Monday, October 5, 2009
We had an earlier post (back in August) telling you about Casemaker and Fastcase, two electronic research services that are now offered by many state and local bar associations as a free membership benefit. There was an error in the link in that post, and--goodness gracious--something has happened to our ability to fix that link. Because I can't do that (sorry), I'm reposting the story here with (now hopefully) the correct links. And in any event, we posted that way back in August, when everyone was on vacation. It's time to bring this back! (Thank you to Doyle R. Shea for pointing out the linking error in our previous story.)
Mark E. Wojcik
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.
Professors who teach legal research owe it to themselves to learn more about both Fastcase and Casemaker. We should know what tools our students will encounter in practice. This will also be the subject of a presentation (by me) at the LWI Conference at Marco Island.