June 6, 2012
Penetrating the Once Impenetrable WEXIS Market: Fastcase's Android App for Legal Research as an Illustration
I don't know how many of Fastcase's 500,000 paid subscribers use Android devices but those who do now can use Fastcase's legal research app built for the Android OS. Yesterday, the Company announced the launch of the first legal research app for Android phones and tablets here. The app also may attract cost conscious practitioners who have not jumped on the iPhone-iPad bandwagon to Fastcase. Smart move.
Fastcase CEO Ed Walters was quoted in a paidContent article published the day before the Android app roll-out (no, not about the app per se). A snip:
Today, digital technology is letting Bloomberg Law scan and sort a vast pool of law that would once have taken decades to assemble. But while its tools rival those of the incumbents [WEXIS], there is also a bigger question of whether the industry’s underlying business model is still viable.
That business model is based on charging lawyers enormous money to access a tightly controlled pool of information is still viable. It is also highly labor-intensive. Fastcase’s Walters described practices like Westlaw’s technique of reading and annotating cases as a “relic, an anachronism from the age of print … they’re acting as if search engines never existed.”
Fastcase’s own model relies on using algorithms to rapidly sort cases and track precedents. The company sells retail subscriptions for $95 a month and also offers bulk memberships to state bar associations.
Companies like Fastcase are far from displacing the giants, but they do illustrate how technology is allowing not just Bloomberg but upstarts to challenge a once impenetrable market. At the same time, Google and the Cornell-based non-profit Legal Information Institute are making stacks of cases, patent histories and more available for free.
(Emphasis added.) For more, see Jeff John Roberts' Bloomberg’s big bite for billions of legal dollars (June 4, 2012).
Once WEXIS "owned" virtually 100% of the commercial legal search market. It is quite possible their combined market share will be reduced to 50-60% with BLaw, Fastcase and other search providers grabbing the rest of the market from them. [JH]
Joe, if Fastcase's Android app is equivalent to the iPhone/iPad app, then you don't need to be a paid Fastcase subscriber to use it! I've got the iPad app, and although I don't have a Fastcase subscription, I'm able to use the app for basic case law research. It seems to have the same coverage and to run off the same search engine as the paid product (AFIK), and it does have at least some basic "Authority Check" citation data. But the results visualization tools of the paid Fastcase product are not included. (But, did I mention, it's free?) I'd encourage anyone with an Android or Apple device to download this app and give it a whirl. It's a great way for legal research instructors and other librarians to get a feel for Fastcase.
Posted by: Lee | Jun 6, 2012 12:52:18 PM