Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Legal Research Via State Bar Associations: An Update

The vast majority of state bar associations offer their members free access to one of the major low-cost legal research services, Casemaker and Fastcase. The advantages are obvious for solo practitioners and small-firm attorneys, who rely on these research services for access to primary law and selected secondary materials. But even Biglaw practitioners can benefit from access to these alternatives to premium services like Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg: they provide uncluttered case law and statute searching, and include unique features like Fastcase's interactive search results timeline (covered in the ABA Journal last year), local legal materials such as county and city codes, and secondary sources like CasemakerLibra's Continuing Legal Education collection or Fastcase's treatise library (added after its recent acquisition of the now-defunct service Loislaw).

There have been some changes to the state bar associations' legal research offerings since the Goodson Blogson last surveyed the landscape in summer 2014. The Goodson Law Library now hosts a map of state bar association-provided legal research services. Updated for December 2015, this map provides quick access to the current research service provided by each state bar.

State bar association research offerings, Dec. 2015

Fastcase maintains a slight market edge, with 27 state bar associations providing their members free access compared to Casemaker's 22 state bars. (These numbers include Texas, still the only state to provide its members with free access to both services.) Three state bar associations (California, Delaware, and South Dakota) provide no free research benefit to their members. However, many attorneys in California receive Fastcase or Casemaker as a benefit of county or local bar association membership, while South Dakota offers its members a discounted rate for Fastcase.

Curious to see these services in action? Members of the Duke University community can access a campus-wide version of Fastcase, which does not require a separate username and password (but also does not save user search history, as an individual account through a bar association would). Current law students may create an account on CasemakerX, an educational version of Casemaker, with their Duke Law email address. 
Many state bar associations (including North Carolina) also offer free law student memberships, which include access to the research service offered. To locate the bar association in the state where you plan to practice, check out the American Bar Association's online state and local bar association directory.

For more information about the campus versions of these services, or for assistance locating the best legal research service for your needs, be sure to Ask a Librarian.