Legal Research Blog


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.

It’s Unanimous: Seven State Bar Associations Renew Fastcase Legal Research Member Benefits

Twenty state bar associations across the nation subscribe to Fastcase’s advanced legal research system, making it available as a free member benefit. Fastcase today announced that all seven state bar associations whose benefits were up for renewal in 2011 have chosen to renew the service. “This sweep is particularly gratifying because a competitor offered their service for free to some of the state bars as an inducement to change, but each decided their members would be better served if they continue to subscribe to Fastcase,” said Phil Rosenthal, Fastcase’s President.

These renewals allow members to access the nation’s smartest legal research tools for free through their bar association’s website – a service that would otherwise cost lawyers and law firms hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. The service is provided as a member benefit and is unrestricted by time or number of transactions, with unlimited printing, reference assistance, and customer service included for free.

The decision by multiple state bar associations to renew Fastcase partnerships represents a significant milestone for bar association executives, legal professionals and the legal research industry. When bar associations compare Fastcase with other legal research systems, they overwhelmingly determine that Fastcase is a better service for their members.

The bar associations renewing partnerships with Fastcase include the Illinois State Bar Association, Iowa State Bar Association, Maryland State Bar Association, The Missouri Bar, New Jersey State Bar Association, Tennessee Bar Association, and Virginia State Bar.

“Every single state that has subscribed to Fastcase has renewed the service — and states with other services are switching to Fastcase in droves,” said Ed Walters, Fastcase CEO. In the last two years, five states have switched to Fastcase from other providers, including LexisNexis, Casemaker, and Versuslaw.

“State bar associations are demanding the smartest service they can provide. They are sophisticated purchasers who insist on getting the best for their members. In the world of legal research, that’s Fastcase,” Walters said.

Fastcase provides free premium legal research to more than 500,000 subscribers, in numerous of AmLaw 200 law firms, 20 state bar associations and dozens of voluntary bar associations and law schools.

Fastcase has gained very strong momentum in the legal research market and was recently voted #1 in Law Technology News’s inaugural Customer Satisfaction Survey, finishing first in 7 out of 10 categories over traditional research providers Westlaw and LexisNexis. Fastcase’s free apps for iPhone and iPad have dominated the category, winning the prestigious New Product of the Year award from the American Association of Law Libraries. And Fastcase joined Apple, Google, Twitter, and others in the prestigious EContent 100 listing of companies that matter most in the digital economy.

Summer Travel Tips for Business or Otherwise

Photo by pfly

Alan Cohen at Law Technology News has come up with a fantastic list of helpful tools, programs and websites for making travel a little bit smoother.  Some of the highlights: A hotel review aggregator that takes “the common underlying opinions found in millions of individual hotel reviews across the internet… from well known sites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, Travelocity, and MyTravelGuide while others come from lesser known sites such as individual travel bloggers.” A great site for cutting  the chaff in user reviews and keeping the important details.– A website dedicated to helping you manage all the travel loyalty programs that you carry around in your wallet. The website carries an impressive amount of programs- Airline, Hotel, Car Rental, even American Express Rewards and Amtrak Guest Rewards. You may not be a “road warrior”, but there’s a good chance you have points just sitting in one or two of these programs. Check it out and see what you find- its free to use.– Like GoMiles, Tripit deals with account management. According to their website TripIt helps you “organize trip details into one master online itinerary — even if arrangements are booked at multiple travel sites, automatically include maps, directions and weather in their master itinerary, and safely access travel plans online, share them, check-in for flights, or print an itinerary.” It could be an enormous time saver for your next trip.– We could all pack more efficiently and OneBag is a great reference site that helps you do so. There is plenty of advice in how to pack as light as possible that one can adhere to in most cases.

We thank Alan and the LTN Team for putting this together and hope that you find these and the rest of tips as helpful as we did.

Share Your Netflix Login in Tennessee and go to Jail

Photo by rjones0856

Tennessee has just passed a bill that would criminalize the sharing of account information for entertainment subscription services such as Netflix and Rhapsody. Reports by Ars Technica, CNET, and the Tennessean, offer a picture of what one could expect from the implementation of the law.

The new law builds off of existing laws that prosecute people for stealing services such as cable, utilities, or meals at a restaurant. It is supposed to take aim at those that share or sell their account info to groups of people, although no one has ruled out that it may also be used to prosecute those who share with family or even their significant other.

According to the to the Recording Industry Association of America Tennessee would become the first state to update its “theft-of-cable” laws for the 21st century and address the new trend toward Internet delivery of entertainment. According to the Tennessean the penalties of the new law are as follows: Stealing $500 or less of entertainment would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Theft with a higher price tag would be a felony, with heavier penalties.

Speaking with Ars Jerry Brito, a scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University believes the law is a step in the right direction and that the fact that “this is a tweak to an existing law” is hopeful that prosecutors will behave sensibly.

The law is due to take effect on July 1.