Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Crowdsourced Legal Research -- Casetext

Recently, I was happy to come across a free, good-quality legal research resource that has annotated primary sources. This service is called Casetext -- a free legal research tool and online community, developed in 2013, that’s used to discover and share legal knowledge. Users can search millions of cases, statutes, and regulations annotated with comments and insights from members of the legal community. Casetext adds value to raw legal materials by encouraging users to add descriptions, tags, annotations, and documents, as well as links to secondary sources. Linking commentary to a legal database gives authors a platform to share analysis to the 250,000 people who research on Casetext monthly.

Casetext has developed community pages based on practice areas -- an online meeting place for lawyers with similar interests to share knowledge. The interactive platform lets users contribute analysis, meet colleagues, and interact with others in their field. Users simply click on a community page to take part in the dialogue. Other users can vote up or down on these additions, write a response, or share through social networks.

With these communities, Casetext has the ability to aggregate millions of legal articles that appear on law firm websites and law professor blogs. Then, Casetext matches the commentary to relevant primary materials in the Casetext database. Attorneys can incorporate their current law firm blogs onto Casetext’s platform, and automatically push posts to Casetext. Attorneys practicing in particular areas, can receive alerts whenever a post relates to their interests. Within the Casetext communities, users can review the profiles of the attorneys who post content to get an idea of the source of information.

So, sounds like a win/win situation...good for the researcher and good for the contributing attorney in building his/her reputation. With the prevalence of the use of social media, attorneys need a presence out there. However, the American Bar Association’s 2014 TechReport found that only 10% of attorneys have blogs, and they frequently miss their intended audience. Effective blogging can result in new clients or referrals, so using a tool like Casetext can help attorneys reach new and relevant audiences.

I must say I like the philosophy of the Casetext team -- attorneys with experience in law firms, government, nonprofits, and academia; along with engineers from places like Google and IBM -- all committed to connecting the legal community through making the law more understandable.

Casetext just might be an answer to a major social justice problem -- that accessing law can be costly and difficult to understand. The tool is attempting to change the way attorneys interact with each other, and the way the public interacts with legal information. Time will tell!

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