Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Game Changer: Casemaker!

What is something you hardly ever hear during a CLE seminar? A collective, audible “Wow!” from an audience of lawyers.  This actually happened.  Here is the story.

On Friday, I presented a Casemaker update for the Rutland County Bar Association. Surely, the topic wasn’t as tantalizing as the concurrent criminal law or real estate law updates, but it had its fair share of interested parties.  The room was set up with a projector and an active laptop to walk members through the Casemaker site.

In preparation, I spent some time re-familiarizing myself with the platform and checking all the features.  Having tried to use Casemaker at the time of its initial launch, I was the first to assure the members that the service had come a long way and was nothing like Casemaker 1.0 of many years’ past.  We lawyers already have the sinking feeling whenever doing research that we are missing something, and the old Casemaker didn’t do much to allay those fears.

Enter Casemaker Pro. As a VBA member, Casemaker Pro is an automatic benefit of membership.  Before getting into the enhanced features, we spent some time navigating searches and using the modern standard Casemaker platform. What a difference from the initial version! I was able to demonstrate broad and narrow Boolean searches, being logged in under a client name, creating folders and saving cases by a simple drag and drop or copy feature, taking notes to append to a case and choosing how to save or print the notes, going back and seeing all the history that Casemaker automatically saves no matter the time or interruption, auto-correct of misspelled or mis-punctuated reporter names and browsing statutes or other materials.

The libraries are also much more impressive. Casemaker boasts the most current information available for federal cases, federal code, state cases and state statutes, with annotations.  Each category will show you the currency of what you are reading, and will often link to the Act or archived information leading up to the current code.  In the Vermont State materials, you can search cases, statutes, some superior court opinions, the Constitution, Rules, ethics opinions, environmental court decisions, Green Mountain Care Board decisions, Medicaid rules, LRB Decisions and Title Standards, among other things.  Within the search, you can add related federal material with a simple click.  The Federal Materials include bankruptcy opinions, circuit opinions, Court of International Trade, US Code, IRS Revenue Rulings, Internal Revenue Bulletin, Tax Court, NLRB, Federal Register, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and more.

When performing a search, the left side menu will allow you to expand or contract your search by clicking or unclicking various things like the jurisdiction or statutes or cases only.  The search breaks down the number of cases or statutes or State references, allowing you to further narrow.  There is also an option to type further search terms or search just by date or judge. 

All of this is quite wow-worthy, but what about the audible “Wow!?” There were actually a few ‘wows’ spoken that day.  One enhanced feature is Citator.  Each case will have a green thumbs up or a red thumbs down, not unlike Shepard.  Next to that reference will be a number, showing just how many times that case is cited.  By clicking the number or the chart next to it, you can see the date or timeframe of the citing reference and see each individual reference with a hyperlink to the case cite.  The negative treatment citing reference feature will break the reference down into criticized, questioned, overruled, modified and the like, with links to each case containing the negative treatment.  This drew a few “oooh’s”.

Next was the Casemaker Digest.  This feature allows you to set up an email or RSS feed (or simply go to Casemaker) to see the hottest cases in your specific practice area or jurisdiction (or both).  You can set the feed to show you the cases on a particular topic in a particular jurisdiction. The cases are broken down by week and contain summaries of the holding.  A quick demo search revealed several cases sorted by subject and decided within the last day or two.

And last but not least is CiteCheck, the demonstration of which brought out the loudest collective “Wow!”  CiteCheck allows you to upload a brief in pdf or word and Casemaker will check all the cites and give citing references for each. It also allows you to correct partial cites or items that appear to be a cite to have those entered properly and checked.  Each citation will even be hyperlinked to the case cited for a quick but more thorough review of the case.  The demo was seamless!

With legal research software from the ‘big two’ costing approximately $500 per month, the latest version of Casemaker will undoubtedly have you questioning the expense. Casemaker Pro, along with our new online community service, is included in your Vermont Bar Association dues.  Membership DOES have its privileges!  

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