Ed Walters and Phil Rosenthal, the founders of Fastcase, seem to revel in disrupting long-held notions of how legal publishing is supposed to operate. For two guys who are in the business of selling legal research, they can’t seem to find enough ways to give away access to core legal research materials. That was the [...]
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In the continuing battle between Fastcase and Casemaker to win over the hearts (and business) of state bar associations, score one for Fastcase. And a big one, at that.
Today, the North Carolina Bar Association announced that, effective June 1, Fastcase will replace Casemaker as the legal-research service it offers its members.
Making that particularly notable is that the NCBA has been with Casemaker since 2001, when it was one of the first bar associations to provide access to a legal research service as a member benefit.
One of the factors cited in the announcement for making the switch is that Fastcase provides native apps for iPhone and iPad.
I have followed the birth and development of Bloomberg Law with great interest. After all, it requires a bit of chutzpah to launch a legal research platform with the goal of competing against Westlaw and LexisNexis on their own turf. It also requires a bit of cash. Bloomberg Law has both.
When it officially launched in December 2009, I wrote a review giving it credit for “getting into the game with swagger” by loading up on primary legal content, creating its own editorial enhancements, and developing its own citator to rival Shepard’s and KeyCite. But I also said that it was a “work in progress” and I likened it to a luxury yacht only partially constructed. “It is seaworthy,” I said, “but still has a lengthy punch list.”
By July 2011, when Bloomberg Law released “the next evolution” of its legal research platform, it had made great strides in its development, with a redesigned interface, enhanced search capabilities, new practice centers and enhanced collaboration and workflow features. And while the platform had come far closer to matching the breadth of resources available on Westlaw and LexisNexis, it still lagged behind in its collection of secondary legal materials such as treatises and practice guides, as its chairman, Lou Andreozzi acknowledged in an interview with me at the time.
Given this history, Bloomberg’s announcement last August that it would acquire BNA — with its highly regarded collection of materials covering labor and employment, tax and accounting, intellectual property, banking and securities, human resources, environmental law, health care and more — promised to narrow that gap in secondary resources.
Yesterday, Bloomberg Law unveiled the fruits of its BNA acquistion. Now, Bloomberg Law subscribers have full access to all BNA content. Keep in mind that Bloomberg Law is a flat-rate, all-access platform. That means that BNA access requires no extra fees and no hunting through peripheral libraries. The BNA materials are fully integrated within Bloomberg Law. You want BNA’s Daily Labor Report? It’s there in Bloomberg Law, for no extra cost.
In fact, the integration effectively adds value to the BNA products. Now, all references within the BNA materials are hyperlinked to source materials. When you see references to cases, statutes, news articles and the like, you can click on any of them to see the source document. This is a level of integration you don’t see if you subscribe individually to BNA materials through the BNA website (which you can still do).
Plus, the BNA materials are fully integrated into Bloomberg Law’s practice centers. The practice centers (see the screencap below) are sections of Bloomberg Law that pull together key resources for subjects such as labor and employment law and intellectual property law. While the BNA materials are fully integrated with the search and browse structures of these practice centers, they also remain easy to find on their own. With the click of a checkbox, a user can set any practice center page as a home page.
“We were always lacking a good legal research platform on which to showcase our content,” BNA CEO Greg McCaffery told me in an interview this morning. “It’s been a joy working with a legal research platform where we could not just post the content, but actually build it into Bloomberg Law. The user experience will be quite different.”
A Wide Range of BNA Products
If you are not familiar with the full range of BNA products, you can find a list on the BNA website. Among the products now integrated into Bloomberg Law are:
- More than 120 current-awareness law reports, including the Daily Labor Report, the Daily Tax Report, the Daily Report for Executives and The United States Law Week.
- Bloomberg BNA’s professional books, treatises and manuals, including Harmon on Patents, Section 409A Handbook and ERISA Litigation.
- The portfolio series of practical guidance written by leading practitioners, including the complete Corporate Practice Series.
- Bloomberg BNA’s headnotes and classifications outlines, such as U.S. Patents Quarterly, that are easily searchable and organized by experienced editors.
All new BNA content will now flow directly into Bloomberg Law. That includes any new products the company develops. The BNA editorial team, based in Arlington, Va., is now part of the Bloomberg Legal Division and works closely with Bloomberg editors in New York.
What’s next for Bloomberg Law? I put that question to Chairman Lou Andreozzi this morning and here’s what he said: “Consistent with what we’ve been doing, we’ll continue to put greater functionality on the product and add value at no additional cost. We still have an editorial team working to build out secondary content. The combination of the two cultures has created an impressive editorial team.”
Last month, the American Association of Law Libraries awarded Bloomberg Law its 2012 New Product Award. The award, which will be presented at the AALL annual meeting in Boston in July, recognizes new commercial information products that enhance or improve existing law library services or procedures or innovative products which improve access to legal information, the legal research process, or procedures for technical processing of library materials.
Bloomberg Law also recently announced that the law firm DLA Piper had contracted to integrate the legal research service throughout its 1,400-lawyer firm.
The combination of chutzpah and cash is proving to be potent for Bloomberg Law. Not to be discounted is the underlying Bloomberg news and financial network that gave birth to this platform. Much of that content, of course, is tightly integrated into Bloomberg Law. That results in a platform that is powerful for not just legal research, but also for business and current-awareness research.
For Bloomberg Law, it seems, the punch list grows shorter by the day.
Almost a year ago, I wrote here about the major upgrade in the works for the Casemaker legal research service. At the time, I was given a demonstration that previewed the new interface but I was not then able to try it out directly. Well, it’s taken awhile, but I have finally been able to test it out and I can now verify that the new Casemaker is a dramatic improvement over the version now in use, Casemaker 2.2.
(While the original plan was to call this new release “CasemakerElite,” the company now calls it simply “Casemaker.”)
As I wrote in my original preview, the new version of Casemaker takes its cue from WestlawNext and Lexis Advance, incorporating a single, Google-inspired search box that searches universally across libraries. Enter a simple search, a phrase, a more complex syntax search or a citation and Casemaker will deliver the most relevant results from all its libraries of primary law — cases, statutes, court rules and other materials. From there, you can easily drill down and narrow the results. If you want to see just cases, one click narrows the results. If you want just Massachusetts cases, another click further narrows the results.
This makes search much easier than in the current Casemaker 2.2. In the current version, before you can enter a search, you need to pick a library. From the home page, you would click, for example, “State Libraries,” and then select “Massachusetts” and then pick a Massachusetts-specific library, such as “Case Law.” Only then could you enter your search. You could also use a feature called MultiBook Search to search all libraries within Massachusetts, but this limited your ability to tailor and narrow your search.
Universal Search from Every Page
Now, with the new Casemaker, you can enter your search directly from the home page or from any page — the search bar is always there at the top of your screen, no matter where you are in your research. Search results span all libraries, so you see results for cases, statutes, rules, law reviews, etc. In the center of the page, you see the top two results for each category. To the left, you see an overview of results, showing how many matches there are for each type. To the right of each case name is a number showing how many times it has been cited throughout the entire Casemaker database.
I searched “Daubert” and saw that there were 11,172 matching cases, 45 matching law review articles, etc. To see just the cases, I click “Cases.” From there, I can further narrow the results by clicking specific jurisdiction or court names. I can also search within those results or narrow results by party name, judge name, attorney name, date decided, docket number or citation.
The universal search bar also offers advanced search options. Click “Show Advanced Search” and you can limit the search by citation, party, docket number, section number or keyword. A drop-down menu to the right of the search bar lets you easily narrow a search by jurisdiction. The search bar includes auto correct that automatically fixes misspelled citations.
Of course, you do not have to start with the universal search. You can browse through libraries and select the one you want.
The new Casemaker also makes it easier to navigate through results. Now, as you view the results, a simple drop-down lets you reorder them by relevance, date decided or most cited. Previously in Casemaker, you had to select the sort order when you entered the search query. If you wanted to change it, you had to backtrack and re-enter the search.
Another change is that, once you select a result to view, a navigation bar above the result lets you easily return to the full results list, move to the next document in the results list, or jump to the next appearance of the search term. If at any time you get lost in your research trail, you can always select “History” to see a full list of where you’ve been and return to any point.
Also as you view a result, you can click a tab at the top of the screen to show “Citing References.” This displays the cases that cite the selected case. (This exists in Casemaker 2.2 as CaseCheck.)
Other Enhancements in Casemaker
In addition to universal search, the new Casemaker provides a number of other enhancements. They include:
- User-created folders. The new Casemaker lets you create custom folders and store documents in them. As you view a document, a folder icon at the top lets you add it to any folder you’ve created. A separate button at the top of the page does this same thing and also lets you create a new folder. Once you’ve added a document to a folder, this same button shows you the name of the folder in which you’ve stored it. You can also drag and drop a document title to the folder icon to save it.
- Track research by client. You can assign a research session to a specific client and matter number. Casemaker will remember clients you’ve previously added. When you select a client, the client name appears in the navigation bar and Casemaker tracks and produces a report of that research session showing hours worked for that client.
- Add notes to documents. You can now add notes to any document with a single click. You can choose to show or hide these notes and can edit any notes you’ve already created.
Availability of Casemaker
Casemaker has arrangements with 25 state and local bar associations that make it available for free to their members. Casemaker is available on a subscription basis to those who do not have free access through a bar association, but not in every state. For example, lawyers in California and New York can subscribe to Casemaker for $49 a month or $499 a year. But no subscription is currently available for Florida. You can go here to find out if a subscription package is available for your state.
Premium Product: Casemaker+
With the new Casemaker, the company is now selling a premium add-on it calls Casemaker+. Whether you receive Casemaker through your bar association or purchase it as a subscription, you must purchase an additional subscription for access to Casemaker+. It consists of three features:
- CaseCheck+. This is Casemaker’s answer to Shepherd’s and KeyCite. It identifies whether cases are good law. If you subscribe to this feature, then as you view search results, you see a green “thumbs up” or a red “thumbs down” icon next to each case. When you view the full document of a case with a red icon, you can click through to see the case that is identified as the negative treatment.
- CasemakerDigest. These are summaries of the most recent decisions handed down by state and federal courts. You can sign up to receive these by email or via an RSS feed.
- CiteCheck. This tool lets you upload a Word or searchable PDF document and run it through a citation checker. The check will show whether cases you’ve cited are good law and will reveal any citation format errors.
The price for Casemaker+ varies by state. In Massachusetts, where I am, you can buy the bundle of all three features for $59 a month or buy just CaseCheck+ for $49 a month (which includes CiteCheck) or just CasemakerDigest for $19 a month. You can check the cost for your state from this page.
The Bottom Line: A Much-Improved User Experience
As I wrote last April in my preview of the new Casemaker, I have never received more impassioned feedback than I did when I published a head-to-head review of Casemaker vs. Fastcase. At the time, I called it a virtual draw, except that I concluded that Fastcase had the “clear edge” for intuitiveness and ease of use.
With this new release, Casemaker has enhanced its interface by leaps and bounds. Where once it could be clumsy or tedious to use, it is now simple and intuitive. By incorporating universal search and making it easy to drill down through results, Casemaker has answered the criticisms I once had.
A company run by a Texas criminal lawyer has introduced a mobile app designed to enable attorneys to quickly access statutes and case law from the courtroom, the boardroom or wherever they may be. The app, PUSH Legal, enables lawyers to load up their mobile devices with a library of annotated deskbooks covering a range of legal topics. The app is available for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Android devices.
The idea is good but the price tag might be hard to swallow for many lawyers. The app itself is free and comes preloaded with the Federal Rules of Evidence. For roughly the next two months, you’ll be able to download a 45-day trial version of any of the other volumes for 99 cents. Thereafter, each book will be sold as an annual subscription at a minimum cost of $29.99, with some costing as much as $149.
What you get for that are books containing statutes or rules along with brief annotations of leading cases. The app also links directly to Google Scholar, using preconfigured search queries to find additional cases and articles there.
For example, if I open the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure volume, I find an outline of the rules. If I navigate to a specific rule, I come to a page that contains the text of the rule. From that page, I can click a tab, “Leading Cases,” to display a brief list of what are supposed to be the leading cases interpreting the rule. The list has a one-paragraph summary of the case and a link to the full text in Google Scholar. Also from within that window, I can click a link, “Click here for more annotations,” to open a page in Google Scholar that displays the results of the preconfigured search query related to the rule.
You may have noticed above that I said it displays a brief list of “what are supposed to be the leading cases.” I was surprised to open the Federal Rules of Evidence volume and click on Rule 702, governing testimony by experts, and find only one case, the 8th Circuit opinion in Fox v. Dannenberg, but no reference to the seminal case, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. That said, if you click on the “more annotations” link, the first case shown in Google Scholar is Daubert.
In a phone call with PUSH Legal’s founder, lawyer Jonathan Paull, he acknowledged that the app still has some bugs that need to be worked out. But he expects to have any such issues taken care of before the launch of the full-priced deskbooks later this year.
So far, the majority of the deskbooks are devoted to federal and Texas practice. They include volumes covering Title 18 of the U.S. Code, the federal sentencing guidelines, the federal search and seizure manual, various Texas codes and rules, and various federal court rules. The criminal laws of California, Florida and New York each have a volume, as does the Delaware corporation law.
The company is working to add more volumes from these states and to add other states.
The FAQ on the app’s website says, “Other legal apps contain statutes, but PUSH Legal is the only legal app that contains case law to boot.” As stated, this is not accurate. For one, the Fastcase app provides direct access to full-text cases. Of course, the difference with PUSH Legal is that it ties key cases to the rules and statutes they interpret.
[Update: After I posted this, PUSH Legal revised the FAQ to say it is "the only legal app that ties key cases to the rules and statutes they interpret."]
As I noted, you can install this app for free and try out its pre-loaded FRE volume. For the price of a song, you can also try out any of its other volumes.
By Jan. 1 at the latest, the company will begin charging full freight for these volumes. At that point, users will have to confront the question of whether it’s worth $29.99 per volume per year to have these on their mobile devices. To my mind, the answer to that question will depend entirely on how well annotated they are.
Legal research company Fastcase will announce a new utility tomorrow that enables one-click printing of any case from any source on the Web or in any Microsoft Word document. Called Fastcase Cloud Printing, the utility lets you print or save a nicely formatted, two-column version of any case. The utility works with Google Scholar, Westlaw, LexisNexis or anywhere there is a case online.
You can also use it to create and print a list of cases. Say you are reading a case or a brief that contains many citations. With a single click, Fastcase Cloud Printing will generate a list of all the cited cases within the document and let you select the ones you want to print.
The printing utility is installed as an add-on to Internet Explorer or Word. Versions for Google Chrome and Firefox will be released later. For now, the utility works with Web pages and Word documents. Later versions will also allow one-click printing from Outlook and PDF documents.
The utility works by recognizing citations within documents and then using that information to pull the matching case or cases from Fastcase. For example, if you use it to print a case you are reading in Google Scholar, it does not somehow pull the case from Scholar and reformat it. Instead, it finds the corresponding case in Fastcase and presents it for you to print.
One obvious benefit of such an app is simply to be able to print cleaner, better-formatted versions of Web cases. Another is to be able easily to bulk print a set of cited cases.
A less-obvious benefit of this app is that it may save a firm money. In concept, the app is similar to Westlaw Find & Print. But users of Find & Print pay for it by the transaction. Law Firm Bottom Line recently estimated that the cost of Find & Print has increased 144% over five years. The Fastcase utility can eliminate the need to use Find & Print — even from within Westlaw.
Initially, Fastcase will offer the application only to enterprise subscribers, who will receive it as part of their existing subscriptions at no extra charge. Later, the app will be offered to lawyers who have access to Fastcase through their state bar associations, although they may have to pay an added fee for it.
For screencaps of Fastcase Cloud Printing, see below.
Bloomberg Law today released what it describes as “the next evolution” of its legal research platform. Changes include a redesigned interface, enhanced search capabilities, new practice centers and enhanced collaboration and workflow features. One thing that is not changing is Bloomberg Law’s flat-fee, all-inclusive pricing — something the company believes is key to differentiating it from the big-two legal research services, Westlaw and LexisNexis.
Bloomberg Law officially launched in December 2009. In a review I wrote about it soon after its launch, I gave the service credit for “getting into the game with swagger” by loading up on primary legal content, creating its own editorial enhancements, and developing its own citator to rival Shepard’s and KeyCite. But I also said that it was a “work in progress” and I likened it to a luxury yacht only partially contrusted. “It is seaworthy,” I said, “but still has a lengthy punch list.”
Last October, Bloomberg Law rearranged the deck chairs and brought aboard Lou Andreozzi, the former president and CEO of LexisNexis North American Legal Markets, to take the company’s helm as chairman. It also brought in Larry D. Thompson, former VP of business development, strategy and marketing for LexisNexis, as COO.
Today I spoke with Andreozzi about the changes to Bloomberg Law and was given a brief demonstration. I have not logged in and tested the upgraded version and will post more substantive comments after I am able to do that.
Flat Fee Pricing
One point Andreozzi emphasizes is that the flat-fee pricing model will not change. The price of a subscription remains what it was when the service launched — $450 per user per month. (Enterprise pricing is available to larger organizations.) That price is all-inclusive; there are no hidden or add-on charges for any of the service’s features. The only price increases customers will receive will be minor adjustments every other year based on the cost of living. “We’re committed to predictable, transparent pricing,” Andreozzi says.
For that, Andreozzi maintains, you get virtually everything that Westlaw and LexisNexis have — all federal and state primary law, a top-tier citator, national and international dockets, and in-depth news and business intelligence drawn from Bloomberg’s global network.
At this point in its development, Andreozzi believes, Bloomberg Law compares unfavorably to Westlaw and LexisNexis only in one respect: its lesser collection of secondary legal materials such as treatises and practice guides. The company continues to move towards the goal of developing secondary materials to cover all practice areas, but it is several years away from reaching that goal, Andreozzi says.
Even so, Andreozzi asserts that such secondary materials account for no more than 10 percent of all legal research. Ninety percent of research involves the three areas where Bloomberg Law is strong: primary law, citations and business intelligence. In fact, Andreozzi believes, lawyers at the highest levels of their practice areas are most likely to focus on that latter category of business intelligence research, including business news, corporate and company information, and docket information.
Many larger law firms maintain subscriptions to both Westlaw and LexisNexis, Andreozzi notes. With Bloomberg Law covering 90 percent or more of what lawyers need in a research product on a flat-fee basis, he suggests, they can now drop at least one of those subscriptions.
As I say, the interview and demonstration were brief. I’ll provide more information as I have it.
In close to 20 years of writing about legal technology and the Web, one article of mine stands head and shoulders above all others for the impassioned feedback I received. That article was my head-to-head review of Casemaker vs. Fastcase, the two legal research services that market themselves to bar associations to offer as a benefit to their members. To this day, e-mails responding to that review still trickle in. Some chastize me. Some pat me on the back.
The irony is that I called the competition between the two services as more or less of a tie in many respects. “Both are worthwhile services with many similarities,” I wrote. With respect to their coverage of primary legal materials and the strength of their search tools, “neither stands out as significantly superior to the other,” I said.
In just one respect, I gave Fastcase “the clear edge”: intuitiveness and ease of use. Granted, these are important. Even so, by that simple judgment call, I quickly learned that both services have legions of fiercely loyal users.
That is a long-winded way of getting to the point of this post: Coming soon to Casemaker is a significant upgrade to its interface that promises to significantly enhance its intuitiveness and ease of use while also enhancing the product’s core functionality. To be called “CasemakerElite,” this new version takes a cue from WestlawNext, which has an interface that I once described as ”Zen-like in its sparsity — or, I should say, Google-like.” The folks at Casemaker looked at what West did and said to themselves, “We can do that.”
Steve Newsom, managing director of Casemaker, gave me a demonstration of Elite by web conference yesterday. I have not yet tried the product directly. I hope to do that sometime in May and write a more detailed review then. Based on the demonstration, here are some initial impressions.
A Single, Universal Search
WestlawNext and Lexis Advance both took their lead from Google, incorporating a single search box that searches universally across libraries. CasemakerElite does the same. You can enter a simple search, a phrase, a more complex syntax search or a citation. Casemaker will deliver the most relevant results from across all its libraries of primary law — cases, statutes, court rules and other materials. From there, you can easily drill down through or narrow the results. Choose to see just cases or just statutes. Search within search results. By default, results are sorted by relevance, but they can also be sorted by date decided or frequency of citation. As you narrow your search, you retain a “breadcrumb trail” of your search path.
Elite will add various other new features to Casemaker. Among them is the ability to add notes to cases and to save cases and notes in custom folders. When you sign in to Elite, it will remember you and highlight your most frequently used libraries and your most recently viewed documents. A second-phase roll-out will include the ability to save searches and to set up email alerts when there are updates to your saved searches.
Casemaker Elite will be rolled out to current Casemaker subscribers late in May or early in June. This will be the first phase of a five-phase update, with additional enhancements to be rolled out later in June and continuing thereafter.
New Ownership for Casemaker
The impetus for this major redesign was Casemaker’s acquisition in 2009 by SSN Holdings, the parent company of the legal research service JuriSearch. Daniel Shapiro, the California lawyer who is CEO of JuriSearch, said a first priority after the acquisition was to enhance Casemaker’s interface.
In 2002, JuriSearch bought the National Law Library and BriefReporter, and with those services came David Harriman, the former CEO and editor-in-chief of The Michie Company, along with several other former Michie editors.
Now, Harriman is part of the team working to enhance Casemaker. He has a team of legal editors in the United States and India who produce the CasemakerDigest, a service that provides summaries of federal and state cases. He has also helped create CaseCheck and CaseCheck +, Casemaker’s version of a Shepard’s-like citation checker.
As I say, I hope to have an opportunity to try out CasemakerElite in the near future. When I do, I will report back here in more detail.
A newly launched website, The Free Law Reporter, provides free access to a searchable index of recent federal and state court opinions. Developed by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), the site describes itself as an “electronic case reporter” that makes the opinions searchable and also provides them as ebook collections.
FLR uses the feed of cases provided through the Report of Current Opinions, or RECOP. A cooperative project among Public.Resource.Org, Fastcase and others, RECOP provides a weekly bulk feed of HTML versions of all slip and final opinions of all federal and state appellate and supreme courts. The feed is available for use by anyone with the goal of spurring innovation in case law research.
(I wrote about RECOP in two posts: Public Domain Group to Begin Weekly Release of all Federal and State Appellate Cases and More Details on RECOP from Fastcase’s Ed Walters.)
CALI’s goal in creating FLR, the website says, is “to create a body of court opinions that is accessible to anyone including educators, librarians, students, lawyers and the public.” Besides providing searchable access to the cases, FLR also produces weekly ebook compilations of cases by state or federal jurisdiction. These are in the “.epub” format that can be read by a range of ebook readers on computers, mobile phones, tablets and e-readers.
Because it uses the RECOP feed, FLR’s collection covers only cases issued since Jan. 1, 2011.
CALI says it plans to use FLR as a platform for other projects. For anyone interested in keeping tabs on its development, it has set up a mailing list. You can get on the list by sending a blank e-mail to email@example.com.
I wrote here in October about the launch of Lexis Advance for Solos, the LexisNexis flat-rate legal research platform for one- and two-lawyer firms. This week, Lexis rolled out a new app that allows lawyers who subscribe to Advance to use it from their iPhones.
The app lets you search by text or citation “instantly,” meaning that you do not have to select a specific content type or jurisdiction. If you prefer, you can first narrow a search by content type, jurisdiction or topic.
The app can also be used to Shepardize cases and statutes to determine whether they are still good law and to find other authorities that cite them.
The app includes Work Folders to save documents, searches, citations and Shepard’s results.
The app is free but you will need to be an Advance subscriber to use it.