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    Legal Research: New State Bar Member Benefit: Free Access to Fastcase Premium Legal Research Plan

    Starting Nov. 1, the State Bar of Wisconsin partnered with Fastcase to provide free legal research as a member benefit. Access to Fastcase’s top-of-the-line national premium plan is easy and by using it, most State Bar members may realize a savings in their legal research budgets. Here’s what you need to know to put this benefit to work for you.

    Nerino J. Petro Jr.

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 11, November 2008

    Legal Research

    New State Bar Member Benefit: Free Access to Fastcase Premium Legal Research Plan 

    Starting Nov. 1, the State Bar of Wisconsin partnered with Fastcase to provide free legal research as a member benefit. Access to Fastcase’s top-of-the-line national premium plan is easy and by using it, most State Bar members may realize a savings in their legal research budgets. Here’s what you need to know to put this benefit to work for you.  

    by Nerino J. Petro Jr.

    Starting Nov. 1, 2008, State Bar of Wisconsin members have access to free legal research powered by Fastcase as part of their membership dues. This new member benefit includes national case law coverage including state circuit and appellate courts; federal district, appellate, and bankruptcy courts; and the U.S. Supreme Court. Members also have access to Wisconsin statutes, supreme court rules, the state constitution, Wisconsin attorney general opinions, and more.

    This new member benefit will help Wisconsin lawyers be more efficient in their day-to-day practice by making available research tools that provide access to core legal research that can be used either alone or in conjunction with other premium legal research services. This article answers many of the most common questions members have asked to date.

    What is Fastcase?

    Fastcase was founded in 1999 by Ed Walters and Philip Rosenthal, lawyers in the Washington, D.C. office of Covington & Burlington. According to Walters, “One of our larger clients needed legal research for a project but asked us not to charge them for the expensive services our firm used. When we couldn’t find an affordable alternative, another lawyer at the firm and I decided to leave and build one ourselves.” Walters (Fastcase chief executive officer) and Rosenthal (the company’s president) started what has grown into one of the fastest growing legal research service providers in the nation, partnering with numerous bar associations and serving more than 250,000 lawyers.

    Lawyers who don’t receive Fastcase as a free member benefit can subscribe to the Fastcase commercial service starting at $65 per month/$695 per year for the national appellate plan or $95 per month/$995 per year for the national premium plan that provides access to the full 50-state and federal law library, including federal district courts and bankruptcy courts.

    Why did the State Bar choose Fastcase as a partner?

    Fastcase was selected as the legal research provider after a formal process that lasted more than a year. The State Bar asked for a written request for proposal (RFP) from several legal research service providers. The State Bar reviewed the RFP responses and selected two finalists.

    A panel of State Bar members from a variety of practice areas and settings, including government agencies and solo, small, medium-size, and large firms, then evaluated the competing services. These attorneys reviewed the finalists for ease-of-use, depth of available information, and accuracy in returning results. The State Bar also evaluated company history, customer service and support history, and underlying technology and technological infrastructure. The Bar further considered the finalists’ ability to meet the myriad requirements needed to provide the free legal research member benefit, future product development needs, innovation exhibited, and responsiveness to input from users and member associations. The State Bar also evaluated their technological capabilities and the ability to meet the State Bar’s needs in creating a stable and useful benefit for our members. Fastcase emerged from this evaluation process as the company that could best meet the State Bar’s current and future needs, and so this past summer, the Bar entered into a five-year contract with Fastcase.

    Nerino J. Petro Jr.

    Nerino J. Petro Jr., Northern Illinois 1988, is the advisor to the State Bar of Wisconsin Law Office Management Assistance Program (Practice411TM). He assists lawyers in improving their efficiency in delivering legal services and in implementing systems and controls to reduce risk and improve client relations. Visit the Law Practice Management area at www.wisbar.org regularly for practice management guidance. You can reach Petro at (800) 444-9404, ext. 6012, or email org practicehelp wisbar wisbar practicehelp org.  

    The State Bar of Wisconsin is not alone in selecting Fastcase to provide a free legal research member benefit. In the Midwest, the Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri bar associations also offer Fastcase to their members, as do the bar associations of Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, and other states.

    The free legal research member benefit powered by Fastcase is one part of a new comprehensive research capability the State Bar of Wisconsin is developing, with enhancements and additional searchable materials to be added in the future.

    What does the service include?

    State Bar of Wisconsin members receive the national premium plan, which Fastcase currently sells for $995 a year. Fastcase provides all federal cases going back to 1 U.S. 1, 1 F.2d 1, 1 F. Supp. 1, and B.R. 1. Fastcase also provides state trial and appellate cases going back to 1950 or earlier. Members also will have access to the Wisconsin statutes, the Wisconsin Administrative Code, the Wisconsin Constitution, supreme court rules, Wisconsin attorney general opinions since 1982, and Wisconsin acts since 1989. Fastcase updates its databases every day; new court opinions normally are added within 24 to 48 hours of their release.While some states offer only the Fastcase national appellate plan to their members (requiring their members to pay an additional fee to access the national premium plan), State Bar of Wisconsin members receive the national premium plan – the best plan available from Fastcase – and will not have to pay extra for access to district court and bankruptcy court cases.

    Fastcase provides members the ability to print multiple cases at once; print dual column cases directly from Fastcase; print to PDF; official pagination; Boolean, natural language, and citation searching; and the ability to sort by relevance, date, jurisdiction, and other fields. Users have access to the “Interactive Timeline,” which is unique to Fastcase, and allows users to see and work with research results in an entirely new way from a visual perspective. Fastcase also provides its “Authority Check” feature, an automated system that allows users to find other similar cases. Details on the Authority Check results page show how often the cases are cited within the existing search and in the entire database. This feature helps members find the most authoritative cases. While Authority Check does not include any editorial information that tells whether a case is still good law, Fastcase does provide links to both LexisNexis Shepards® and West’s Keycite® services, which can be purchased on a per-transaction basis.

    Other outside service providers to which Fastcase provides links are Choicepoint (for searching public records), NewsLibrary.com (for news research), and the Federal Pacer system (for federal filings). Because these services are not controlled by Fastcase, their use requires payment of additional fees.

    Will I still need other legal research providers?

    For many users, Fastcase will supply all the legal research tools that they need. Users who rely on editorial content such as head notes or comments or who need access to secondary materials such as treatises or specialized databases (such as corporate records) may be able to reduce the scope of their current premium legal research subscriptions from a nationwide plan to a Wisconsin-only plan and then use Fastcase for linking to cases from outside Wisconsin.

    How will I access Fastcase research?

    Members will access Fastcase and additional search functions through WisBar.org. Simply click on the Legal Research tab at the top of any page and choose “Fastcase” from the drop down menu. Members then will be directed to log in. If you’ve never logged into WisBar’s “myStateBar,” or if you have forgotten your password, go to www.wisbar.org/login/faqs. (Support staff performing legal research for a member will need to use the member’s login information to access the benefit.) Fastcase also has provided a 98 percent uptime guarantee to ensure that members have reliable access to this information.

    How can I learn more?

    Members can get more information on Fastcase from these resources:

    • www.wisbar.org/fastcase, for a video interview of Fastcase cofounder Ed Walters, a list of upcoming free overview webinars, tutorials, demonstrations, FAQs, and regular updates on features and benefits;
    • www.fastcase.com/tutorials.aspx, for online tutorials;
    • www.fastcase.com/help.aspx, to download the Fastcase User Guide; and
    • Nerino Petro of Practice411, (800) 444-9404, ext. 6012, email org practicehelp wisbar wisbar practicehelp org