Fastcase to Partner with DC Bar Association!
Anyone concerned with the advancement of free legal research should read the blog articles “Fastcase snags D.C. Bar and its 70,000+ Attorneys” and “DC Bar Partners with Fastcase to Provide Free Legal Research” in 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. What are the articles about? As the titles suggests the articles are about the DC bar giving their more than 70,000 members unlimited access to Fastcase. Still unclear about why this is such a big deal? Well perhaps it is because some are unfamiliar with Fastcase. For those unaware of what Fastcase is, the program was created 11 years ago by two attorneys with a vision. This vision was to create an alternative to traditional legal research engines, like West Law and Lexis Nexis, and to democratize the law by making it more accessible to the people in respect to ease of search and affordability. Fastcase has been adopted by many state bar associations that have used fastcase as a replacemnt for search engines like Lexis Nexis, Casemaker and VersusLaw. Fastcase has also become the largest legal research service after Lexis Nexis and West Law, with more subscribers than Louis law and Bloomberg Law combined. Fastcase even has free applications for Ipad and Iphone. Fastcase has also won awards for best service. In Fastcase’s website when you go to “What is Fastcase” it explains many of its great features, like the fact that you can visualize search results and integrated citation analysis, at an average of 80% less than the leading search engines if you happen not to be a DC bar member. Yet for those who do belong to the DC bar, the implication of getting free legal access is a saving of S2,000 per attorney per year. DC members also have the option of subscribing to the premium version of Fastcase for $198 a year, a savings of up to $1,400.
Now that I am done gushing about Fastcase, what does the DC Bar and perhaps more bars in the future signing with Fastcase imply for the future of free legal research? The idea of having bar organizations giving attorneys the opportunity to get free legal access and another search engine that with enough subscribers could grow to be better than Lexis Nexis and West Law. But does it have a larger implication for the general public? I don’t really know about that. Sadly the implications for the general public is not as huge as I would like because it is still not completely free for the general public and although less expensive than the leading competitors still might not be affordable enough for the average person. Even if Fastcase was extremely cheap the average person might still be discourage from using it because of the money barrier, like PACER discourages the average person from using it because of its cost although it is not very expensive. Yet when a program invovles such a refined and technologically advanced search engine money must be involved. Perhaps the average person should then not be so focused on free legal websites and perhaps invest on a cheaper but more effective website with a much better search engine. After all what good is a website with limitless amount of information when there is no good way to access information a person wants and needs. But in the end one must also be mindful that Fastcase was invented by attorneys and although their goal is to democratize legal research it has been a goal that has focused on helping attorneys more so than the average person.
To conclude, regardless of the fact that the last part of this blog post has been a little critical of the limitations of the democratization of legal research, Fastcase itself seems amazing and innovative. Although free access to legal research for non lawyers might not be a plan of Fastcase in the near future, I believe it is a search engine that will revolutionize and make legal research engines better in the long run.