Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : August 2006

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Free Online Legal Research a Hit with MSBA Members

When MSBA announced free online legal research as its newest membership benefit in May, it was an immediate hit with members. In just three months, more than 5,000 attorneys have taken advantage of Fastcase, MSBA's new exclusive member service that is free to all members of the Association. These attorneys are enjoying electronic access to Fastcase Legal Research's full national law library to advance their law practices and better serve their clients at no cost.

In just three
months, more than
5,000 attorneys
have taken

advantage
of Fastcase.
MSBA's new
exclusive member
service that is free
to all members of
the Association.

"Fastcase is one of the most valuable practice tools MSBA has ever offered as a membership benefit," asserts Paul V. Carlin, MSBA Executive Director. "We have been extremely pleased with the immediate usage of Fastcase and the positive response from our members. We anticipate that 30 percent of our members will use this new resource in short order. This new member service is already benefiting many of our members, giving them an excellent tool to enhance their law practice."

On May 15, through a partnership with Fastcase, MSBA launched its free online legal research as an exclusive member service. It is already benefiting solo practitioners, large and small firm attorneys and government lawyers every day. "Many members have communicated their approval and appreciation for this cost-saving, valuable research tool," Carlin continues. "Fastcase should prove to be an excellent recruitment enticement for attracting new MSBA members."

"Not only does Fastcase level the legal profession's playing field," reports Carlin, "it solves 90 percent of most lawyers' research needs 90 percent of the time, facilitates work on pro bono matters, improves cost recovery and reduces the total cost on fixed-rate contracts with Westlaw and Lexis. Virtually no training is necessary for Fastcase since its usage is so intuitive and easy to use."

"We started Fastcase with the goal of making the law more accessible," says Phil Rosenthal, Fastcase's President. "Working with the MSBA to make the national law library free for Maryland lawyers is exactly why we're in business. We're very pleased to partner with the MSBA to provide this exciting free benefit."

"MSBA MEMBERS HAVE ACCESS TO
a full national library of state appellate opinions from all 50 states since 1950, the U.S. Supreme Court back to 1 U.S. 1, and federal courts of appeal back to 1 f.2d 1, US District Courts in Maryland,
US Bankruptcy Courts in Maryland, all federal Courts of Appeals plus statutes and administrative codes framed from all 50 states through Fastcase,: adds Paul Carlin, MSBA's Executive Director.

Fastcase provides attorneys with an impressive case law database of published and unpublished cases that is updated on a daily basis. It publishes appellate opinions generally 24 to 48 hours after they are released by the court and its servers and data research facilities' uptime is 99 percent. The response time for the return of data for customers is generally between five and 10 seconds, contingent on the connection speed and citation analysis options.

"The Fastcase search engine is powerful and allows you to formulate your search using natural language or powerful Boolean (terms and connectors) searching," continues Carlin. "Searches for regional and national matters involving many states and federal jurisdictions can also be expedited. Since the service is so intuitive, Fastcase represents that very little training is necessary, although a five-minute online tutorial is available."

One of the real benefits, according to Fastcase's CEO Ed Walters, is that the library is national in scope. "Because the cost of research is so high, many lawyers can only afford to subscribe to a single state when purchasing a service. That's only a small slice of the pie – and it often leads to incomplete information." The Fastcase service, by comparison, covers all 50 states. "Who wants to go into battle with one arm tied behind their back? The free MSBA benefit gives lawyers a more complete picture, allows them to be more competitive, and in the end, should improve the quality of justice in the state," adds Walters.

"MSBA members have access to a full national library of state appellate opinions from all 50 states since 1950, the U. S. Supreme Court back to 1 U.S. 1, and federal courts of appeal back to 1 F.2d 1, US District Courts in Maryland, US Bankruptcy Courts in Maryland, all federal Courts of Appeals plus statutes and administrative codes framed from all 50 states through Fastcase," adds MSBA's Executive Director. "Another key advantage of Fastcase is the ability to do multiple state and federal searches simultaneously and to sort your searches by six different criteria: Relevance, Case Name, Decision Date, Case Cited Within, Case Cited Generally and Court Hierarchy."

Although the MSBA has contracted for Fastcase's National Appellate level of service, members will be able to upgrade to the Premium Database Level of Service for just $195 a year (that's a year – not a month!) – an $800 discount for members of the MSBA. In addition to the other national materials, the Premium Plan provides opinions from all U.S. District Courts (1 F.Supp. 1 to present) and all U.S. Bankruptcy Courts (1 B.R. 1 to present).

MSBA members may access Fastcase through the MSBA website, www.msba.org. To take advantage of this exclusive member service, members should go to MSBA's website under the "Members Only" menu, click on Fastcase, then enter their bar number and password to gain access. If you don't know your password, contact MSBA's membership Department at membership@msba.org.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: August 2006

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