On the surface, the Fastcase acquisition of legal news site Law Street, reported here yesterday, may seem puzzling, given that the site has been dormant for more than a year. But Ed Walters, Fastcase CEO, says there were good reasons for the acquisition.
Speaking by phone last night, Walters said that expanding into legal news is consistent with Fastcase’s ongoing mission to become as robust a legal research platform as LexisNexis and Westlaw.
“We’re knocking the legs out from under the chair of things people get LexisNexis for,” he said. “Legal news is definitely one of them.”
LexisNexis’s offerings of legal news include Law360, all of the ALM news content, legislative coverage from State Net, and litigation coverage from Mealey’s.
As I have reported here several times before, this mission to compete against LexisNexis and Westlaw has driven Fastcase to build out its library of secondary content such as treatises and practice guides, acquiring Loislaw in 2015, bringing on former LexisNexis VP Steve Errick to develop new editorial products, adding blog posts and commentary from the LexBlog network, launching a legal publishing arm, and partnering with Wolters Kluwer to offer many of its materials.
Meanwhile, Fastcase also acquired Docket Alarm, the docket tracking and analytics company. Just last week, Fastcase announced that it will become a member benefit for the 60,000-member California Lawyers Association, reportedly bringing its total user base to some 900,000 lawyers.
Given all that, the company’s desire to move into legal news makes sense. But why do it by acquiring Law Street, a site that has been dormant since August 2017? Why wouldn’t Fastcase just build a site itself?
The answer, Walters says, boils down to the platform, the integrations and the audience.
Although Law Street operates on WordPress, Law Street has customized it to create a robust news platform with a responsive, mobile-friendly design, Walters says. The site is deeply integrated with social media for distribution of posts across Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. It is also natively integrated with news aggregation sites such as Google News and Apple News.
In addition, Law Street had built a loyal and sizeable following among millennial lawyers, who had been its target audience. Although dormant for a year, it continues to receive a fair amount of traffic, Walters said, thanks in part to its archive of 5,000 news articles.
(The Alexa ranking service ranks Law Street as 185,540 among U.S. websites. By comparison with other news sites, Law360 ranks at 5,200, Above the Law ranks at 4,188, and Law.com ranks at 6,639. Law Street Media has 2,771 followers on Twitter and 35,095 followers on Facebook.)
Buying Law Street lets Fastcase “start our legal news strategy on third base,” Walters says, rather than have to build a news site from scratch.
Although a handful of new stories have been added to the site in the past week, Walters says the immediate plan is to leave the site “mothballed” while Fastcase further develops its legal news strategy. He expects work on retooling the site to begin in earnest early in 2019 and for the site to relaunch towards the middle of the year.
One decision he has already made is to remove advertising from the site. He believes the site will help drive traffic to Fastcase and that there will be other options for monetizing the site through the sale of content or services.
He also hopes to integrate docket-alert services from Docket Alarm into the news service, to provide both alerts and coverage of breaking litigation news.