This week, I am doing a little pinch-hitting. Erik Mazzone, the erstwhile (yes, I know that I overuse, and probably incorrectly apply, “erstwhile”) Director of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Center for Practice Management, had intended to post on the above-referenced topic, but is in the midst of a family emergency, and is not able to blog this week. Enter me, with thoughts going out to Erik and his family.

At the beginning of March, I posted on the topic of free and cheap legal research options available to attorneys. The geeks over at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog were kind enough to link out to that post from their own blog. You’ll be pleased to know that the 3 Geeks have stayed on topic for the remainder of the month.

On March 9, Greg Lambert (a geek) posted on associated research options for state bar associations; interactive map and post available here. This is quite a useful resource. Plus, I like color-coded maps.

More recently, on March 19, Toby Brown (another geek) posted that, following his research, he considered Casemaker the “king of content” for non-Lexis/non-Westlaw search engines. That post, complete with fancy-dan graphs, is viewable here.

Further to Greg and Toby’s research, Casemaker began its own explorations, in order to determine the extent of alleged missing case citations in Fastcase; this is what they say they have come up with, as transmitted to me via Casemaker’s Managing Director, Steve Newsom:

“How Far Back in Your State to Miss 50 Case Citations?

‘How many years back do you have to go in your state case law to find 50 missing case citations?’ After seeing the legal research map posted on 3 Geeks, some analysis was made to do a more complete comparison of the various services. A comparison between Casemaker and Fastcase turned up a large number of missing case citations in the Fastcase system. At first, this appeared to be a hit-or-miss, minor quality control sort of issue. Then it became apparent that this was a much bigger issue. It became a very time-consuming comparison between the two providers in order to see how many years you would need to go back before the number of missing case citations hit 50. In the Casemaker 2.2 database there were found very few incorrect citation postings and, in a rare exception, a duplicated case. In Fastcase, there were a host of missing citations and duplicated cases; it became most alarming.

Casemaker has created a state-by-state comparison for 50 missing citations by state, and also says that they had identified over 100,000 missing citations within the Fastcase database between the years 2000 to 2009. Casemaker has declined to provide the complete lists for each state, saying that the complete list would be very valuable to Fastcase. Casemaker was initially going to provide 100 missing citations per state, but pulled back to 50, noting that, once the information is made public, Fastcase will quickly correct the liabilities in their database. Casemaker did state that under a limited nondisclosure agreement, they would provide the next missing 50 and each week following an additional 50 missing cases for the time period 2000 to 2009. Imagine if this analysis covered the longevity of the entire database (100+ plus years), instead of just the 10 years?

Casemaker and Fastcase are not a mirrored database, and there are clear and vast quality differences when choosing between the two providers.”

Steve Newsom of Casemaker has also submitted to me a list of the alleged first 50 missing citations per state in Fastcase, as well as sample screen shots of alleged citation errors. That information is accessible via this drop site.

Fastcase, via CEO Ed Walters, responds to Casemaker’s researches as follows:

“Fastcase and Casemaker are both very good services, as Bob Ambrogi has pointed out in an independent, third-party review in Law Technology News. Both have traditionally updated pagination first from regional reporters (such as P.3d) and added parallel citations where necessary from state reporters. It’s an ongoing process for both services, and a process that is nearly complete for both — although the scope of the process is radically overstated by the above paragraphs from Casemaker.

It would be easy for us to derive the same list of missing citations for Casemaker, tit-for-tat. The errors and omissions in that service are legion. But we won’t. Picking their service apart would be petty, and would demean us both, as well as the bar associations that we both work with. We won’t do it.

Instead, we will let the results speak for themselves. Bar association after bar association that compares both services — including thorough data quality comparisons — selects Fastcase as its partner. This recently has included the Oregon State Bar, which switched from Casemaker to Fastcase after an exhaustive evaluation – and they are thrilled with the change. No bar association has ever switched from Fastcase to Casemaker.

Instead of relying on Casemaker’s evaluation of both services (or even Bob Ambrogi’s), we invite state bar associations to conduct their own, independent evaluation. When they do, we’re confident they will conclude that both are valuable services — and then select Fastcase as their partner.”

In reply to Fastcase’s response, Casemaker offers:

“Steve Newsom’s Response to Ed’s Comments:

The devil is always in the detail and we too recognize that there are two rather good but distinctly different research providers. LegalGeekery says, in a blog post on the FastCase iPhone app, that “Fastcase keeps subscription costs low by not hiring researchers to write summaries or manually cite check.” Casemaker invests heavily in quality review of case law and cites and has recently moved its headquarters to Charlottesville, Virginia to take advantage of the quality talents of employees and attorneys from the past Michie/Lexis Company. Fastcase’s Ed Walters mentions tit-for-tat and I so challenge Ed that if he can come up with 100 missing citations within Casemaker for the same time period and scope of coverage, I will give him his missing citation list of over 100,000 so that he can correct the errors in Fastcase. A note on Bob Ambrogi’s article of 8 months ago, which recognizes intuitiveness of the products and in which Bob later states that he did not do a deep dive into the content . . . we believe content dependability and integrity is first and foremost and this will remain our focus as a company.

We
agree that bar associations should check for themselves and under a non-disclosure agreement, I am glad to provide the full missing list of Fastcase content for their evaluation. Ed asked the question “How is this evaluation/discussion productive?” My response is that it makes a value statement on the two services . . . Casemaker provides our clients with a high-quality product and traditionally at a higher cost than Fastcase. But make no doubt about it, the content quality and completeness is nowhere equaled.

We welcome competition for it will make both of our companies better . . .
Casemaker added statutes and codes . . . Fastcase followed;
Casemaker added customer support personnel and live training . . . Fastcase followed;
Fastcase added a mobile application for iPhone . . . this time Casemaker followed with a full mobile app for all devices and all data fields;
Casemaker has added quality review staff and editorial services . . . Will Fastcase follow?

Warmest regards to a good friend and competitor, Ed . . . You do make us better, but we are not the same.”

Now, I have not tested Casemaker’s researches or replies, nor have I tested Fastcase’s responsive claims, and I cannot vouch for the veracity of either of these discussion sets. I merely present the foregoing as informational, in what I do hope is a fair and balanced way, for your consideration, especially as Massachusetts is a Casemaker state, Casemaker being offered through the Massachusetts Bar Association. I am the messenger only. You may test these results, to satisfy yourself.

(I’m not even really the messenger, I just wanted to link to a Coldplay song. Yeah, I like Coldplay. Saw them in concert twice last year. Do you have an issue with that?)

In order that a dialogue may develop around this issue, I invite Casemaker and Fastcase, and their respective proponents, to respond further in the “Comments” section of this blog, if they wish. And, certainly, anyone with an opinion on these services can comment, as well.

(You can also feel free to comment even if you think Coldplay sucks, and want to tell me so. Of course, you’d be wrong.)