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 [...]
TAG | Fastcase
Back in January 2010, this blog had an exclusive first look as Fastcase was about to launch its app to let iPhone users research cases and statutes for free, directly on their devices. Later, Fastcase came out with a version for the iPad. The app proved popular and even won the American Association of Law Libraries award as 2010 New Product of the Year.
Meanwhile, Android users were left waiting in the wings, with no compatible version of the app available for their devices. Tomorrow that changes, as Fastcase will release an Android version of its legal research app. Like its iPhone counterpart, the Android version will be free to download and free to use.
When I say free, I mean free. No paid subscription of any kind is required to use this app. Registration is required, but there is no cost to register. Once you’ve installed the app and registered, you can research cases and statutes. Case law coverage spans all 50 states and the federal courts. Statutes for all 50 states are included, and can be searched or browsed.
I tested a pre-release version on an Android tablet. It has all the features of the iPhone version. Notably, you can search cases using both keyword and natural-language searches as well as by citation. You can define the jurisdictions and date ranges to search. Results can be sorted by relevance, decision date, name or by frequency of citation. Results include Fastcase’s Authority Check feature, telling you how often each case has been cited. Citations within cases are hyperlinked.
If you are a full subscriber to Fastcase through a bar association member benefit, you can connect your mobile and desktop accounts and keep them synchronized through Fastcase’s Mobile Sync feature. The feature synchronizes your favorites and usage history, and lets you save cases on your mobile device and then read and print them later on your desktop.
Settings within the app let you customize various elements, such as the font size at which documents are displayed and the way results or displayed. It also lets you set limits on storage within your mobile device, to conserve space.
Fastcase CEO Ed Walters says that this will be the first legal research app for the Android platform. Although there are mobile-optimized sites, there are no native apps for legal research on Android.
In my opinion, every attorney should have this app on his or her mobile device. You never know when you might need to check a case or find a statute. With this app, it is quick and easy to do legal research on the road. And at a cost of zero, you can’t beat the price.
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’ve written several times about the Fastcase app for the iPhone and iPad, both of which let you research cases and statutes for free directly from your mobile device. This week, Fastcase rolled out Mobile Sync, a feature that synchronizes the mobile app with the desktop version of Fastcase.
What that means is that your search history, your saved documents and your favorite jurisdictions are always synchronized and available to you, whether you are working on your mobile device or your desktop. By way of example, you may perform research on your desktop and find cases you want to use in court. Simply save them to your favorites and they are instantly available through the mobile app. Or maybe you’re on the commuter rail heading to work and use the mobile app to find a document you want to print. Save it and when you get to your office, print it out.
There is no charge for Mobile Sync and the mobile app remains free to use. Desktop accounts require a subscription, either through a bar association member benefit, an individual subscription, a law school subscription or an enterprise subscription. Mobile Sync is also included in free trial subscriptions.
The Fastcase blog has instructions on how to sync your desktop and mobile accounts.
Just last week, someone asked me for a list of my favorite iPhone apps. I get this question a lot, so I thought I’d talk about about a few of my favorite apps.
No Angry Birds here. I will restrict myself to apps that have some application in the practice of law. That does not mean they are all apps specifically targeted to lawyers. But I hope that they are all apps you will find useful. In fact, you may already have many of them yourself.
I use all of these apps on an iPhone, but most are also available for Android and BlackBerry. I’ve designated that using “A” for Android and “BB” for BlackBerry.
Evernote. This app promises to turn your phone into an extension of your brain. That is not entirely an exaggeration. The wonder of Evernote is its ability to synchronize everything from everywhere. Add text, audio or photos on your smartphone. Save PDF documents or clip Web pages on your computer. Whatever you add to Evernote, it is automatically synchronized among all your devices and is also available via the cloud. All this is free, or you can buy the premium version that provides greater storage capacity and enhanced features. (A, BB)
Dropbox. In much the same way that Evernote is a wonder, so is Dropbox. Drag anything into the Dropbox folder on your computer and it is almost immediately available on your mobile device or via any Web browser. Revise a document or edit a photo on your desktop Dropbox folder, and the changes appear anywhere you access Dropbox. With Dropbox, you’ll never be without an important document or file. Plus you can use it to share with others. (A, BB)
Dragon Dictation. Many lawyers are familiar with the desktop version of this popular voice-recognition application. With this app, you can use your smart phone to quickly create email and text messages, send yourself notes and reminders, and update your status on Twitter or Facebook – all virtually hands-free. (A, BB)
Fastcase. I continue to marvel at this app, which lets you research cases and statutes on your iPhone, entirely for free. Search a full library of federal and state cases and statutes. Use natural language or Boolean queries. Search across jurisdictions and dates or narrow your search. Select how many results to show and how to display the results – by relevance, date or name. This could be a case-saver in the courtroom.
Google Search. You use Google non-stop on your computer. Why not make it easy to use on your iPhone? This is the app that does that for you, even allowing you to simply speak your search query into your phone and to search based on images from your phone’s camera. The app also allows quick access to other Google applications, such as Reader, Translate, Docs, Photos and more. (A, BB)
Adobe Reader. As you might expect, this is the best app for viewing PDF documents on your smartphone. (A, BB)
Genius Scan. This free app lets you use your phone as a pocket scanner. Open the app, point your camera at the document, take the picture, and the app optimizes the image and saves it as a JPG or PDF file. From there, you can save it to your phone, share it with your computer over WiFi, email it, or tweet it. With the paid version ($2.99), you can easily export your scans to Dropbox, Evernote and Google Docs. Perfect for receipts.
Skype. Make free voice and video calls with this app on your phone. It works just as well as Skype on the computer. Call other Skype users for free and call landlines at low rates. If you travel outside the U.S., this is a must-have that lets you avoid the high cost of international cell phone rates. Wherever you have Wi-Fi access, you have Skype access. (A)
Adobe Photoshop Express. Adobe Photoshop is the top-of-the-line software for editing digital images. This slimmed-down version lets you easily make quick edits to photographs you take with your mobile phone. Crop pictures; adjust exposure, contrast and color; apply filters; add special effects; and create borders. (A)
WordPress. With this app on your phone, you can manage any WordPress blog or even multiple WordPress blogs. Use it to create or edit posts and pages, add images and video, and moderate comments. (A, BB)
CamCard. Here is the solution for handling all those business cards you pick up. Take a picture of the card and CamCard recognizes the contact information and saves it to your address book. It will also read QR code business cards. Once you’ve saved the information, you can search for the contact on LinkedIn or export the information to Excel. (A, BB)
Tweetdeck. Keep plugged in to your social networks with this app. Monitor and post to all your Twitter and Facebook accounts. This companion to the Tweetdeck desktop application was recently completely rebuilt to make it faster and more versatile. As with the desktop version, you can add and configure columns for different accounts and different searches. (A)
Wikipedia Mobile. Need a quick answer to a question? This app provides an easy interface to the Wikipedia Web encyclopedia. If you can’t find an answer here, the question probably wasn’t important to begin with. (BB)
Priceline Negotiator. Using Priceline’s “name your own price” feature for hotel rooms and car rentals, I’ve snagged some great deals, even on four-star hotels in major cities. With this app, you can find a great deal wherever you are. Besides letting you search for rates or name your own price, it offers “tonight-only deals” you can grab on short notice. (A)
RedLaser. This turns your phone into a bar-code and QR-code reader and then helps you find the best price. Say you’re in the office-supply store for a toner cartridge. Scan the bar code and RedLaser will show you the prices of the same item at other nearby stores and also at online retailers. For books, the app will even show local libraries that have it. (A)
NPR News. If you’re an NPR junkie like I am, get this app. Listen to NPR programs live from any NPR station anywhere in the country, download NPR podcasts, get hourly newscasts, and read headline news. (A)
LinkedIn. Keep connected to the leading professional networking site even when you’re away from your office. Use it to keep up with your connections and groups, provide updates on your status, and follow industry news. (A, BB)
Facebook. If you plan to access Facebook from your iPhone, get this app. It makes Facebook much easier to use than it would be using the phone’s mobile browser. Besides allowing you to keep in touch with your friends wherever you are (and to find ones who are nearby), the app makes it easy to upload photos and video. (A, BB)
Opera Mini Browser. The Safari browser that comes loaded on the iPhone can be slow and can fail to properly display many web pages. Like its desktop counterpart, the Opera Mini Browser is blazingly fast. It can accurately display pages that Safari cannot handle and is far more configurable than Safari. (A)
Kindle. Even if you do not own a Kindle e-reader, you can read any Kindle book on your iPhone using this app. If you do have a Kindle, or if you have the Kindle reader on your computer, this app keeps both synchronized, so you can pick up reading on one device where you left off on another. (Another e-reader app I recommend is Stanza.) (A)
Pandora. Even lawyers need a little music in their lives. Pandora describes itself as “radio that only plays music you’ll love.” With this app, you can have all the music you love even when you are on the road. (A, BB)
I could go on for pages about other apps I use. Unfortunately, I have work to do. Thus, begrudgingly, I will have to stop here.
Legal research service Fastcase has announced its inaugural Fastcase 50 and I am deeply honored to be on the list. The list recognizes the 50 “most interesting, provocative, and courageous leaders in the world of law, scholarship, and legal technology.” See the full roster of honorees at www.fastcase.com/fastcase50-winners.
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.
Ever wonder why someone who is in the business of selling court opinions would want to support a project that is devoted to giving them away for free? I have the answer to that question from Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase.
As I wrote here earlier today, beginning in January, Fastcase will collaborate with Public.Resource.Gov to launch the Report of Current Opinions, a weekly release of all federal and state appellate opinions available for anyone to use without restriction. Fastcase will provide the opinions that RECOP will use for its weekly releases.
So why would Fastcase, which operates a paid legal research service, give away these very-same cases? And these are not raw cases — they are cases that Fastcase collects from hundreds of different sources in any number of different formats and file types and then harmonizes into a uniform format.
“The courts have created a modern-day Tower of Babel, with hundreds of different formats, standards, and file types,” says Walters.” To make the law understandable and useful, Fastcase harmonizes these opinions into a single standard for our own site. Today, we’re sharing that work with the world.”
The reason his company is doing this, Walters says, is because it believes that competition in legal publishing should be based not on who owns the data but on who provides the best features, services and prices.
“For too long, the dynamics of this market have been driven by access, but the services legal publishers offer haven’t gotten much better,” Walters says. “The more public you make the law, the more the competition has to be about the quality of the service, the innovativeness of the service, and the price of the service.”
Walters acknowledges that by releasing this data, he will be encouraging the development of new competitors, both commercial and non-commercial. (The now-shuttered Alt-Law project is an example of the latter.) That, he believes, is a good thing.
“For West and Lexis, this is their AOL moment — they can’t make this fight about access anymore,” he says. “We want the fight to be about who delivers the best service, who is the most nimble, and who delivers the best value.”
Needless to say, Walters believes that is a fight that Fastcase would win. “We’re going to continue to make Fastcase better and better.”
More Details about RECOP
RECOP will include all federal and state supreme and appellate opinions issued beginning Jan. 1, 2011. The first feed of cases will be released on Friday, Jan. 14, covering cases issued the week of Jan. 3 to Jan. 7, Walters says. A new feed will be released every Friday thereafter, covering the prior week’s opinions.
The number of cases to be released is staggering. Walters estimates that there are some 10,000 appellate opinions a week, meaning RECOP will put out roughly a half-million opinions every year.
As I mentioned in my prior post, a number of commercial and non-commercial entities — all involved in the Law.gov project — will help make this happen, helping to prepare the cases for release each week.
Also as I mentioned in the earlier post, the backers of this project plan to operate it for only two years, after which they hope the government (or governments) will pick it up. Walters is hopeful that will happen. “I will be very surprised if the government doesn’t do it,” he says.
As I said here last week, Fastcase is preparing to launch an iPad version of its popular iPhone app. The iPhone app, which I first previewed in January, last week was named 2010 New Product of the Year by the American Association of Law Libraries.
Meanwhile, the iPad version of the app is ready to go and awaiting final approval by Apple. Once Apple gives the OK, the app will launch.
Until then, here are four screen shots provided by Fastcase.
At least I can claim you read about it here first. The Fastcase iPhone app has been selected by the American Association of Law Libraries as 2010 New Product of the Year. This is the app that lets you do full case law and statute research for free on your phone.
The award recognizes new legal information products that enhance or improve existing law library services or procedures. It will be presented during the AALL’s annual meeting in Denver later this month.
According to Fastcase’s press release announcing the award, an iPad version will be released at the AALL meeting and versions for the Android and Blackberry are in the works.