Legal Research Blog
BOSTON, MA and WASHINGTON, DC (December 1, 2015) – The Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA) and Fastcase today announced the state bar will be providing its members free access to Fastcase’s nationwide legal research system, effective December 1, 2015.
The MBA becomes the 28th state bar to provide access to Fastcase’s online legal research service and its award-winning research tools as a benefit to members at no additional charge.
Beginning December 1, all MBA members will receive unlimited access to one of the largest law libraries in the world. The member benefit is unlimited — with no restrictions on time or number of transactions, unlimited printing, unlimited reference assistance and unlimited customer service included for free. MBA members will receive free access to Fastcase’s extensive legal library, including case law, statutes, and regulations as well as Fastcase’s intuitive and smarter legal research tools, training webinars and tutorials, industry-leading mobile apps, and live customer support from members of the Fastcase team. Members will be able to access Fastcase through the MBA website at http://www.massbar.org where they can log in with their bar username and password.
“Access to great research tools used to be the exclusive province of the world’s largest firms,” said Ed Walters, Fastcase’s CEO. “Working with the Massachusetts Bar Association, we can bring the smartest legal research tools to everyone — helping lawyers and their clients with increased access to justice.”
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Fastcase is the nation’s fastest-growing and most popular legal research service. Many of the nation’s largest law firms and 28 state bar associations have subscribed to Fastcase. More than 800,000 lawyers currently have a subscription to Fastcase, many through their state bar association.
The service ordinarily costs $995 per year for an individual subscriber, but MBA members will receive Fastcase as a complimentary member benefit. The Fastcase service will be free to members, but it is not a discount legal research service. Fastcase has pioneered the smartest legal research tools in the market, with integrated citation analysis tools, data visualization maps of search results and the first legal research apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The service also includes Bad Law Bot, the first big data service to identify negative citations to judicial opinions.
In addition to its nationwide legal research database, Fastcase’s Massachusetts-specific libraries include judicial opinions from the Massachusetts Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals back to 1885, First Circuit decisions starting at 1. F.2d 1, U.S. Supreme Court decisions starting with 1 U.S. 1, statutes, regulations and much more. The service also includes annotated statutes from other states, Fastcase’s annotated U.S. Code, transactional access to newspaper articles, federal court filings, and legal forms, and transactional access through HeinOnline to the largest collection of law reviews in the world.
“One of the greatest benefits of belonging to the Massachusetts Bar Association is access to tools and services that strengthen an attorney’s practice,” said MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy. “We’re pleased to enhance this benefit by providing MBA members free access to Fastcase — one of the largest online legal research libraries, and the top-rated app for attorneys.”
Fastcase has gained strong momentum in the legal research market and continues to challenge the incumbents in legal publishing and legal technology. In the American Bar Association’s annual tech survey, users have ranked Fastcase the most popular smartphone app for lawyers every year, including in the 2015 survey. From 2010 through 2014, Fastcase was named to the prestigious EContent 100 list of companies that matter most in the digital economy alongside Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook from 2010-14. The American Association of Law Libraries named Fastcase’s integration with HeinOnline its 2014 New Product of the Year, and its app for iPhone the 2010 New Product of the Year.
About the Massachusetts Bar Association
Incorporated in 1911, the Massachusetts Bar Association is a non-profit organization that serves the legal profession and the public by promoting the administration of justice, legal education, professional excellence and respect for the law. The MBA represents a diverse group of attorneys, judges and legal professionals across the commonwealth. For more information, follow the Massachusetts Bar Association on Twitter at @MassBar on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MassBarAssociation, or visit http://www.massbar.org.
Fastcase is a leading legal publisher focused on smarter legal software that democratizes the law, making it more accessible to more people. Using patented software that combines the best of legal research with the best of Web search, Fastcase helps busy users sift through the clutter, ranking the best cases first and enabling the re-sorting of results to find answers fast. Founded in 1999, Fastcase has more than 800,000 subscribers from around the world. Fastcase is an American company based in Washington, D.C. For more information, follow Fastcase on Twitter at @Fastcase or visit www.fastcase.com.
You may have heard Fastcase will be helping Wolters Kluwer Law & Business sunset Loislaw by transitioning current Loislaw subscribers to comparable Fastcase subscriptions. We are excited to welcome Loislaw subscribers to Fastcase and show them everything Fastcase has to offer, from Bad Law Bot to our award-winning mobile apps.
This transition will not affect current Fastcase users. Fastcase is not merging with Wolters Kluwer or selling any assets to Wolters Kluwer. We are merely partnering to provide current LoisLaw subscribers with a new legal research home because Loislaw is closing its doors on November 30, 2015.
You can learn more about this sunset collaboration by viewing a short FAQ here. If you are a current Loislaw subscriber, more information about transitioning to Fastcase is available here. As always, our support team is happy to answer any questions you may have. Get in touch with us at 866-773-2782 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Fastcase Team
In our last post we discussed various methods you can use to search for statutes on Fastcase, but what tools are at your disposal once you find the statute section you are looking for? Ordinarily, if you are researching a particular law you are interested in how courts have interpreted that law. Fastcase knows this, which is why we provide automated annotations below each statute section. Our annotations are different because they are not restrained by the editorial conventions associated with physical documents, meaning they can rapidly be manipulated to turn up the most valuable information.
Once you pull up a statute section, simply scroll down to see a list of generated annotations. Fastcase’s annotations are not notes, summaries, or editorial claims about how courts have treated your statute. Rather, Fastcase shows you highly-relevant common law source material – what judges have actually written about a particular law.
In the picture above you can see a list of Fastcase annotations for Va. Code 8.01-361. This is located just under the language of the statute section. These computer-generated annotations consist of a list of hyperlinks to cases that cite your statute, as well as contextual preview text.
We can see this particular section on the management of juries has been cited by 19 cases in the Fastcase database, so how do we find the most important opinions as quickly as possible? Fastcase does some of the leg work automatically by pulling the most cited cases to the top of the annotations. In the example above, Smith v. Commonwealth has been cited the most (52 times), so it is located on the top of the list.
If you would prefer to look at the list of cases citing your statute section in chronological order, you can also sort by Decision Date. Simply click on the blue column header (illustrated below). One click sorts the oldest materials to the top, while clicking a second time will sort the newest cases to the top. Reading the most recent opinions in reverse chronological order is especially useful for determining the current state of a law.
Fastcase is designed to keep your research flowing on an intuitive level by providing multiple types of information on a single page. Statute annotations are a great place to start looking for case law at the beginning of a research project that is statute-based.
-The Fastcase Team
Statutes can sometimes be tricky to find, especially if you do not have an exact citation. Fastcase has several ways you can access statutes, depending on how much information you know at the beginning of your search.
If you are not sure where to start and just want to browse through the various titles and chapters of a code there is an easy way to do that in Fastcase. Just go to the Fastcase toolbar, hover over the Search menu and click Search Statutes. Above the search bar on the Search Statutes page are two tabs. Select the second tab – Browse.
From here you will see a list of jurisdictions and the U.S. Code, which is located on the top. If you want to browse Nevada law, just scroll down to that state and click the plus sign to the left. If you click the plus sign next to Nevada Revised Statutes you can select which edition of the code to view (2014-2007). You can decide to expand various titles and chapters to your heart’s desire.
If you see something that interests you, just click the name of the section to read it. Fastcase will pull up any cases that cite your section below the statute’s text. You can also see an outline view of the code to the left. This lets you view your section in the overall context of the code and click on other sections to read further.
The easiest way to find a particular statute section is to just type in a citation for that section using Fastcase’s Citation Lookup feature (more on that below), but what if you only have an act name? Or, maybe you have a general idea that a statute exists, but do not know where to look in browse mode. You can try a keyword search on the Search Statutes page, but predicting the exact language of a section is very difficult. You might try searching for a case that cited your statute on the Search Cases page, but that is also time consuming.
It is perfectly fine to turn to Google if you are struggling! In my experience this is a great way to find out where certain areas of the law have been codified when you do not have enough information to search the Fastcase databases effectively using keywords. And if you know how to search using Fastcase you know how to run a Google search since both use Boolean operators.
Great! You found that pesky citation. Next you want to enter it into Fastcase and go directly to your statute section.
From the Search Statutes page, make sure the Citation Lookup mode is selected above the search bar. Select where you want to search in the Select Statutes pane by checking off the boxes. You can click the plus signs for each jurisdiction to show different codes. If you click the blue “info>>” link you can see examples of how to cite those particular laws so the computer can find them. For example, Nevada Revised Statutes are cited with the abbreviation “Nev. Rev. Stat. [Chapter Number].[Section Number].” Use that syntax with your citation in the search bar and press enter to quickly pull up a section.
Once you have the statute basics down you can save a lot of time and frustration. Time which could be better spent watching spring training, for instance.
There is one particular flavor of nerdy ennui that haunts legal minds: you think you are done researching an issue, but you still have a nagging suspicion you are missing a key case. All of your opinions are citing each other in a circle, but how can you be more certain you are not overlooking something huge? Nightmare scenarios unfold, many of which involve a judge viciously reprimanding you for failing to bring something obvious to his attention.
Never fear, Fastcase has the cure for your late-research anxiety! It comes in the form of a few simple tools – complete results lists, smart sorting, and Forecite.
Few are aware of this, but the way Fastcase brings you cases (as in the sheer number of results you see at once) is unprecedented. On traditional legal research platforms you can only see about the top 10,000 results. With Fastcase you can pull up everything that matches your search terms at the same time.
I just ran a keyword search for “judge” in all jurisdictions. In literally 2 seconds Fastcase returned over 4 million results.
You may think you don’t need (or want) four million results because that amount of data is simply unmanageable, but with Fastcase’s Big Data analysis tools you can find the needle in the haystack.
You can’t sort a case into Slytherin, but you can sort pretty much every other way that is useful. The blue categories at the top of your results list are clickable. Pick to sort by Relevance, Case (alphabetical), Decision Date (newest first), or Authority Check (which cases have been cited the most within your results or the entire Fastcase database). Clicking a blue category link again will sort in reverse order, such as Z-A, oldest first, etc.
Forecite is a little tool that finds the cases you didn’t know you wanted, where you didn’t think to look. It has two main functions: 1) Forecite shows cases that are probably relevant to your search, but do not contain your search terms, and 2) it checks other jurisdictions for related material. To see Forecite cases, simply click the orange “View Results” button to the right of the Forecite bar that appears above your results.
For example, maybe you are searching for North Carolina cases that discuss double jeopardy. Obviously this is a constitutional issue so there are also going to be several federal cases relevant to your inquiry that are cited by N.C. courts. With Forecite you can quickly access those federal cases that were frequently cited by your N.C. results, and read through them to gain a background understanding of the issue.
Peace of mind, brought to you by the team at Fastcase.