Legal Research Blog


3 Ways to Boost Your Legal Research with Authority Check

Authority Check is one of the innovative features included in your Fastcase desktop subscription. It can help you determine whether a case is good law or not by giving you all of the later citing cases along with information about the most recently cited cases and the court levels at which the case has been cited. The report, however, can do much more than just help determine the precedential value of a case. It can help you:

1. Find additional cases on point.
If you’ve been searching for hours and have only found one or two cases that are on point, try using Authority Check to look at cases that cite the cases you’ve already found. This may lead to finding new cases and search terms that you hadn’t searched for.

2. Narrow the report to the newly-found cases to your particular jurisdiction.
On the report there is a dropdown menu that lets you filter by particular jurisdictions. This allows you to find the most relevant later citing cases and can help you better understand how a given case or topic is treated in your jurisdiction.

3. Visualize your case.
Now this is just plain cool. The Authority Check gives you a snapshot of the Interactive Timeline (another Fastcase tool) of your case. It places the cases that have cited your case on a 4-D graph. You can see a timeline with each case that has cited your case, how many times the later citing cases have been cited, and the relevancy of each later citing case. In a matter of seconds you can get a better understanding of your case.

For more information and instructions on how to use Authority Check, and Fastcase’s other innovative features, go to our Smarter Tools page found here .

An illustrated guide to Illinois’s new citation rules

On July 1, 2011, Illinois began using vendor-neutral citations, previously noted here.  The John Marshall Law School has created a helpful and fun video on using the new citation rules. Thanks to the Legal Writing Prof Blog for the pointer!

Coffee Break

For those of you who didn’t know, it’s National Coffee Day today! To celebrate many places around the country are offering free coffee, a quick Google search will tell you the ones closest to you. Meanwhile at Fastcase we wanted to pay homage to this delectable brew in our own way– with some Smarter Legal Research.

We searched statutes from around the country, including the US Code to see what law makers have done to regulate coffee. Hawaii had several codes relating to composition and weighting of coffee. In Harris County, TX, there is a tax exemption for people with green coffee, wonder if that applies to Starbucks? Wisconsin’s Statutes claim that “coffee whitener” should not be considered dairy. There are also Coffee Counties in Alabama and Georgia.

The US Code has some interesting sections on coffee, particularly in relation to the International Coffee Agreement which is an international treaty of 70+ countries involved in coffee producing/purchasing. The International Coffee Organization has some great information on this treaty.

For a full listing of the 361 results that our search yielded, click here.

Happy National Coffee Day everyone!

Smarter Searching

Having trouble finding a case on point? Use sorting and filtering to find exactly what you are looking for with Fastcase. Start by broadening your search to include as many jurisdictions and common keywords as possible.

You can then use the filtering feature to find cases in your jurisdiction. Simply click on the drop down in the upper left corner of the page shown in the picture below.

Hint: If “All Jurisdictions” is selected and you’re still not getting any results, try modifying your search string to include synonyms and/or remove adjectives that may limit your search.

From there you can sort your case law search results in 6 different ways. Make your selection on the Advanced Caselaw Search page, or wait until you see your results and re-sort on the Results screen.

Sorting Options:

Relevance: This is the default sorting order, so if you don’t make a selection, this is the order that your results will appear in. The higher the Relevance percentage (0-100%), the more likely a case is to contain a substantive discussion of your topic.

Case Name: Sorting by case name will put your results in alphabetical order.

Decision Date: Sorting by decision date will put your results in chronological order.

Court Hierarchy: Sorting by Court Level or Court Hierarchy will put your results in order according to the level or the court issuing the decision, starting with U.S. Supreme Court decisions and ending with State Supreme and Appellate Court decisions.

Cited Within: Sorting by “Cited Within” will put your results in order of the number of times each decision was cited by other decisions in your search results.

Cited Generally: Sorting by “Cited Generally” will put your results in order of the number of times each decision was cited by other decisions in the Fastcase database.

Of course, if you are still having trouble, you can contact us for additional research support. Get live customer support 8am-8pm Mon-Fri by calling us at 1-866-773-2782, e-mailing, or contacting us via Live Chat by clicking here .

Have a Smarter Lunch

For your lunch hour, Fastcase is bringing you 5 Steps to Smarter Legal Research. You can click on the full screen icon at the bottom right of the box. Enjoy!