Fastcase Rising

On Medium, Fastcase CEO Ed Walters lists all the development work the company accomplished this year (so far): the release of Fastcase 7, the roll-out of the Docket Alarm Analytics Workbench and the AI Sandbox, the launch of Fasecase’s imprint, Full Court Press, and the growth of Fastcase’s digital collection of secondary works. That’s an impressive list of achievements. The last development, secondary law resources, is one that does not get as much attention as it deserves. It certainly does not get the kind of attention received by Fastcase’s other developments. But it is important because primary-law-only search services cannot really compete with WEXIS. And if anyone is going to compete more directly with Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis or BloombergBNA, Fastcase is.

Many years ago I asked Ed about secondary sources on Fastcase. Not now was the response. Back then, the company was focused on growing its primary law collection, particularly state statutes and codes. Now Ed writes “Fastcase has gone from a handful of secondary treatises to more than 400 secondary treatises in about 14 months, with lots more to come.” He adds “And while we’re talking about secondary materials, let’s not forget that Fastcase’s partnership with LexBlog incorporates more than 15,000 of the best blogs of legal analysis, and our partnership with HeinOnline includes the full run of every law review in America.”

What treatises have been added? Ed lists the sources: “Fastcase licensed more than 120 fantastic Aspen and CCH treatises from Wolters Kluwer, 79 labor and employment titles from Littler, and criminal law treatises from Carolina Academic Press. These are terrific, expert guides, like Barry Zalma’s insurance law series. We’ve also added several new state bar association deskbook collections.”

At 400+ secondary law titles, Fastcase’s digital collection is not competitively comprehensive with WEXIS, but it is growing thanks, no doubt, to the work of former LexisNexis executive Steve Errick who, as Fastcase’s first COO, is responsible for this development (among other things, of course).

Now try to imagine Steve’s task at hand. The best way to do that is to put on your bibliographer’s hat. Your largest user population is attorneys who access Fastcase via one of 30 state bar associations that have contracted with the company. They are solo practitioners, small firm attorneys and attorneys employed by large law firms. Information needs are similar but not identical. Some have access to search services offered by our very expensive legal information providers. Some do not.

Many users work for mid-size and large law firms that license WEXIS. With WEXIS in the picture, those attorneys may not consider Fastcase as their go-to search service because WEXIS has a more comprehensive catalog of secondary works. But to fulfill the information needs of mid-size and large law firms Fastcase has licensed titles from Wolters Kluwer publications and is probably looking to add even more titles to license.

Many other users work in small firms or are solo practitioners, some without WEXIS access. While most firms practice at both the state and federal level, small firms and solo practitioners tend to focus their practice on state law. So to fulfill the secondary information needs of small firms and solo practitioners, state law deskbooks, bar association publications and other practice-oriented topical secondary works are needed. Fastcase is building this part of its secondary law resources too.

At some point in the development of its secondary law collection, Fastcase’s materials will become sufficiently attractive to WEXIS users that they may replace WEXIS with Fastcase. Perhaps some already have. More to follow. When Fastcase reaches this critical mass (remember “lots more to come”) watch out WEXIS. In particular, watch out Lexis. Fastcase is rising.

— Joe

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