Crowdsourcing Legal Research with Casetext and Mootus

One of the more interesting ideas discussed at ABA TECHSHOW was the concept of crowdsourcing legal research using Casetext or Mootus:

“On Casetext, judicial opinions and statutes are annotated with analysis by prominent law professors and attorneys at leading firms, giving you unique insight. And everything is 100% free.”

Mootus “…helps law students and lawyers at all levels build reputation and knowledge through competitive, collaborative legal argument.

Okay … but what is it exactly?

Here are three quick answers curated from the 2014 ABA TECHSHOW:

  • Crowdsourcing: people contribute to a common project. Social curation: filtering info for others – e.g. Twitter. @lisasolomon
  • Mootus: crowdsourcing (offers) answers to legal questions. Users vote up/down contributions (also a Casetext feature). @lisasolomon
  • Crowdsourced annotations, links to blog posts and commentary big benefit of @casetext approach to legal research. @RealSheree

It turns out that crowdsourcing isn’t exactly new.  Bob Ambrogi first wrote about it in 2010 for the Oregon State Bar Bulletin.  See “Crowdsourcing the Law: Trends and Other Innovations.”  

Here is Bob’s more recent take on Casetext, which I recommend you read if you are at all interested in this approach to research. In a very rudimentary way, think of it as Fastcase + Wikipedia together in one place.  Here is a snippet from Bob’s post:

“But what makes the site unique is the ability of its users to add descriptions and annotations to the cases. When you view a case, the screen is divided in half. On the left side, what you first see is a section of “Quick Facts” about the case — its holding, citation, court, judges, docket number and the like. After that comes a section called “Case Wiki” with a more narrative description of the case. Following those two sections comes the case itself.

Both of those first two sections — Quick Facts and Case Wiki — are fully editable by registered users. Simply click the “edit” button and revise or supplement any of the text. Click the “revisions” button to see the full history of edits by all users.

Similarly, the right side of the screen contains sections for “tags,” “cases,” “sources,” “analysis,” and “record.” Users can create and edit any of these items.”

Thank you Bob Ambrogi!

 

 

30 Twitter Tips on Marketing, Social Media, and Technology

And now my final installment of news that may have passed you by in June.  The best of the best on marketing, social media, and technology posted on Twitter last month:

Marketing and Social Media

Technology

The Paperless Office

Privacy and Security

Cloud Computing

Dictation

Apps

  • Fastcase Tip 23: Utilize the extended toolbar at top and the ‘jump to most relevant paragraph’ option to save you time! (via @fastcase)
  • Quick Look: New Fastcase Android App by @catherinereach (RT @danpinnington RT @JoanHFeldman RT @attnyatwork)

Tech Tips

Fastcase: How to Analyze Cites

In my September 22 post, I previewed Fastcase, the free online law library offered as a benefit to all Oregon State Bar members. 

Today, Fastcase tweeted their new blog post:  Fastcase’s Hidden Gem – A Second Level of Citation Analysis

First level citation analysis in Fastcase occurs behind the scenes:

“Every time you perform a search, Fastcase automatically analyzes how many times each case in your search results has been cited by other cases in the Fastcase database. This first-level citation analysis is available under the heading “Entire Database” on the results page.”

Second level citation analysis is a search within results that “drastically reduces the false positives that can result from the first level of citation analysis.”  

For tips on how to sort and search within results, check out the new Fastcase blog post.  A complete User Guide and Tutorials are available on the OSB Web site.  You can also subscribe to an RSS feed of the Fastcase blog.

 

Fastcase Comes to Oregon

Today the Oregon State Bar (OSB) offered the first of two live training sessions on Fastcase, the new online law library for Oregon lawyers. The demo was a great opportunity to learn about new, unique, and “hidden” features of this research tool.

What is Fastcase?

Fastcase is an online law library offering access to case law, statutes, regulations, court rules, constitutions, and ethics opinions. Jurisdiction is state and federal, including appellate and bankruptcy. To find a complete list of what is included, log in, then select the Scope of Coverage link at the bottom of the Web page. (More on this below in What Features are “Hidden” in Fastcase?)

Through partnerships with NewsLibrary.com and others, users can also search newspapers, public records, federal filings, and legal forms.

What Does it Cost?

Fastcase legal research is free. It is included as a member benefit for all lawyers who are active members of the OSB. You will incur a cost if you Shepardize® or KeyCite® a case or use one of the partnership databases to purchase search results or forms. (Fastcase comes with an “Authority Check,” a cite checker which generates a citation report which can be filtered and manipulated.)

How Do I Log in?

Log in through the OSB Web site using your OSB number and password – the same one you previously used for Casemaker. Once you’ve logged in, begin your research at the Fastcase Start Page.

Fastcase Training

A second live demo, scheduled for 4:00 p.m. today, PST will be recorded and offered as a free Webinar on the OSB Web site in the near future. Tutorials are available under the Fastcase “Help” menu.

Customer Support

With Casemaker, customer support was provided by OSB staff. With Fastcase, support will come directly from the vendor. Fastcase offers 3 alternatives, all found under the Help menu:

A User Guide and answers to Frequently Asked Questions are also available.

What Features are Unique to Fastcase?

• Fastcase offers 6 ways to sort results – relevance, case name, decision date, cited in these results, cited in entire database, and court hierarchy. In the results page, choose Results, then Sort by.

• Search terms can be highlighted when saving or printing documents. With a document open, choose Print/Save. Change the default from No to Yes under “Highlight search terms.”

What Features are New to Fastcase?

• The results page now features a print icon, which allows you to easily add a case to the print queue for later printing.

• You can jump to search terms within a document using the keyboard shortcuts N or P – N moves to the Next search term; P moves to the previous search term.

• Legal forms are now available through US Legal Forms, a Fastcase partner. (Charges apply.)

What Features are “Hidden” in Fastcase?

Fastcase is still in the process of converting data for Oregon, so if you are looking for the Workers Comp Board, Land Use Board of Appeals, or the Employment Relations Board they are included, but not yet listed in the Scope of Coverage. Fastcase will be rectifying this shortly. To search for WCB, LUBA, or ERB matters, choose Search, then select Search Cases. Type the acronym (LUBA) or full name (Land Use Board of Appeals) and any other applicable search terms.

Quick Tips from the Live Demo

• To quickly save and retrieve documents, use My Library.

• To save and retrieve search results, favorite the Web page (as you would any other in your browser). If you return to the page later, Fastcase remembers your search parameters and provides current search results. To favorite a specific document, just click on the Add to My Favorites link in the upper right hand corner of the page or use My Library.

• To e-mail search results, simply copy the URL from the top of your browser and paste it into an email message. To e-mail a specific case or document, use the Email link in the upper right hand corner of the page.

• To see Boolean operators, check the box, “Show Search Tips” just below the search box.

• To access your last 10 searches, choose Start, then My Research Home.

• To access the last 5 jurisdictions you searched, choose Search, then Search Cases.

What is Next?

The Scope of Coverage  link should be updated shortly to reflect the complete Oregon library, including the “hidden” features discussed above. Expect more content to be added over time.

Overall Impressions

Fastcase is a user-friendly product in more ways than one. The customer support options and availability is superior to what is typically available for a legal-specific technology tool. The navigation is forgiving. In most cases, using your browser forward and back buttons will get you where you intended to go. Take time to explore the Authority Check citation tool and “Interactive Timeline” which helps you see in graphical terms which cases are the most relevant, recent, or frequently cited.

Copyright Beverly Michaelis 2009