf service with 5-6 supplements per year).

·       Creifelds, C. Rechtswörterbuch. 19th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2007. (published every two years; definitions of legal terms with references to the law.)

·       Rechtswörterbuch des WDR, an online law dictionary via WDR public television station with more than 3,000 entries.

·       Tilch, H. (ed.). Deutsches Rechtslexikon. 3rd edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2001-2002. (in 3 Bänden)

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6. Citations to German Legal Sources

Forms of citation may vary from one publication or author to another. The following are the major hard-and-fast rules for citations to laws, cases, monographs, commentaries, and journal articles.

German statutes, journals, case reporters, law gazettes, and also courts are cited by their abbreviations. Abbreviations for statutes are determined by the legislator, those for journals often by the publisher. Access to abbreviation indexes are therefore important for the legal researcher.

Common forms of citation and abbreviation are summarized in Kirchner/Butz:. Abkürzungsverzeichnis der Rechtssprache. 5th edition. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2003.

The Federal Court of Justice offers a site (free of charge) that can be helpful as a first port of call.  It primarily contains abbreviations not yet contained in the print title above. Alternatively, one can use commentaries and major handbooks, which usually feature extensive abbreviation indexes on their particular subject. It cannot, however, be taken for granted at all that abbreviations are used uniformly. There may be completely divergent ones depending on the source one uses.

juris, by and large, sticks to the official abbreviations, but sometimes, for IT or administrative reasons, uses divergent ones.

Statutes are divided into sections and subsections, and the latter into sentences. Sections are usually referred to by the section sign (§) and subsections by Abs. (for the German word Absatz) and Arab numerals. The citation to section 5 subsection 3, first sentence of the German Limited Liability Company Act would look as follows: § 1 Abs. 1 Satz 1 GmbHG. Citations to Bundesgesetzblatt and Bundessteuerblatt as official sources of legislation include the source abbreviation, part number, year and page as follows: BGBl I 1999, 205 or BStBl II 2000, 103

Citations to commentaries may not be entirely uniform, but usually include the founder (who is treated like an author), the author of the particular passage cited (or the title of the commentary and the author of a particular passage) and the section and annotation number (in rare cases, page numbers are mentioned as well). Sometimes, if the reference to the section commented on is obvious, the section itself is not mentioned. Some commentaries give recommendations as to the form of citation to use, usually by an example, on the back of the title page.

Cases are usually referred to by citation to the publication with volume and page number (BVerfGE 40, 46) or the court, publication and page number (LG Augsburg, NJW 2000, 2363) or the court, date of decision, case number, and source reference (OLG Frankfurt a.M., Urt. v. 7.12.1999 - Z Ss 259/99 -, NJW 2001, 908). Indication of the court, case number, date of court decision and source reference would be desirable, but is not at all common.

Monographs are referred to by the name and first name (or at least initial) of the author, title, edition (if applicable), place and year of publication. In German usage, the name of the publisher is not part of the citation (e.g., Tipke, Klaus, Steuerrecht: Ein systematischer Grundriß, 12. völlig überarb. Aufl., Köln, 1989).

Journal articles are cited by author and title plus reference to the journal (usually the abbreviation), year of publication and page number (e.g., Hufen, F., In dubio pro dignitate. In: NJW 2001, 849 or sometimes in article footnotes just by author, e.g., Steffen, NJW 1996, 1581). With longer articles, reference is often made to the page relevant to a particular subject.

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7. Translations of German Legal Resources into English

A bibliography of translations of German statutes has been published by the Press and Information Office of the German Federal Government. Volume 1 deals with translations into English (Presse-und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung. Auslandsabteilung. Übersetzungen deutscher Gesetzestexte. Eine Bibliographie. Translations of German Laws. A Bibliography. Vol. 1 English. Bonn: April 1997.)

Pointers to English translations of German laws, cases and other legal resources in English can be found on the following Web sites:

·       German Business and Commercial Laws: Guide to Translations into English and Select Auxiliary Sources

·       German Law Archive

·       Compilation of German Legal Resources via NYU Law Library

·       English Resources made available as part of the Law-related Internet Project of Saarbrücken University (no longer updated)

The Federal Ministry of Justice and juris in their free Statutes on the Internet portal offer the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch – BGB, cf above at 1.) in English translation. Available so far are Books 1 and 2; Books 3-5 are stated to follow by February 2008.

Often, translations of laws are also provided on the homepages of government ministries and agencies (for a list click here).

Mention should be made here of the German Law Accessible serial by C.H. Beck publishers with introductions to various fields of German law in English. They also include English translations of German laws:

·       Adolff, J. Public Company Takeovers in Germany. 2002

·       Corino, C. Energy Law in Germany. 2003

·       Gottwald, P. Family and Succession Law in Germany. 2001

·       Horn, N. Public Procurement in Germany. 2001

·       Klett, A. Intellectual Property Law in Germany. 2008 (planned to be published in April 2008)

·       Krause, H. German Securities Regulation. 2001

·       Lingemann, S. Employment and Labour Law in Germany. 2nd ed. 2008

·       Müller, Klaus J. The GmbH. A Guide to the German Limited Liability Company. 2006

·       Reimann, M. Introduction to German Law. 2nd ed. 2006

·       Rützel, S. Commercial Dispute Resolution in Germany. 2005

·       Wirth, G. Corporate Law in Germany. 2004 (currently out of print)


8. Overview of Fee-based Legal Databases

The major legal databases available in Germany are described in some more detail below. All of them are fee-based. Their price models vary widely, including different types of flat-rate and pay-per document models. Their contents partly overlap. All of them seek collaboration with publishers and other content providers to expand their data and product range.

8.1 juris - Legal Information System of the Federal Republic of Germany (DVD and online):

·       The “oldest” legal database in Germany, juris was established in the 1970s by the Federal Ministry of Justice, and privatized in the 1980s. The majority share is still held by the German federal government, the other shares were bought a few years ago by Netherlands-based publisher sdu.

·       Evaluates over 600 legal journals to record cases and case citations and to index articles with abstracts and bibliographic references.

·       Cooperation with publishers such as Stollfuß-Verlag, DAV and Hüthig/Jehle/Rehm, as well as government authorities such as the Federal Ministry of Justice to set up specialized portals on public and tax law as well as free internet portals. Statutes on the Internet Portal or various databases of federal and state administrative rules and regulations.

·       Increasing focus on the development of specialized modules and portals, in part complemented by sources of external vendors, to cover different fields of law and attorney needs.

·       Role as record keeper of laws and cases continues to be essential and unchallenged.



·       Largest, yet not complete German case collection (approx. 930,000 records, of which 30 percent in full text), as well as EU cases based on the EU databases. Cases of German courts are increasingly delivered by the courts directly.

·       All federal laws including their current and all historical consolidated versions since the launch of the database in the 1970s:

·       The Law Portal (Gesetzesportal) maintained by juris as a separate fee-based service in cooperation with Bundesanzeiger Verlag publishers covers the current and historical versions of all federal laws, the full text the Federal Law Gazette, Parts I and II as well as the printed matters of the Bundestag and Bundesrat starting from the 15th parliamentary term. It also records the documents of the legislative processes.

·       Complete coverage of the state laws of all federal states except for Bremen and Berlin, with previous versions from the time juris started to make these available (one to four years back).

·       EU laws based on the EU’s own databases, including national laws implementing EU directives.

·       Double taxation agreements, officially binding collective bargaining agreements, contracting regulations, tax administrative rules and regulations of the federation and of the states of Bavaria, Schleswig-Holstein and Rhineland Palatinate. Growing number of books and journals in full text (as per the date of this publication 50 and 31, respectively) through cooperation with other publishers as well as in-house publication (currently 12), both electronic and in print.

·       Praxis-Report, a current awareness service for a variety of fields of law with select annotated cases and links to their full text.

·       Beside legal content juris provides access to business information as well, i.e. Creditreform company profiles including proof of good standing, and Bundesanzeiger data including court and other public notices, annual reports and central commercial register extracts.

8.2 beck-online:

The second major legal database beside juris, it was launched in 2001 and is primarily based on the publications of, and operated by, C.H. Beck publishers as the market leader of legal print literature in Germany.


Beck-online’s hallmark is the high percentage of full text from all forms of legal publications making it an electronic library in the true sense of the word. The database consists of a large number of modules, each pulling together the legal sources for one particular field of law.


·       Beck publishers’ legal standard works and, increasingly, legal publications from other publishers.

·       350,000-400,000 cases from numerous full-text journals or, to a growing extent, delivered directly by the courts.

·       Some 8,000 rules of law covering the federation, all 16 states and the EU, largely based on the popular „red collections“ and the Nomos federal law collection, the latter with short annotations.

·       Over 180 commentaries and about 60 other legal books

·       More than 70 full-text legal journals, most of them by Beck but also other publishers.

·       LSK, a headnotes index with hundreds of thousands of case headnotes and article abstracts from over 170 journals going back as far as 1947.

·       beck-fachdienste, a biweekly current awareness service covering in an annotated form  major developments in 14 fields of law (legislation, cases, literature, administration); authored by practitioners for practitioners in these fields, in particular tax advisors, CPAs, attorneys, judges and corporate counsel.

·       2,250 standard forms and sample contracts and 650 extensively annotated forms, checklists, and sample contracts.

·       In cooperation with Creditreform, Bundesanzeiger and database host Genios, business information covering commercial register data, company profiles, trademark and M&A data.

8.3 LexisNexis Recht:

The German legal division of the international database host, LexisNexis Recht is considered to be the third major legal database provider in Germany.



·       Approx. 530,000 cases, of which 450,000 in full text.

·       8,000 federal statutes and rules of law plus EU laws and administrative rules and regulations, and the statutes of all federal states. According to Lexis, all current laws and their previous versions are now included.

·       Double taxation agreements, technical rules, generally binding collective bargaining agreements, tax tables.

·       Abstracts of over 180 legal journals from all fields of law indexed since 2003, and 16 licensed journals in full text.

·       26 licensed and over 100 in-house commentaries.

·       Auxiliary materials such as standard form texts, checklists, calculation aids.

·       Beyond the legal database, LexisNexis hosts business and news information.

8.4 Legios:

Legios was first established in 2001 by Otto Schmidt, Carl Heymanns and Handelsblatt publishers. Since November 2006 Otto Schmidt publishers have been the sole owners. The products of former co-owners and other content partners have remained part of the database portfolio of contents. Otto Schmidt and Heymanns are considered to be major competitors of C.H. Beck. The availability of important journals and commentaries online makes Legios a key contendor in the market.



·       Some 420,000 cases, reported in the journals and more than ten case reporters contained in the database, including such flagship publications as BGHZ, BGHSt and others.

·       600 federal, state and EU laws.

·       68 journals and case reporters in full text.

·       66 commentaries and other specialized legal publications.

·       Business and press information via Genios content partner.

·       Free online content service for 31 journals.



9. Legal Online News and Current Awareness Services

Awareness and news services gain growing importance in keeping abreast of current legal developments. The federal government, the courts and other authorities and institutions, as well as legal database providers and publishers offer a variety of free newsletters and news tickers, and, with the advent of Web 2.0, RSS news feeds, podcasts and blogs.

9.1 RSS Feeds

RSS feeds require a reader which can usually be downloaded from the respective websites.

·       RSS news feed of the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice):

·       RSS feed of decisions of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court):

·       RSS feed of press releases of the Bundesverfassungsgericht:

·       RSS feed of decisions of the Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court):

·       RSS news feed of the Federal Ministry of Justice:

·       jurion RSS news feed:

·       RSS news feeds by Otto Schmidt publishers on the following fields of law:

·       labor law

·       business law

·       civil law

·       tax law

·       corporate law


9.2 Electronic Newsletters, News Tickers, Blogs and Podcasts


·       Newsletter of the Federal Ministry of Justice: free updates on current court decisions, publications of the ministry.

·       Newsletter of the Federal Ministry of Finance: free ad-hoc newsletter on select topics such as tenders, press releases, European political developments, tax and customs.

·       juris newsletter --> subscription page: free service, daily Monday through Friday; covers court decisions and legislative developments.

·       juris PraxisReport, a fee-based current awareness service for several fields of law is delivered weekly or biweekly featuring current cases with annotations from renowned legal experts (database subscription).

·       beck-aktuell NewsLetter: daily Monday through Friday; current overview of legislative developments and cases (fee-based; free with beck-online subscription).

·       beck-fachdienste: a fee-based subscription newsletter for 14 individual fields of law (cf. 8.1 above).

·       Beck news ticker, a pull service providing current legal news and business information relevant to the legal practitioner.

·       Beckblog: blogs by legal experts for legal experts on media law, criminal law and corporate compliance; launched in January 2008 (further fields of law under planning).

·       Der Betrieb newsletter with current information, trends and news two days prior to the publishing of the next issue of the print journal.

·       Otto Schmidt Verlag newsletter with current cases and legislative developments covering employment law, tax law, business and civil law.

·       jurion expert briefing: fee-based legal awareness service by Wolters Kluwer publishers.

·       jurion CAS (Current Awareness Service): fee-based weekly newsletter compiling current information on legislative developments, cases, journal articles and news in the fields of employment, corporate and intellectual property law, annotated by experts in these areas (Wolters Kluwer publishers).

·       LexisNexis newsletter: free service on a variety of fields of law with the option to customize the frequency of delivery from daily to bi-weekly.

·       LexisNexis podcast: free monthly podcast (MP3) covering legal news, commented cases of the higher courts, overview of legal press/journals, Combined with RSS feed. Content overview of published podcasts: click here.

·       Newsletters by Bundesanzeiger publishers: free four-weekly service covering various fields of law, including newsletters on current legislative projects and new federal laws in Germany and in the European Union.

·       Juve Newsline: free weekly newsletter  reporting the latest news from the German legal market.

·       Marktplatz Recht news ticker.

·       Forum Deutsches Recht news ticker.


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10. Useful Links

10.1 Government

·       The German Government

·       German federal government ministries and agencies, and links to the state governments

·       Justizportal (Justice Portal) – Access to various e-government information services,

10.2 Courts

·       Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court)

·       Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice)

·       Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court)

·       Bundesarbeitsgericht Federal Labor Court)

·       Bundesfinanzhof (Federal Tax Court)

·       Bundessozialgericht (Federal Social Court)

·       Index of Web addresses for the German justice system including courts, prosecutor’s offices, justice departments and others

10.3 Major Legal Publishers

·       Bundesanzeiger

·       C.F. Müller

·       C.H. Beck

·       Deutscher Anwaltverlag

·       Walter de Gruyter

·       Haufe

·       Carl Heymanns

·       Luchterhand

·       Wolters Kluwer Germany

·       Nomos

·       Otto Schmidt

·       Stollfuss

·       Recht und Wirtschaft

·       Recht und Praxis

·       Wiley-VCH

10.4 University and Central Libraries

·       Library of the Federal Supreme Court (BGH)

·       Library of the German Federal Constitutional Court (BverfG)

·       Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog (approx. 51 million titles)

·       List of German searchable library catalogs

·       Deutsche Bibliothek Frankfurt (among others, with the most comprehensive Union Catalogue of Serials)

·       Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz with law as one of its foci (major in pre-war materials resources)

10.5 Selection of Legal Portals

·       Gesetze im Internet (Statutes on the Internet): joint project by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and juris GmbH) listing consolidated current versions of the major federal laws and an English translation of the German Civil Code.

·       Marktplatz-Recht: a gateway to legal information by Hans Soldan GmbH in association with the German Federal Bar Association, the German Lawyers Association and the Federal Notaries Association.

·       ViFa Recht: Virtuelle Fachbibliothek (ViFa) Recht (Virtual Law Library) is a portal for online legal research offering easy access to legal information via the internet regardless of location. A project launched in December 2005, it currently allows for 27 select databases to be searched by means of a metasearch. Moreover, research is possible in science-related internet sources. There are various options for searching the law-related holdings of Berlin State Library as well as legal journals online and in print format. Other features include a searchable overview of legal databases, and references to legal bibliographies in print and online.
Also available is a
Metasearch in English across 27 national and foreign databases).

·       Justizportal des Bundes und der Länder (German Federal and State Justice Portal): The Federal Ministry of Justice and the state justice administrations provide easy and uniform access through this portal to their e-government services and a variety of information sources including the Federal Lawyers Registry, a court registry, brochures, information on electronic legal communications, forms, various online services such as insolvency annnouncements, electronic land registry inspections, etc.

·       Globalex: a Web site of foreign, comparative and international law guides maintained at New York University School of Law, including Germany with links to statutes, cases, and legal authorities, institutions and organizations.

10.6 Major Professional Organizations

·       Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer (German Federal Bar Association)

·       Deutscher Anwaltsverein (German Lawyers Association)

·       Bundesnotarkammer (German Federal Notaries Association)

1 Cf. Robbers, Gerhard, Einführung in das deutsche Recht, 2nd edition, Baden-Baden: Nomos Verl.-Ges., 1998, p. 19.  <back to text>

2 Cf. Ebke, Werner F./Finkin, Matthew W. Introduction to German Law. The Hague: Kluwer, 1996., p. 2 et seq. 


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