And Something New From Fastcase: A Free iPhone App

Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites carried this post (link here) on Fastcase’s new iPhone application. What’s so special about it? Well, for one, free case law and statutes. Or is that two? Bob indicates that FastCase offers the largest, free, law library on the iPhone.  He does a comprehensive review of a pre-release version of what he describes as a fast and easy-to-use tool at the link above, complete with screenshots. I recommend you hit the link for the details – I haven’t my own copy yet to play with. However, this paragraph bears repeating:

As I noted at the outset, the app will be free to download and searching the Fastcase library using the app will also be free. First-time users will be required to register, but there will be no cost. Current Fastcase subscribers will be able to use their existing log-on and password.

How cool is that? I really can’t wait for this one to release.

Details on New Lexis (& WestlawNext)

The ABA Journal has more information (link here) on the Big Two’s new research interfaces, including a LOT more on the new Lexis, appropriately called New Lexis.  New Lexis is expected some time later this year (WestlawNext – the public name for Cobalt – is due February 1). The ABA appears to have gotten a hands-on with both. he article cites some of New Lexis’ features:

  • no more Boolean search; natural language only with an algorithm boosted by artificial intelligence to help get the most relevant information;
  • results broadened beyond Lexis’ own proprietary databases to include relevant open source legal information from across the Web;
  • results page is dramatically revamped, to include folders along the margins containing categories of relevant results, such as cases, statutes, and regulations;
  • pop-up preview panes containing summaries when you hover over a result and integrated Shepherd’s results for each case;
  • graphical presentation of Shepherd’s results and the history and timeline of cases;
  • collaboration tools and the ability to store results in folders for later use;
  • productivity tools to assist in evaluating the strength of a case, the costs, and potential value to lawyer and client.

WestlawNext will incorporate similar features. It employs a simple search box for a natural language query and does not require that you identify your desired database up front. West hasn’t decided yet whether it will kill Boolean (I sincerely hope that it doesn’t). You can filter results by jurisdiction, type of content and other factors. You will still see a results list, but there will also be windows collecting results by content type.  The service will allow bookmarking of favorite databases. KeyCite will also be incorporated directly into the results. There will be similar collaboration features, such as saving work in folders by client. Researchers can use these folders to review their own search history. West also will incorporate some editing features, such as highlighting and noting on cases, tasks that I already perform in Word on my downloaded Westlaw cases.

Then, of course, there is Bloomberg Law, mentioned here on the Studio several months back. It is in the process of being tested in a small number of law firms and schools. While there are noted limitations in the beta version with respect to the scope of accessible materials, testers are giving the product high marks for intuitiveness and ease of use. Plus, a docket search feature distinguishes Bloomberg from the Big Two in an enticing way.

The idea is that the legal research purveyors are seeking to marry their vast information resources with a slick, modern interface and productivity tools. Back in the day, inefficiency meant more money for these companies that billed by the amount of time spent on-line by the researcher. I am thinking they can’t really get away with that mindset anymore, in the face of cheap and free competition.  But there will still need to be a signficant value-add for these services to continue to show a profit – more than ever, professionals are looking to maximize tools while minimizing cost. And when free Google starts to look like a viable option, well, then …..