Legal Research Blog


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This month, Fastcase will be posting daily tips to assist you in your research process. Comments? Suggestions? War stories about how you use Fastcase in your practice? We want to hear from you. Drop us a line at (If you have compliments to share, we’ll take those too!)

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Tip: New Guides Available

New to Fastcase? Need a refresher on basic features? Download one of our training guides. We have a one-pager for quick reference as well as a more comprehensive multi-page version. You can find both in the Help & Training section on Fastcase’s corporate homepage. -> Help & Training -> Documentation & Downloads or

Why We Love Google+

Earlier this week Google did a soft launch (limited invite only) of Google+ ( a social networking tool done the Google way. Google’s new Gadget sits in your Google tool bar as “+You” right next to your Gmail and Calendar tabs.
Upon clicking your fancy new button you are introduced to the likes of:




For mobile devices there is now Huddle and Instant Upload.
Circles: takes your list of, er, friends and allows you to break them down based on parameters of your choosing. This means that a user can share what she wants with whom she wants, and eliminates the problem of grandmothers becoming the unfortunate recipients of the link that was intended for the frat bros.

Sparks: assumes the role of news and video aggregator. All you have to do is tell Sparks what you enjoy doing when your boss isn’t looking and bam: more time to spend wasting time without wasting your time looking how to waste time. Got it?

Hangout: attempts to recreate the magic of chance encounters that come with, say, a visit to the mall on a Saturday. The only difference here is that now it all happens online through video messaging and you get to choose who you bump into.

Finally, Huddle streamlines group text messaging on smartphones, and Instant Upload automatically takes those pictures and videos on your smartphone and stores them in the cloud for retrieval on another device.

In short, Google+ seems to offer an amalgamation of tools that are, to some extent, already available on the web—except this time its Google flavored. The big question is how adept will Google+ be at guessing exactly what I want to buy and when? My hopes are high as long as I’ve never heard of Google Wave or Buzz.

In other news, Microsoft goes live with Office 365.

Illinois Adopts Vendor-Neutral Citation

Traditionally, case citations refer to the physical location of a published opinion in a reporter, the rationale being that cases were most readily available in books and that legal professionals would refer to them in order to access relevant cases.  This system made sense before the proliferation of personal computers, the internet and digitalization.  Now that judicial opinions can be posted online and accessed digitally rather than in print, new citation systems are becoming attractive options in many states.

The trend towards vendor-neutral citation (also called public-domain citation) – a system whereby citations are not predicated upon the location of the case in a physical reporter; but rather, that includes the minimum amount of information about a case to uniquely identify it – is becoming more widespread.  Part of the benefit of this system of citation is that individuals can cite a case as soon as it is filed, rather than having to wait until it is officially published in a reporter.  The latest to join the other dozen or so states making the switch is Illinois, whose vendor-neutral citation legislation will take effect on July 1 of this year.

Vendor-neutral citation will look something like this: “2011 IL 123456” preceded by the case title.  In the case of Illinois, all that is required to uniquely identify cases are the decision year, the court abbreviation and the unique identifier number which is derived from the docket number. Additionally, all cases containing vendor-neutral citation will also have paragraph markers to which citations may refer, making legal research more efficient.  Illinois makes these cases available to view or download on their courts’ own websites and Fastcase posts them online within 24 hours of release.

The term “public-domain citation” refers to a fundamental value-judgment that underlies the shift, that judicial opinions are public knowledge and should be available to everyone to the extent that they can.  It reflects the attitude that what should be more important in legal work is not access to information, but the skill in using it.

Ultimately, this move towards vendor-neutral citation benefits everyone.  The need for courts to work with publishers is eliminated, as are the costs associated with waiting for and printing published judicial opinions.  Tax-payers save money, as courts no longer incur the expense of purchasing and storing expensive case books.  Bar associations benefit from the gradual diminishing of reliance upon monolithic publishers.  Finally, clients and law firms benefit alike from the ability to offer and accept lower research costs, making representation more affordable and available to everyone.  Fastcase will make the vendor-neutral citation available on every Illinois case released after July 1, 2011.

Illinois attorneys looking for more information about rules for citing these cases can find it here.

True Point and Shoot Photography?

In what Sarah Lacy of TechCrunch likens to the Harry Potter moving picture, Lytro and its CEO/founder Ren Ng has announced today that it is moving into the consumer market.

The Silicon Valley startup is producing a light field camera- a camera that captures all points of light from all points of direction. Previously, the only way to capture an image this way was to hook up several cameras to a supercomputer. The best analogy for describing what has been accomplished we have been able to find was through the Wall Street Journal speaking with Mr. Ng:

“Conventional digital cameras essentially record the total sum of light rays from a scene as they hit an image sensor, Mr. Ng said. A light-field camera records the color, intensity and direction of rays individually. He compared the approach to audio recording; instead of recording multiple musicians all at once, modern multitrack studios record them separately so that the volume and other effects can be independently adjusted after the fact to create a sound mix.”

There are several benefits to this technology. The main one the company is touting is the fact that the camera will allow users to focus the image after the fact- allowing faster, more accurate photography. This is accomplished by replacing expensive hardware with “computational photography”. If that wasn’t exciting enough, with the increased amount of captured light, consumers have the chance of truly great all purpose camera that works great in low light and offer photos in 3D.

There are certainly challenges ahead for this new outing. There is a substantial support industry tied to digital photography that needs to be assured, lackluster 3D reception in the consumer market, and re/training of users in photo editing.

“What digital photography did was make it easier and more accessible and more egalitarian,” Ng says. If the technology finds a home in today’s market, it will be interesting to see the possibilities come to life as professional and amateur photographers make their way through the new technology. A small sample of what can be done can be found on their website.