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  • Fastcase Getting Smarter and Faster - State Bar Continues Legal Research Partnership

    The State Bar of Wisconsin has extended its partnership with Fastcase through 2018. This means all Wisconsin lawyers will continue to benefit from this online legal research option.

    Joe Forward

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    Fastcase Getting Smarter and Faster; State Bar 
Continues Legal Research PartnershipDec. 5, 2012 – Janesville solo practitioner Scott Schroeder saw the writing on the “overhead” wall. He recently dropped an existing online legal research plan and will use Fastcase exclusively for his online legal research needs.

    Fastcase is a comprehensive online legal research library that includes state and federal statutes, case law, regulations, court rules, administrative codes, and attorney general opinions.

    Since 2008, State Bar of Wisconsin members have had unlimited access to Fastcase as a member benefit at no additional cost. Recently, the State Bar extended its contract with Fastcase through 2018.

    “This extension represents a long-term partnership and our commitment to ensure State Bar members have the tools they need to succeed,” said State Bar Executive Director George Brown, who noted that Fastcase subscriptions are valued at $995 per year, per person.

    Ed Walters, a lawyer and co-founder of Fastcase, says Fastcase continues to enhance search capabilities and implement advanced technology tools for mobile applications. Currently, Fastcase provides iPhone, iPad, iTouch, and Android applications, and the ability to sync between mobile devices. Fastcase has more developments on the way.

    “Going forward, lawyers will experience an even faster Fastcase,” said Walters, a former practicing attorney at a Washington, D.C. law firm. “We are about to release a major overhaul of our search technology, giving lawyers even greater confidence in their search results.”

    The State Bar of Wisconsin is one of 23 state bar associations currently partnering with Fastcase to offer online legal research as a member benefit. Since 2008, many State Bar members have used Fastcase as a primary research tool, or to supplement traditional online research plans.

    “The online research databases for lawyers are remarkable, but for many years, there were only two choices,” said Schroeder, referring to Westlaw and LexisNexis. “The monthly charges can be a real drain on a sole practitioner. Fastcase will allow me to greatly reduce overhead.”

    State Bar Practice Management Advisor Nerino Petro says Fastcase may help lawyers reduce, or in some cases eliminate, subscriptions with other online legal research providers, and lawyers should take time to review Fastcase as a research option.

    “Fastcase is a benefit of membership,” Petro said. “And lawyers can get free CLE credit for learning how to use it. For lawyers reviewing existing plans or hoping to reduce their online legal research costs, it’s definitely worth looking into Fastcase.”

    Phil Rosenthal and Ed Walters founded Fastcase in 1998

    Phil Rosenthal (left) and Ed Walters founded Fastcase in 1998 to provide a low-cost legal research option. The State Bar of Wisconsin is one of 23 state bar associations currently partnering with Fastcase to offer online legal research as a member benefit. Recently, the State Bar of Wisconsin extended its contract with Fastcase through 2018.

    Fastcase Provides More Legal Research Options for Lawyers

    Recently, the ABA Journal’s Rachel Zahorsky published an article discussing how “a greater number of law firms have found themselves absorbing legal research costs as a way to shrink their clients’ tabs.” This is the dilemma Rosenthal and Walters faced in their own practices.

    Frustrated by limited options, they founded Fastcase in 1998 to “democratize” access to the law and to create a low-cost legal research solution for lawyers. Since then, Fastcase has updated its online library to include federal and state case law from all 50 states.

    In 2013, lawyers will be able to search cases published in the North Western Reporter, which includes Wisconsin supreme and appeals court cases, through 1879. Previously, Fastcase only maintained Wisconsin case law through 1950. Fastcase will also maintain electronic, or e-Book, advance sheets of print reporters covering Wisconsin law to keep lawyers up-to-date.

    Through Fastcase, lawyers can search by keyword or citation, and view later-citing cases. An interactive, 4-D timeline graph helps lawyers find and sort relevant results. Usage is unlimited, and Fastcase has developed a number of web-based applications for the mobile attorney. 

    Fastcase does not include editorial information or indicate whether cases are good law, a service that LexisNexis and Westlaw offer through Shepard’s or Keycite citation research. But Walters says Fastcase’s Authority Check allows lawyers to sift relevant case law easily.

    “Citators such as Shepard’s or Keycite still require lawyers to read those cases to see if any negative treatment pertains to a specific point of law,” Walters said. “Our Authority Check citator will pull all relevant citing paragraphs so lawyers can see a court’s treatment on specific points. This is an analytical step that can be done without difficulty.”

    Lawyers Using Fastcase

    For many users, Fastcase supplies all the legal research tools 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.

    Schroeder says Fastcase alone should meet his research needs, and he’s gearing up to make a full transition from LexisNexis, which he was paying a monthly premium to maintain.

    Adria Maddaleni, a lawyer for Milwaukee Public School District, says Fastcase is the only online case law research option for lawyers in her office, since there’s no budget for subscriptions.

    “We didn’t have access to online research tools for a while, so we relied on the city attorney’s office for certain research requests,” Maddaleni said. “Fastcase allows us to bridge this gap. It’s a resource we can use in certain circumstances without a costly subscription.”

    Other organizations with limited funding are using Fastcase to supplement existing plans. Madison Attorney Jennifer Binkley works for the nonprofit Community Justice Inc., which serves low-income individuals. She says its Westlaw subscription covers Wisconsin law only.

    Depending on the plan or agreement, Westlaw and LexisNexis subscriptions could require “out-of-plan” transaction fees. “We use Fastcase to research law outside Wisconsin,” Binkley said.

    With a Fastcase-State Bar of Wisconsin partnership secured through 2018, Wisconsin lawyers can count on Fastcase as an online legal research option.

    “This is one of the best member benefits offered by the State Bar,” Schroeder said. “I would encourage other lawyers to check it out.”

    Getting Started

    State Bar of Wisconsin members can access Fastcase through the State Bar’s website, Click on the “Fastcase” icon from the home page, in the upper-right. Access requires members to log into their WisBar account. If you have questions about your account, a State Bar customer service representative at (608) 257-3838 or (800) 728-7788.

    Visit the Fastcase website to learn more about monthly webinars and other information. 

    Other Fastcase Benefits and Resources

    The State Bar of Wisconsin maintains Books UnBound, a subscription-based online library of State Bar PINNACLE™ books. Fastcase allows Books UnBound subscribers to link directly to cases and other research material directly from within Books UnBound.