Legal Research Blog


Tip: Using the Wildcard Operator

The wildcard operator is one of the most powerful Boolean operators in your toolkit.  At Fastcase, we use the asterisk symbol (*) as our wildcard.

When you put the asterisk after the stem of a word, your search will return documents containing any word beginning with that stem.

For example:

Termin* →         Search results containing the words termination, terminated, terminal, etc.

Litig*     →         Search results containing the words litigator, litigation, litigious, etc.

Eat*       →           Search results containing the words eat, eaten, eatery, eaters, eating

As you can see, using the wildcard operator is a very powerful and flexible tool.  Think about incorporating the wildcard regularly in your searches.

Tip: Use Your Browser to Develop a Library of Your Favorite Searches

You may already know that Fastcase automatically tracks your last 10 searches.  But have you ever wished that you could access even older searches?  How about naming your searches and organizing them in folders by topic?  You can easily accomplish all of these tasks using your web browser.

1.     While on the Results screen, press Control + D.   (Mac users, use Apple/Command + D instead).  This will cause a small window to appear on your screen.

In IE:  “Add a Favorite.”

In Firefox: “Page Bookmarked.”

In Chrome: “Bookmark Added.”

2.     The window will prompt you to name your bookmark.  You might want to name your bookmark according to your search topic, e.g., “Beach easements.”

3.    Next, follow the prompts in the bookmark window to create a new bookmark folder for your search.  (Hint: Try creating folders for particular clients or briefs, e.g., “Merits Brief” or “Smith Arbitration.”)

4.     To return to your bookmarked search results later, find the bookmark folder you created using your browser. When you click on the bookmark, your search results will automatically reappear.

(Hint: Make sure you are logged in to Fastcase before accessing your bookmarks).

Tip: Using Forecite for Smarter Results

Fastcase just unveiled a brand new citation analysis tool called Forecite that helps you get even more out of your keyword searches.  Now, every time you perform a keyword search, Forecite will analyze the citation structure of the cases in your search results and suggest additional cases to you.  These suggested cases will not be in your ordinary search results because they may not contain all of your search terms.  However, they are cases that are cited frequently by other cases in your search results, and are therefore likely to be highly relevant to your research topic.

Here’s an example to help flesh out how Forecite works.

Research Topic: Desegregation and busing laws

If you were researching desegregation and busing laws, your research certainly would not be complete without considering the Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).  However, if you search using those terms – desegregation and busing – Brown will not be in your search results because it does not contain either of those terms.

No need to worry though, Forecite has you covered.

When you perform this search in all jurisdictions on Fastcase, you will see a light orange colored banner at the top of your search results screen that indicates that in addition to your regular search results, Fastcase Forecite has identified additional decisions that may be relevant to your topic.  Click the arrow at the right to expand those results. Those decisions include the seminal and relevant cases  – Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) and the follow up decision, Swann v. Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1 (1971).

Tip: Use Live Chat for Assistance with Your Research

At Fastcase, our mission is to help you work smarter, not harder. Our live customer support is an important part of this mission and Live Chat is one of the best ways to take advantage of this service.

It works just like an instant-messaging program and allows you to get personalized help while multi-tasking at the same time. What’s more, Fastcase customer support associates can even send you links to search results, cases, and more via Live Chat making it one of the most efficient ways to get assistance.

To access Live Chat, just select Live Help from the Help menu at the top of the screen. A Live Chat window will open on your screen. Here you can type in your question and wait for a Fastcase customer support associate to respond.

Live Chat is available from 8 am to 8 pm Eastern time on Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

Tip: Sorting Cases to Find Results Faster

Fastcase allows you to search broadly and then sort your search results to find what you need quickly. In fact, you can sort your case law search results in 6 different ways.  Make your selection on the Advanced Caselaw Search page under Search Options, then Results, then Sort by.  Most of these sorting options are also available 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.  Note: This category is called “These Results” on the Results screen.

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.  Note: This category is called “Entire Database” on the Results screen.