North Carolina Fastcase/Casemaker Switcheroo and Its Consequences

A couple of weeks ago, I was perusing my news feed in Facebook, liking pictures of new babies and The Oatmeal’s How to Pet a Kitty, when a Fastcase post caught my eye (yes, I do actually have work related items on my Facebook feed).  Fastcase shared an announcement that it is replacing Casemaker as the research system supplied to North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) members as of June 1st.

I took special interest in this announcement since 1) I have a NC bar license, 2) I have lots of attorney friends in NC, 3) this is the second nearby state bar to jump from Casemaker to Fastcase (the other being Georgia) recently, and 4) I have yet to reach the section on free and affordable legal research options in my Advanced Legal Research class.

Reasons 1 & 2

My first two reasons took the most space in my mind for a moment, and I quickly asked the most pressing question: what about the NC Pattern Jury Instructions?  Throughout the entire nine years that I have been an attorney, the only place that you could locate the NC Pattern Jury Instructions digitally was in Casemaker.  A quick response to my Facebook question settled the issue, the Instructions have been moved to Fastcase, who is now the exclusive digital provider.

I went to visit NC the day after I found out about the Fastcase/Casemaker switch.  While I was there, I had lunch with an attorney friend, and unsurprisingly, I found out that I was not the only one concerned about the Instructions.  What was surprising, however, was that my friend reported that the NCBA could not tell them if the Instructions were being moved or not.  I was glad to reassure my friend (who went off to reassure the Durham County Bar), but this is a disturbing issue: how can an organization that contracts to provide a service not know if the service is going to provide an essential product?  I am hoping that a temporary receptionist was the problem, but I want to reassure any NC attorneys or librarians who read this blog that yes, Fastcase will be providing access to the all important Pattern Jury Instructions.

On a slight side note, I accessed the University of Florida’s Fastcase account to see if I am able to access the NC Pattern Jury Instructions and was unsuccessful.  I can only presume that they are available solely to NCBA members (I am a NC Bar member, the NCBA is a voluntary bar).

Reason 3

I went to the Lawriter’s, the owner of Casemaker, website.  The homepage indicates that Casemaker has contracts with 28 state bars, but when I looked at the states listed, I only counted 25.  One of those listed is North Carolina, whose contract ends tomorrow.  Twenty-four states is still a significant number, but Casemaker’s influence seems to be dwindling.

I am happy for the folks at Fastcase, who are some of the hardest workers I have ever met (and who run a great hospitality suite), and for the NC attorneys who will have a great product with which to work.  But I also feel for Casemaker.  They have been around for a long time, and their service helped me a great deal when I first graduated from Carolina Law and was a baby attorney.  They have also helped many of my friends, who have often told me that the main reason they joined the NCBA was for Casemaker access.  So, hopefully there continues to be room enough in this world for both Casemaker and Fastcase.

Reason 4

According to the 2010 UF Law Prospectus, 76% of UF Law students practice in Florida with the strongest concentrations of the remainder in Washington, D.C., New York, Georgia, and California.  None of these states are Casemaker states.

In the past, since Georgia was a Casemaker state, I covered Casemaker in my Advanced Legal Research class.  This year I need to make a tough decision.  Time is so limited, and I have so many different resources to go over, I have to decide whether or not I am going to cut Casemaker out of my syllabus.  I teach my students general research skills as well as system specific skills, so I may have to hope that the rare student who ends up with Casemaker access can apply those skills to the system.

Have any of you had to make this choice?

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