Tuesday, August 11, 2009
State bar associations have learned about an important membership benefit -- free legal research! There are two main research services that state bar associations offer to their members -- Fastcase and Casemaker. Together, these services provide FREE legal research as a membership benefit to perhaps half a million lawyers and law students. Many law firms have cancelled their Lexis and Westlaw accounts or substantially reduced their use because they now have access to these free services. But many legal writing and research professors seem to be unfamiliar with these services.
Bar associations offer free research because it is a tremendous membership benefit, and lawyers will keep their memberships in voluntary bar associations because of this access to free legal research.
Here is a list of states that offer FASTCASE as a free membership benefit through their state bar associations.
New Jersey (June 2009)
South Dakota (June 2009)
Oregon (Fall 2009)
And in addition to those state bar associations, these other bar assocations and law libraries also offer Fastcase:
National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys
San Fernando Valley Bar Association
Los Angeles County Law Library (July 2009)
Cleveland Metropolitan Bar
Cincinnati Law Library
Social Law Library
Is this a complete substitute for Lexis and Westlaw? No, not yet any way. But Fastcase offers free tutorials and training programs on how to use it effectively. Click here for more information. For the list of current Fastcase subscribers, a hat tip to Michael Al-Megdad, the Fastcase Customer Outreach Director. You can reach him by phone in Washington DC at 1-866-773-2782 or by email at malmegdad [at] fastcase.com.
Your students can often get free access as well by joining the state bar association. Many state bar student memberships are free or very low cost indeed.
For information on Casemaker (the other legal research service offered by state bar associations), click here. Here is a list of the 28 state bar associations that offer Casemaker as a membership benefit: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
One might be tempted to compare the two systems based on the number of bar associations that offer a particular product as a membership beneift, but you really should look at the size of those state bar associations as well as the number of bar associations.