Casemaker and Fastcase: Reviews from the trenches

This summer, the State Bar of Texas became the first bar association in the nation to offer its members access to both Casemaker and Fastcase. While this is no doubt exciting for those attorneys who already know the benefits offered by these two legal research products—others might be wondering how it affects their daily practice and how the two products differ.

At $2,000, the State Bar has estimated that access to Fastcase and Casemaker is the most valuable benefit it provides for its members. Deciding which of the two to use largely depends on personal preferences as the platforms have distinctive designs and user experiences (for example, some liken Fastcase to using a Mac and Casemaker to using a PC).

Here’s what two lawyers—one a fan of Fastcase and the other preferring Casemaker—have to say about their experiences. To get more information on all the differences between Fastcase and Casemaker, read the September Texas Bar Journal’s Technology column.

Casemaker Fan: Deborah J. Bullion, a litigator with Gascoyne & Bullion in Sugar Land

There are a number of tools that make research easier and quicker. I especially love knowing when I pull up a case if it has been reversed, modified, or given favorable or negative treatment all on the same page. There are several tabs above the case that show the subsequent history and whether the petition or writ for review was granted or denied. And CaseCheck+ is so easy. As you research and pull up a case, it immediately provides a red thumbs-down for cases that have been treated negatively with cites to those cases and a green thumbs-up to indicate that the case is still good law.

If the case is still good law, it important to know how it has been cited or applied by other courts. With one click at the top of the page, CiteCheck provides a list of linked cases that have cited your case. The cite to your case will be highlighted in red so that you do not have to read through a 10-page opinion.

I have also found that researching how a statute has been treated or applied by the courts is just as easy by clicking on “Annotator” and instantly getting a list of cases that cite the statute. All with one click, you can get an idea of how courts have interpreted and applied the statute.

 

Fastcase Fan: Grant Scheiner, a criminal defense lawyer and principal in Scheiner Law Group in Houston

Texas solos and firms of 10 lawyers or fewer get the Premium Plan, which includes all of the state and federal libraries contained in the large firms’ Texas Plan—plus nationwide coverage from state and federal courts, state statutes, administrative regulations, court rules, constitutions, and more. All Texas attorneys also get annotated statutes from other states, as well as transactional access to newspaper articles, federal court filings, legal forms, and law reviews.

Fastcase is especially useful if you work with mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. It has easy-to-use iOS and Android apps, and its mobile sync feature lets you share search results and research material across all of your devices at once. Useful features include a bubble chart that allows you to visually compare the importance of cases that come up in your search results and the Bad Law Bot automated listing of the negative treatments.

I really appreciate how Fastcase not only lists case search results by relevance (which is basically Fastcase’s algorithmic measurement of the importance of each case) but also lets you quickly switch the search results to filter showing the most recent case first. When I’m researching case law for an appellate brief or legal memorandum for a trial court, I find the most important cases are usually the “landmark decisions” and the most recent decisions. Fastcase lets me switch between these listings in a snap.

A new take on the case digest

Casemaker, which provides free caselaw for Texas lawyers, has launched a unique case digest service for Texas legal pros. 

The site kicks the traditional digest up a notch by allowing keyword searches and sorting case summaries by practice area, court, and even judge. Take a look now for free, and starting on September 1st sign up for a free 30-day trial of the service, which will cost $39.95 per year.

For a tour of the new case digest service, sign up for a free webinar, offered every Monday.

Remember that Casemaker 2.1 is free to all Texas lawyers and includes the full text of cases from all 50 states and an expanded federal library. Casemaker offers free live and recorded webinars on its research tools.


Email yourself a case with Casemaker 2.1

File this one under "the small things that count." Casemaker 2.1, our free legal research tool, has quietly added some new printing options you'll find useful.

Looking at the full text of a case, you'll see a print dialogue in the upper right (see below) which now allows you to print the case, save it as a PDF or Word doc, or email it to yourself. You can also create a PDF of or email Casemaker search results.





 











Using the email feature, for example, you might have a Gmail account dedicated to legal research where you email cases for access anywhere.

Texas attorneys can access Casemaker 2.1 anytime from My Bar Page on TexasBar.com or on TexasBarCLE.com. Casemaker now includes free case law from all 50 states and an expanded federal library.