In a post earlier in the week, Jessica Price highlighted Fastcase, the online legal database that will soon be available to members of the Wisconsin State Bar at no additional cost. The Marquette Law Library explored Fastcase over the summer and is in the final integration stages of a subscription that will allow law students and law faculty access to the complete Fastcase database.
Though not as comprehensive as the more well-known legal research databases, Fastcase is user-friendly and offers many of the case searching features on which users rely, including keyword (Boolean) and natural language searching. Users can limit by date or jurisdiction, perhaps taking advantage of the option to build searches across multiple jurisdictions with a few quick clicks of the mouse. Authority Check, the Fastcase citator, is a convenient source for identifying later-citing cases, though it has limitations and is by no means a substitute for KeyCite or Shepard’s. It does, however, offer a graphical interactive timeline feature that visually depicts later-citing cases based on relevance. Dual column printing, a preference for many, is one of the easy-to-select printing and downloading options available on Fastcase. Tutorials and help features such as live chat support during the daytime make Authority Check and the rest of the database even easier to use.
Coverage of federal case law is strong, but comprehensive coverage of Wisconsin cases extends only to 1950, with some scattered earlier cases included as Fastcase adds to the database. Primary law other than case law is merely “framed” for most jurisdictions, meaning that the database offers fast access to other collections of primary law, but has neither hosted content nor the ability to search using the Fastcase interface. Welcome, however, is the news that this is likely to change in the near future. According to Fastcase, Wisconsin statutes, regulations, and court rules with Fastcase search functionality are in beta testing and slated for release in the coming weeks along with similar databases for several other states. Questions on these developments may be directed to Tim Bagley at email@example.com. At this time, there are no included secondary source libraries within Fastcase.
Through the Law Library’s subscription, students will gain the Fastcase exposure necessary to become effective users of the database as future Wisconsin State Bar members. Current State Bar members or others interested in Fastcase may take advantage of a free 24 hour trial period offered by Fastcase, so there is no need to wait for November to test the database for yourself.
Written by Leslie Behroozi and Elana Olson