Casetext’s Wikipedia-Style Resource for Legal Research


An eBay for lawyers? How about a Wikipedia for legal research? They’re mashing up social media with the legal profession left and right these days. Casetext is an interesting, um, case, particularly here in the Studio where I am all about the free and cheap and the big Two Three have been a target of mine for years. Imagine. Making all that money off publicly available information.

Casetext is clearly intended to disrupt some of that. The hurdle that  free and cheap access to legal research materials has had to overcome is the value-add that comes from annotations and citation treatment. Lexis and Westlaw have certainly spent a lot of effort honing and promoting that value-add. Casetext’s angle is to get that value-add through crowd-sourced case annotations, much like Wikipedia does with its articles or Quora does with its Q/A format.

Casetext is the creation of two former law review heads from Stanford and Harvard.  Users of the service are encouraged to add tags and text to cases, link to other cases and generally provide similar data to that provided by the attorney editors at the big paid legal data companies. Contributors can provide  analysis of a document or of a paragraph within a document, link to their own articles or other related sources, add related cases and up-vote useful related sources. Contributions are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, permitting commercial use with proper attribution.

Users have to use real names, which hopefully encourages a higher standard of contribution than the anonymous commenting model. LIke any good social model, there is a reward system. Casetext uses reputation points, measuring a user’s contribution to Casetext. Gain points for adding content, for categorizing cases, for upvoting, and for receiving upvotes on content you add. Lose points for being downvoted and pay points to downvote others. Interesting system of checks and balances. There are some decent contributors on the site already, including a law professor who annotated a case he had argued to SCOTUS.

There are Quick Facts and a Document Wiki, essential information at a glance and and free form document summaries, respectively. Related cases are citing sources. The record includes oral arguments to SCOTUS. Create a PDF of a case with the two column format you may be very familiar with from the other guys. You can create a bookmark list of cases to read later, and even a Heatmap which highlights the most cited passages – dark blue means most cited. There is also a “copy with cite” feature – one of the features the Westlaw rep proudly touted to me when she was up-selling me on WestlawNext.

Its free to use right now, but is promising a paid Pro premium model. Right now, the big challenge is scope: the databases only include all U.S. Supreme Court cases, federal circuit court cases from Volume 1 of F.2d, federal district court cases published in F.Supp. and F.Supp.2d from 1980, and Delaware cases published in A., A.2d, and A.3d from Volume 30 of A. It was last updated on June 14, 2013. Hopefully it will open up to new jurisdictions soon. Quite frankly, I think this is a very exciting development, with a whole lot of promise if enough people play along.

Check out Casetext in action in the video below. What do you think? Would you contribute your expertise? Does the good of the many outweigh the good of the few or the one? Let me know.

Looking To The Crowd For App Advice

LauraKGibbs on Flickr

LauraKGibbs on Flickr

If you are reading this blog, chances are you are somewhat familiar with the social aspects of the web. We look on-line for all sorts of reasons – community building, promotion, news, research – the list goes on and on. I think my listed reasons are pretty compelling in varying degrees for most people.

How do you feel about the possibility of combining these purposes when searching out applications to assist you in negotiating the Web? I am not talking about the “hunt and peck” method required for sussing out information on Twitter or the other more general purpose social sites and aggregators or running searches in your favorite engines. I am talking about “one stop shopping” sites that combine social community with reviews and recommendations on specific tools.

The Web is moving towards specialization and some sites are taking full advantage of that trend. There are two I will highlight here, and one I will briefly mention as it is unfortunately down for revamping at the moment.

First, consider oneforty, a recent invite-only site dedicated to providing a forum for twitter applications. There are hundreds of applications that touch on or fully incorporate Twitter. Oneforty seeks to organize, highlight, provide ratings for and promote these applications through the input of the community of members on the site. Calling it a directory is too simplistic, as it offers community feedback and even “App Store”-like tendencies. Users can search for, rate and purchase applications (if they have  cost associated with them – many are free). Your Twitter persona is your oneforty persona. Ultimately, oneforty may well become a forum between developers and users, which should enhance user’s ability to find the right apps and affect their future development. While it is in private beta, you can request an invitation at the site here. Follow oneforty on Twitter here.

Next, check out Appolicious, a similar venue for iPhone applications. Ever try finding apps through the App Store interface? By joining the site and loading up your applications, Appolicious will make recommendations for you. Appolicious will also make general recommendations based on its own app preferences. You also can load your friends into Appolicious and receive recommendations from them. You can also turn to the Appolicious community user base for their recommendations. Searching a specific application will bring you to reviews. You can view the day’s top stories about apps, and a real time stream of users comments about apps. While it may sound a bit overwhelming, it would be difficult not to get all the info on a particular app on Appolicious from trusted sources. Follow Appolicious on Twitter here.

Another site, Unwrapp, combined similar elements but encompassed all sorts of applications and tools. Unfortunately, a trip to their site showed that it is being worked on – hopefully it will return soon.

Like oneforty, Appolicious combines social activity with information gathering on the specific topic of iPhone (or Twitter) applications. Who better to turn to than a community of experts or friends? I am impressed with this trend of community-based information sharing, and can only see this model growing in popularity on the social Web.