Legal Research Blog


Luminary Award Winners

This month Fastcase had a blast at the NABE Communications Workshop in beautiful Denver, CO. We also had the great honor of presenting the 2012 Luminary Awards winners. We hope that you will join us in congratulating them and take a moment to check out some of their award winning work.

Regular Publications
DCBA- The Journal of the DuPage County Bar Association
San Diego Bar Association
State Bar of Arizona- Arizona Attorney

Special Publications
Nikki Gray- Nashville Bar Association
Lori Wolk- State Bar of Nevada
North Carolina Bar Association

Electronic Publications
The Chester County Bar Association- New Matter Committee
San Diego Bar Association
Ohio State Bar Association

Public Relations
Austin Bar Association- Communications Department
Indiana State Bar Association- Young Lawyers Section
State Bar of Texas- Communications Division

Nancy R Paul, Jim Mathias, Jack Costello and George Cardenas- Montgomery Bar Association
Carissa Long- Indiana Bar Association
North Carolina Bar Association

Kane County Bar Association- Website Committee
San Diego Bar Association
State Bar of Georgia- Communications Department

Fastcase Research Tip: Use proximity operators for more precise results

While in Keyword (Boolean) search, you can use multiple proximity (“within”) operators to fine-tune your search.

Here’s an example:

If I’m looking for cases in all jurisdictions involving the constitutionality of a search of curtilage and would like the cases to mention the word warrant or a form of warrant, I could run a search like this:

constitution* AND curtilage AND search* AND warrant*

However, that search returns 1,000+ results and the terms could be anywhere within the opinion.

If I want cases that discuss these keywords close together, I can narrow down my search by using the proximity operator. When I do this, the terms will be within several words of each other. To use the proximity operator, simply put a w/ or just a / and a number between 2 and 50 between the words you want to be close to each other. In this case, I want the terms to be within 25 words of each other. Here’s my new search:

constitution* w/25 search* w/25 curtilage w/25 warrant*

This search, even across all jurisdictions, gives me 299 results, which is a lot easier to review than 1,000!

For more tips on Boolean searches, sign up here for one of our webinars.

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!