Vol. 81, No. 11, November
New State Bar Member Benefit: Free Access to Fastcase Premium Legal
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
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
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., 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
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
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
How can I learn more?
Members can get more information on Fastcase from these
- 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;
for online tutorials;
to download the Fastcase User Guide; and
- Nerino Petro of Practice411, (800) 444-9404, ext. 6012, email org practicehelp wisbar wisbar practicehelp org.