Ten Improved Fastcase Tools
By Jim Calloway
How long has it been since you last used Fastcase? Surprisingly, some Oklahoma lawyers still haven’t tried it.
Certainly, many Oklahoma lawyers are using Fastcase. In 2012, there were 390,496 Fastcase transactions (search, view document or print) performed by our members with this Oklahoma Bar Association legal research member benefit. This was at no charge to the lawyers. OBA members can access Fastcase by logging in with your bar number and PIN at www.okbar.org.
I would never try to persuade a lawyer to change his or her research tool of choice, whether that is OSCN.net, Fastcase or a commercial legal research provider. These providers have moved far from their roots as law book publishers and now offer many tools in addition to legal research: research on individuals, trial exhibit organization tools, access to copyrighted secondary resources (treatises and law reviews) and many others.
But it makes good sense for a lawyer to be aware of all available tools, particularly if the tool is free (as in, paid for by your state bar association).
For example, perhaps you are in mediation or a court hearing, and someone mentions a case citation that might impact one of your matters, can you quickly pull up the case on your smart phone or tablet, read it and then save it so you can easily find it again? Fastcase has iOS and Android apps to let you do just that. Did you know Fastcase now includes the U.S. Code and statutes for many states in addition to court opinions?
The Oklahoma Bar Association has been offering its members premium access to the Fastcase Legal Research as a free member benefit since 2007. But the service has grown every year since then, including coverage of statutes in many states and a number of important new power tools for legal research. Whether you’re a power user or use the service once in a blue moon, here are 10 “new” Fastcase tools that will help you work smarter.
In addition to text-based search results, Fastcase now includes a power data visualization tool that creates a visual map of search results. It allows you to see the most important cases at a glance. When you’re looking at search results, just click the “Interactive Timeline” tab at the top.
Forecite from Fastcase goes beyond your keyword search, using intelligent citation analysis to find cases you might otherwise miss. In a millisecond before displaying search results, Forecite automatically reads each case in the result list and builds a table of frequently cited cases. If seminal cases don’t appear in the search result (which is more common than you’d expect), Forecite will suggest them for you. It’s like having a safety net for your research.
Searching federal dockets with PACER is slow and difficult, especially if you have to search multiple courts. So Fastcase has worked with Justia to build a tool that can search across all PACER sites at once. It’s the depth of PACER with the power of Fastcase. You can also filter by state, court, date or type of suit. When you select a document you’d like to download, the tool takes you to the individual PACER site, where standard charges apply.
Many lawyers in the state use Fastcase’s free iPhone, iPad and Android apps1 for legal research on the go. Traditionally, research done on the phone stayed on the phone, and research on the desktop stayed on the desktop. With Fastcase Mobile Sync, you can take your desktop research, favorites and search history on the road with you. You can also save cases from the iPhone or iPad and print them from Fastcase through the OBA. To sign up, simply log into Fastcase on the desktop and go to “Options,” “Mobile Sync.” Add the username and password from your mobile account, and Fastcase will automatically connect both accounts. If you registered for the app with the email address on file with the OBA, you’re already synched!
Batch Printing/String Cites
Pulling up individual cases can be a hassle, even when you have the citation handy. Fastcase lets you pull up multiple cases at once, just by separating them with a comma. You can save them all to your print queue for later, print them individually, print the entire text of all the cases as one document, or simply print a list of the cases. Click the printer icon in search results, or when looking at a document, select “Add to my print queue.” If you have never printed a case with Fastcase, the result in the two column mode is beautiful. It will print as either a Word or PDF file.
Every web address (or URL) in Fastcase is unique. That means that you can bookmark any page in Fastcase in your browser, and come back to it later. Sharing a case is fast and easy. Just email the URL to a colleague with Fastcase access. They can log into Fastcase, click the link, and see the case. Sharing search results is just as easy — simply add the URL of the results to your browser favorites. You can later log into the site and click the link in your browser. Fastcase updates the search, so your research will always stay up-to-date.
You can also use your individual Fastcase library. When you’re looking at a document, just click “Save to My Favorites.” To view the case later, go to “My Library,” then “Favorite Documents.” In addition to the 10 favorites in your library, the last 10 documents you viewed are also saved under “My Library,” “Recent Documents.”
Fastcase doesn’t include an internal newspaper database, but it has partnered with NewsLibrary.com to offer an archive of more than 274 million newspaper articles from papers around the country — including more than 60 Oklahoma newspapers. Search for free, view results and summaries for free, and purchase individual articles for $3 each.
Lawyers like to use forms as a starting place for document drafting. Fastcase has partnered with US Legal Forms to offer a comprehensive library of legal forms customized for each state. You can filter by topic or keyword search to find a form to use as a starting point. You can search for free, view results for free, and read a watermarked copy of the form for free. When you’ve decided that a form is right for your situation, you can download individual forms in editable Word format. Most cost between $10 and $50.
Annotated statutes are a great way to shed more light on how courts have interpreted a code section. Fastcase has recently launched its annotated U.S. Code, and will release annotations for every state in summer of 2013. To view the annotated U.S. Code, simply search and view any section of the U.S. Code. At the bottom of each section is a list of all citing cases. Unlike some other online annotated codes, with Fastcase you can sort the annotations by case name, decision date and number of times a case has been cited. Fastcase Annotated Statutes are a great guide to interpretation.
As of March 2011, Fastcase includes case summaries for judicial opinions from all state supreme courts, the U.S. Supreme Court, and federal courts of appeal. Look in the header of new Supreme Court cases for editorial summaries from Fastcase.
Fastcase has grown and added many tools since the OBA added it as a member benefit in 2007.
You can access this free legal research anytime by visiting www.okbar.org and logging in next to the Fastcase logo. To view any of these new Fastcase features or others, visit www.fastcase.com/support for a schedule of free webinars, training videos, and user guides. You can also reach Fastcase toll free at 1-866-77-FASTCASE.
Mr. Calloway is director of the OBA Management Assistance Program. Need a quick answer to a tech problem or help resolving a management dilemma?
Contact him at 405-416-7008, 800-522-8065 or firstname.lastname@example.org
. It’s a free member benefit!
1. www.fastcase.com/iPhone or www.fast case.com/android.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- April 13, 2013 -- Vol. 84, No. 11