Legal Research Blog

 

Heady Fastcase Tip, from a Law Student

We do our best to provide our customers with all the resources they need to know Fastcase in and out.  We conduct webinars on a nearly daily basis, answer folks’ questions via live chat, and provide a lot of great resources online.

But often times, the best advice about Fastcase comes from customers themselves.  Bar associations, bloggers, and librarians are great resources for tips and advice, so it’s our pleasure to highlight a recent favorite from Laura Bergus, writing for Social Media Law Student:

“This view [Interactive Timeline] is also helpful for analyzing the usefulness of your search query at a glance: if the inner circles are consistently very small compared to the outer circles, your search is probably not hitting the issue that these cases are usually cited for. This may be expected for certain issues, but is a good indicator you need to refine your search if you’re looking for seminal cases on a particular topic (because you would expect such cases to be cited heavily both in the search results and in the total database).”

Interactive Timeline

Smart huh? Use Interactive Timeline to measure the effectiveness of your search.  This is a prime example of a blogger identifying a specific aspect of a feature that we’ve never highlighted before—it’s a great tip and an effective use of the Interactive Timeline.

If you have any tips, suggestions for new features, or general feedback, let us know.  Happy Searching!

Disrupting a market, one iPhone app at a time


cc licensed flickr photo shared by Dean+Barb

A month ago, we were so excited about the release of a new iPhone App, BarMax CA, we just had to write about it. While it grabbed headlines for being the most expensive app in the iTunes store ($999), we were more excited about its potential for disrupting the bar prep market.

It appears the little-app-that-could has done just that.  As TechCrunch just reported, the bar prep giant BarBri, a live bar prep course that costs few thousand dollars more than BarMax, has responded with two major changes that poor, stressed-out, potential attorneys should really like.

For one, BarBri is now giving users “unlimited online access” to users.  The second, more substantial change is that BarBri will now allow folks who didn’t pass the bar to re-take the course, instead of paying a couple thousand dollars more (talk about kicking you when you’re down).  Of course, these are two things that BarMax could already boast—you bought the app, you keep the app.

Coolest of all, BarMax has responded with genuine excitement about these changes.  While this response is probably a good PR move either way, you get the feeling that BarMax isn’t only trying to provide a valuable product and make a profit, they truly want to improve the bar prep market by disrupting it.

As we noted last time, we’re all for tech-savvy alternatives that make your research easier and more affordable, plus add competition to a market that needs it.  Don’t have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch? No problem—you can rent an iPod Touch from BarMax.  Now that’s lowering the bar.

From the few reviews on the iTunes Store, it sounds like BarMax CA is an intuitive, functional app.  Of course, we’ll know more after folks take the CA Bar exam next week.  And while the bar prep app is only for the CA Bar right now, they’ve also just released a $500 MBE app. Sounds like they’re expanding.  With BarBri already a bit spooked, it will be interesting to see just how competitive this market can become.

South Butt: What’s In A Name?

Just in time for the Winter Olympics, we bring you news of a trademark lawsuit to weird to be made up.

Last week, in the Missouri Eastern District Court, Judge Rodney W. Sippel denied South Butt’s request to dismiss a trademark infringement lawsuit brought against the clothing company by North Face.  (Yes, you read that correctly — North Face is suing South Butt for trademark infringement).


cc licensed flickr photo shared by H Dragon

The order by Judge Sippel starts with a quote by humorist Franklin P. Jones:

“It’s a strange world of language in which skating on thin ice can get you into hot water.”

Judge Sippel also noted that he did not find it “implausible” that South Butt’s logo could cause confusion or dilution of North Face’s trademark.

South Butt has responded with humor over the dispute – both in its releases and its legal filings. In South Butt’s written response to the trademark allegation in early January, attorney Al Watkins playfully included a photo of South Butt’s 18-year-old founder Jimmy Winkelmann and described him as “a handsome cross between Mad Magazines’s Alfred E. Newman of ‘What Me Worry’ fame and Skippy the Punk from the Midwest. Watkins also noted that North Face’s decision to sue South Butt last December has resulted in a financial boom for his client.

Last week, Judge Sippel warned South Butt’s attorney against making requests with little merit:  ”Although this filing may not reach the level of frivolty, it approaches the line.”

South Butt was started in 2007 by Winkelmann as a means to spoof a status symbol at his former school, Chaminade College Prep. He began selling T-shirts, fleeces and shorts at Ladue Pharmacy. North Face is now suing Winkelmann and the pharmacy over the South Butt name.

Read the full order at Patently-O and check out the Boston Herald for additional coverage.

U.S. Class Action Suit Puts Brakes On Toyota

As the Japanese automaker launches global recalls of  8 million vehicles for repairs pegged on faulty floor mats and sticking gas pedals, Toyota also faces its first U.S. class action lawsuit due to braking problems in the 2010 Prius model. A class-action suit filed Monday on behalf of U.S. shareholders accuses Toyota Motor Corp. of issuing ”materially false and misleading statements” about its ”operations, its business and financial results and outlook.”

The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court order requiring repairs to a braking defect that the named plaintiff, Elaine Miller, says makes driving her Prius dangerous. The lawsuits lists complaints of faulty brakes in its top-selling Prius hybrid car and investors claims that they were misled about problems with unintended acceleration in a wide range of models.

Miller’s lawyer, Daniel Warshaw,  said he brought the suit in California because the state has some of the nation’s toughest consumer protection laws and because Toyota’s U.S. operations are based there. According to Warshaw, the braking problem, apparently rooted in a computer software glitch, is most pronounced when trying to slow down or stop the vehicle on bumpy or slippery roads.

The suit details that Toyota “misled investors by failing to disclose that there was a major design defect in Toyota’s acceleration system, which could cause unintended acceleration.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is investigating the issue, has listed 124 such braking complaints from consumers since Feb. 3, including four reports of accidents, two of them said to have resulted in injury.

According to the suit, tens of thousands of vehicles may be affected. Toyota acknowledged it was aware of a braking problem and sought to fix it in production with a software adjustment starting in January, but 2010 models that rolled off the assembly line before that were sold without the change.

The 2010 model Prius was introduced in the United States in May 2009.

The Prius has been the world’s best-selling hybrid vehicle, helping Toyota grab 70 percent of the U.S. market for vehicles powered by a combination of an external-combustion engine and electric motor.

Read more of the Prius case here: Miller vs. Toyota Motor Sales, USA et al, Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, No. BC431344.

Source: Insurance Journal Online

As the Japanese automaker launches global recalls of  8 million vehicles for repairs pegged on faulty floor mats and sticking gas pedals, Toyota also faces its first U.S. class action lawsuit due to braking problems in the 2010 Prius model. A class-action suit filed Monday on behalf of U.S. shareholders accuses Toyota Motor Corp. of issuing ”materially false and misleading statements” about its ”operations, its business and financial results and outlook.”The suit details that Toyota “misled investors by failing to disclose that there was a major design defect in Toyota’s acceleration system, which could cause unintended acceleration.”The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is investigating the issue, has listed 124 such braking complaints from consumers since Feb. 3, including four reports of accidents, two of them said to have resulted in injury.

The 2010 model Prius was introduced in the United States in May 2009.The Prius has been the world’s best-selling hybrid vehicle, helping Toyota grab 70 percent of the U.S. market for vehicles powered by a combination of an external-combustion engine and electric motor.Read more of the Prius case here: Miller vs. Toyota Motor Sales, USA et al, Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, No. BC431344.

Source:http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2010/02/09/107227.htm

Order in the Court: Federal Judicial Conference Takes Stand Against Jurors’ Use of Electronics

Shielding jurors from the outside influences so that they can maintain their independence and impartiality has always been a challenge.  But the rise of electronic media and social networking has added new hurdles.  Jurors have been unable to resist the temptation to Google, tweet and blog about the cases they that are charged with adjudicating.

In an effort to bring order back to the court, the federal Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Management recently issued a set of model jury instructions that explicitly advise jurors not to “not consult dictionaries or reference materials, search the internet, websites, blogs, or use any other electronic tools to obtain information about this case or to help you decide the case.”

In other words, jurors “may not communicate with anyone about the case on your cell phone, through e-mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, and YouTube.“  For the full jury instructions, click here or here.

Will the jury instructions actually stop jurors from violating the rules against communicating about and researching cases?  Probably not.  But clear instructions ought to make it easier to discipline jurors for their transgressions.