July 2013Volume 57Number 1PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

FastCase—Free legal research for ISBA members

Are you paying too much for Lexis or Westlaw? Would you like a powerful, easy-to-use legal research service that’s free? Then try Fastcase.

Fastcase offers nationwide legal research, including state and federal statutes and case law. Fastcase offers paid subscriptions, but you don’t need to pay for one. Fastcase has partnered with the Illinois State Bar Association to offer its service free to ISBA members.

If you’re an ISBA member, go to www.isba.org/fastcase. Click on the button marked “ISBA Members log in to Fastcase.” Enter your username; if you haven’t created one, it will be your ISBA member number. Enter your password, which is your last name by default. Click “Log in.”

The first screen you will see includes a “Quick Caselaw Search” window. You have a choice of researching law of a single state (probably Illinois) or all jurisdictions. This window is especially helpful if you already know a case name, statute number, or other distinctive fragment that will limit your search.

Various other options are available. “Advanced Caselaw Search” lets you define more complex queries. You can search Federal or state statutes, regulations, constitutions, court rules, Attorney General opinions, executive orders, ethics opinions, administrative opinions and orders, newspapers, federal filings (through Justia.com), or legal forms (through US Legal Forms).

The right side of the welcome screen offers various options for obtaining help. There are answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs), an online user guide, and tutorials. You can also communicate with Fastcase via live chat or e-mail.

Having used other legal research services, I appreciate the ease with which Fastcase lets you save or print a case or other document. From the Print menu. specify what format and how many columns you want (I typically select Microsoft Word format and two columns). Then click “Print/Save.” The case will appear on your screen. You can save it to your computer and/or print it.

Fastcase offers a free app for iPhone, iPad, and Android. The app is available even if you don’t belong to the ISBA or have a paid subscription. The interface is uncomplicated, which makes it easy to read a document or conduct a search on a small screen. While discussing legal issues with other lawyers, I often open the Fastcase app, find the relevant case or statute, and settle the dispute quickly. You can link the app to your Fastcase account so that recent searches will appear on all of your devices.

Fastcase may not offer all the bells and whistles that Lexis and Westlaw do, but it’s more than sufficient for most legal research needs. The interface is simpler, which means that it appears on your screen quickly without confusing, overlapping windows.

As an ISBA member, your dues include access to Fastcase. Try it the next time you need to look up a case or statute. It’s a valuable resource, especially for small firm lawyers. ■

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