Know How

The blog of the Great Library


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Je ne parle pas français: Tips for finding English versions of French language case law

Few things are more frustrating than finding your “golden case”—the case that will answer all your questions, solve all your problems and surely render opposing counsel speechless—only to realize you cannot understand a word of it because it’s been reported in French (and, well, you don’t speak French). While the search for English translations of case law reported in French is not entirely hopeless, it can be a challenge.

Unless the decision has been reported in an official court reporter or published in a bilingual jurisdiction, it is most likely the decision has only been reported in the language in which it was argued. Nevertheless, there are several pathways to take before admitting defeat.

To double-check if there is a translated version of a Canadian decision, search by style of clause (name of the case) on:

  • Lexis Advance Quicklaw
  • WestlawNext Canada
  • CanLII

If these resources do possess a translated version of the case in question, you’ll see an “English” link on the French case, or you’ll notice the case is shown as being reported twice in the same database (one in English, the other in French).

Another source worth consulting is SOQUIJ, the body that publishes Quebec judicial and administrative tribunal decisions.  Although limited in scope, its free database of Translated Decisions offers unofficial English translations of selected decisions from the Quebec Court of Appeal, Quebec Superior Court, Court of Quebec, Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, Quebec Professions Tribunal, the Ministère de la Justice of Quebec and the Financial Markets Administrative Tribunal.

Lastly, some of us at the Great Library have had luck searching for translated versions of cases by using CanLII on Google Chrome. When using CanLII and Google Chrome in tandem, a pop-up window which reads, “Translate this page?” appears. After clicking the “Translate” button, an unofficial English translation of the French case is presented.


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Organize and monitor your online legal research

Legal research can get messy fast. The process of finding and understanding the relevant law is rarely linear. It can also take time, cover many sources, both print and electronic, and produce a large volume of results, from commentary to cases. Having a research plan, documenting your process and keeping your results organized are key. Lexbox is a free Google Chrome extension which presents one option for organizing and monitoring your online legal research. Continue reading


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Some counsel on searching case law by counsel

Have you ever needed to search for cases in which a particular lawyer or paralegal acted for one of the parties?  You can try entering the legal practitioner’s name in the full-text search box of a case law database. But this search strategy will likely generate more misses than hits, especially with common surnames. Here are some tips for achieving more relevant results. Continue reading