Free online legal research is now available to all
members of the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) as an exclusive membership
service. The Association has partnered with Fastcase to offer members free
electronic access to its full national law library, which includes state and
federal cases. Free online legal research for all MSBA members was one of MSBA
President Michael Conroy's initiatives this year. This new member service will
benefit all members, giving them an excellent tool to enhance their law practice
and better serve their clients at no cost.
"The landscape for online legal research changed
dramatically for our members when MSBA signed the contract with Fastcase,"
reports Paul V. Carlin, MSBA Executive Director. "Quite possibly, the MSBA has
never provided such a valuable practice tool to its members as a membership
benefit. Some in other states say that your dues are returned tenfold through
this service alone."
Fastcase's Legal Research will give MSBA members
free electronic access to the primary law they need in the everyday practice of
law. This service will benefit all members who take advantage of it. In
particular, solo and small firm practitioners, many of whom have limited means,
will find this free service quite valuable in representing their clients.
"Fastcase levels the playing field for 60-70 percent
of our members who are solos or in firms of five or fewer lawyers," asserts
Carlin, "but [it] is of great benefit to large firms and government lawyers,
too, since it has been estimated that Fastcase can solve 90 percent of most
lawyers' research needs 90 percent of the time. Access to a free alternative for
legal research can facilitate work on pro bono matters, can improve cost
recovery and reduce the total cost on fixed-rate contracts with Westlaw and
MSBA's free online legal research service offers an
impressive case law database through Fastcase that is highly structured to
facilitate advanced searching. The database, updated daily, publishes appellate
opinions generally 24 to 48 hours after they are released by the court. Updates
include unpublished as well as published cases. In addition, cases are
hyperlinked among each other, so that cited cases are only one click away.
"Providing quality benefits to our members remains a
core function of MSBA," declares Conroy. "Legal research remains an important
asset for practicing lawyers, which benefits members and the public, so much so,
that some courts have pushed other bar associations to provide those services.
Economics remain an important factor for the legal profession. Quality research
ranks with other important factors, too."
Fastcase reports that its servers and data research
facilities' uptime is 99 percent, and 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. At the present time the Virginia
State Bar Association, the Florida Bar Association, the Louisiana State Bar
Association and the Iowa State Bar Association, as well as the Cincinnati Law
Library Association and Boston's Social Law Library offer Fastcase to their
"Over the past two years, I have done much research
and have had many conversations with my national counterparts about various
online programs," Carlin continues. "I confidently recommended Fastcase to our
Technology Committee and to the Board of Governors. They say "Content is King",
so our first consideration was the comprehensiveness and quality of any online
"Fastcase offers immediately a full national library
of state appellate opinions from all 50 states since 1950, the U.S. Supreme
Court back 1 U.S. 1, and federal courts of appeal back to 1 F.2d 1, the U.S.
District Courts in Maryland, the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts in Maryland, all federal
Courts of Appeals plus statutes and administrative codes framed from all 50
states," 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."
"The Fastcase search engine is powerful and allows
you to formulate your search using natural language or Boolean searching,"
Carlin notes. "Searches for regional and national matters involving many states
and federal jurisdictions can also be expedited. Since the service is so
intuitive, very little training is necessary, according to Fastcase, although a
five-minute tutorial is available."
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!) The Premium Level provides opinions from all other US District Courts (1
Fed Supp 1 to present) and all other US Bankruptcy Courts (1B.R. to present).
"The MSBA fulfills a core function when it provides
our members with quality legal research at a reasonable cost," adds Conroy. "We
have done that by making available to all of our members, at no additional cost
to them, Fastcase legal research."
MSBA members will only be able to 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