Legal Research Tools and Tips

Ed Walters started as a lawyer in a big law firm in Washington D.C. In the late 1990’s, he was approached by a client asking him to research a relatively new legal issue without using LexisNexis or WestLaw, as they were trying to reduce online legal research costs. His inability to do this set off a chain of events leading him to create the company Fastcase. His story begs the question, are lawyers simply paying too much for online legal research sources? What are some ways particularly solo and small firm attorneys can reduce research overheads in their practice? And when is it necessary to pay for LexisNexis or WestLaw?

In this episode of New Solo, Adriana Linares interviews Ed Walters about his experience starting Fastcase, how it interacts with the bigger legal research companies and smaller startups, and the right steps for solo practitioners to take in choosing an online research source. Linares and Walters begin by discussing the differences between a free resource like Google Scholar, a mid-range company like Fastcase, and a larger company like LexisNexis. If an attorney has a boutique practice and needs treatises or specialized databases, Walters says, they will need a big online research company. Otherwise, the lawyer might be paying too much. He urges practitioners to check their local bar, state bar, and other associations or organizations for member benefits that often include research and even practice management tools. There are three startup companies that Walters encourages lawyers to research: Casetext, which focuses on crowdsourcing, Ravel Law, which uses data visualization, and Judicata, which uses semantic analysis to find relationships based on meanings. He encourages all lawyers, but especially those in small firms, to research different options and find the one that fits their practice best.

Ed Walters is the CEO and co-founder of Fastcase, an online legal research software company based in Washington D.C. Before founding Fastcase, Ed worked at Covington and Burling where his practice focused on corporate advisory work for software companies and sports leagues, and intellectual property litigation. He has written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, The University of Chicago Law Review, The Green Bag, and Legal Times, and has spoken extensively on legal publishing around the country. He is an adjunct professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches The Law of Robots.

Special thanks to our sponsor, Solo Practice University.

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