Casemaker and Fastcase: Texas Tech Law Students Have Immediate Access

After you pass the Texas bar, you will no longer have access to any of the major online legal research services (Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Bloomberg Law) through your law school account. However, as Texas attorneys, the State Bar of Texas provides access to two online legal research systems that you may not yet be aware of—Casemaker and Fastcase.

Typically, most state bar associations provide access to one of the two systems. Members of the Texas bar can either system. Granted, neither of the two systems may have all of the bells and whistles of the three major services. Nevertheless, Casemaker and Fastcase can meet most attorneys’ research needs. Both provide access to primary law (e.g., statutes, administrative rules and regulations, and case law) and limited secondary sources.

You do not need to wait for your bar license to use Casemaker or Fastcase, as law students you can create an account with the Texas Bar CLE and obtain immediate access. We encourage you to use them so that you become proficient with the systems upon graduation. To register and obtain acccess, follow the steps below.

1. Go to the State Bar CLE home page.
2. Type in some research terms on the “Free Legal Research” column to the right of the home page and click on search (see below). The follow the registration steps noted below.

CM-FC Steps 1-2

 

3. Chances are you have not registered. To do so, click on the “click here” link as noted below.

CM-FC Step 3

 

4. Since you do not yet have a bar number, click the “click here” link as noted below.

CM-FC Step 4

 

5. Fill out the registration form, titled “My CLE Profile,” using your TTU email address, selecting “law student” as your occupation, and clicking the “save” button at the bottom of the page.

CM-FC Step 5-7

The Study and Practice of Law and Stress—A Modest Law Library Response

There is no doubt that a strong correlation exists between the study and practice of law and stress. Stress in the legal profession is prevalent. It’s not a new phenomenon. Stress and related causes in the legal profession have been around ever since I can remember and I am sure even well before I started law school many years ago. Stress can manifest itself in many ways, but arguably the most widespread form is associated with substance abuse. A recent story in the New York Times highlights the fragility of even the most successful and capable attorney. A high-powered Silicon Valley attorney dies. His ex-wife investigates and finds pervasive drug abuse in the legal profession.

However, this does not need to be the case. We all know about the value of eating right, regular exercise, and proper rest to keep the body functioning properly, but a mental or spiritual component is equally important. Mindfulness places a strong emphasis on breathing and meditation, which have proven to be effective stress fighters. Numerous studies have noted the importance and benefits of mindfulness in reducing stress. One recent study notes.

Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day. This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.

We previously have written about wellness and stress reducing techniques and available Law Library resources. For example, see

·         Law Library Resources for Stress-Free Law Student and Attorney Careers

·         How to Reduce Stress in Three Minutes

·         5 Ways to De-Stress After Finals

2017 Law Library Refective AreaExperts say that meditation can be done anywhere. However, since many of you spend a good deal of time in the Law Library, we have set aside space on the first floor in the NE corner of the west wing for meditation and breathing, or just plain reflection and rest. We highly encourage its use. Your wellness is paramount.

Ethics and Law Libraries

Sources from the Bible and Confucius to Shakespeare and Dickens, among countless others, have had negative things to say about lawyers. There is even a term, pettifogger, that means a “lawyer whose methods are petty, underhanded, or disreputable.”  Perhaps beaconSaul Goodman (aka Jimmy McGill), the often shady attorney in the current TV series Better Call Saul comes to mind.

Standing firm in the midst of the stinging criticism of lawyers are law libraries–mighty beacons for the rule of law and ethical conduct.  The tradition of law libraries has been to make our great legal system–and its accompanying ethical directives, such as Justinian’s edict to “[l]ive honestly, hurt no one, and render to every one his due”–available to both professionals and laypeople.  These are guiding principles that serve as the underpinnings of contemporary legal ethics.

Want to learn more about Justinian and other ethical directives that form the fundamental basis of today’s Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct?  For information and resources on the rule of law and legal ethics, visit or contact the Texas Tech University School of Law Library.

Two Recent HeinOnline Additions

HeinOnline recently added additional documents to its already wide-ranging American Indian Law database, as well as released a new collection entitled Women and the Law.

1. American Indian Law CollectionImage 1

The additional 30,000 pages added to the American Indian Law Collection largely pertain to tribal codes including:

  1. Indian Tribal Codes: 1981 edition, which contains 69 tribal codes and analysis; and
  2. Indian Tribal Codes: 1981 edition that contains 56 additional codes and constitutions. The publisher notes that, “[t]his edition updates, but does not replace the 1981 edition.”

The publisher notes, “[T]he two editions offer insight into the historical development of Indian tribal codes over time.”

With these two recent additions, the American Indian Law collection now contains over 1,800 titles and 1.8 million pages of related material.

2.  Women and the Law (Peggy) CollectionImage 2

This new collection unites books, bibliographies, periodicals, and other materials related to women and the law in one place. According to the publisher, “[n]otable works included in this library are History of Woman Suffrage (1881-1922), the complete Feminism and Legal Theory Project, and the Documentary History of the Legal Aspects of Abortion series.”

The collection benefits from nearly 500,000 pages of contemporary and historical works related to women’s role in society and the law.

To access either of these collections, navigate to the Law Library homepage and select Hein Online as illustrated below.

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Artificial Intelligence in Legal Research

The recent literature and numerous social media posts have noted that artificial intelligence (AI) is fast becoming part of the legal practice landscape, including legal research. Let’s briefly summarize a few of these products that focus on legal research.

  1. CARA or Case Analysis Research Assistant is a tool developed by Casetext that can automatically review a document and look for cases or statutes that are relevant to the cited authority. By analyzing the document, CARA generates a list of additional authority that may be relevant to the cited references in the document.

 

  1. Judicata is a relatively new legal research search engine claiming to provide results that are precise, relevant, and simple. Judicata asserts it can do so because it has mapped the “legal genome” and developed a set of filters that allow search results to be narrowed to their core components. However, for now, Judicata only includes California law but eventually hopes to add all jurisdictions.

 

  1. ROSS uses IBM’s Watson, an artificial intelligence system capable of natural-language processing to filter through legal documents. Accordingly, “[i]nstead of searching for documents by keywords, one can ask questions in plain English . . .” The legal research robot is accessible via computer and billed as a subscription service. However, organizations providing legal assistance are given free access to the tool.

 

  1. KNOMOS is described by its CEO as leveraging “data visualization and machine learning to augment user experience and develop a connected knowledge network for legal information . . .” Users get an “instant overview of how multiple legal sources relate to one another, with enhanced discoverability of key results based on contextual data from other users . . .”

 

  1. Loom Analytics, a Canadian based system that “is data-driven legal research assistant that finds, classifies, and sorts case law . . .” Using a combination of legal analysis and machine learning, the system produces “hard numbers” on case law such as win/loss rates, judge ruling histories, litigation trends over time, and other like metrics.

 

  1. blueJ Legal uses IBM’s Watson computer to run it flagship product, Tax Foresight. According to its website, Tax Foresight collects and analyses the facts and findings of Canadian court cases to predict what a court would hold under different circumstances. The site claims that “[t]he information that Tax Foresight collects is sufficient for the system to reach the correct prediction in greater than 90% of the cases in out-of-sample testing.”

These are a few examples where AI has crept into the legal research process. The infusion of AI into many of today’s legal tasks will only increase over time.  But will it be enough to eliminate the research librarian or attorney? I think not. The unpredictability and random thought processes of humans are unparalleled and cannot be readily duplicated or replaced. There are simply an infinite number of variables, unknowns, and unpredictable scenarios that cannot be anticipated with mere algorithms.

Open Source Access to Scholarly Research

Legal Publishers and others are making it tough for law libraries to maintain many of their collections. For example, Since 1996 Thomson Reuters (West) has dramatically raised the prices of its print titles, both for new sets and, more significantly, for upkeep. Svengalis in his 2016 Legal Information Buyer’s Guide and Reference Manual, tracks 24 popular Thomson Reuter titles and provides a supplementation upkeep cost over a 21 year period, 1995-2015. The average price increase over the 21-year period was 779%. Svengalis also track 20 selective Lexis titles, which increased 299% over the same period. By comparison, the consumer price index rose only 58% during the same time.

With such dramatic increases by commercial publishers, open-source advocates are finding ways to combat the high cost of publications. Wikipedia defines open source access as “. . . online research outputs that are free of all restrictions on access . . . and free of many restrictions on use . . .” Two such entities include the Open Access Button and Unpaywall.

open access buttonBoth are open-source, nonprofit, and dedicated to improving free access to scholarly research. Both scour thousands of institutional repositories (like our ScHOLAR), preprint servers (i.e., SSRN), and other websites to see if an open-access copy of the article is available.

The Open Access Button (OAB) is a browser bookmarklet that is invoked when users hit articles behind a subscription-based site. The OAB will search open access sites for the piece. Both OAB and Unpaywall work similarly.

unpaywallHowever, unlike OAB, Unpaywall uses extensions, which are currently available for Chrome and Firefox. When an Unpaywall user lands on the preview page of a research article and will see either a green unlocked tab or a grey locked tab.  If the tab is green, he or she can click on that tab to view the PDF. See graphic below.

unpaywall in article

Microsoft Academic and the Law Library’s ScHOLAR

Microsoft Academic is a digital repository. It claims to compile “. . . the most personally relevant papers, research news, conferences, people, and ideas, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) bots that read, understand, and deliver the scientific information to further your work.” The information, which is mostly scientific in nature, is organized into 19 fields of study. Depending on the amount of data, each field of study is further classified into various subtopics. Law, for example, is found under Sociology.
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One can search each field of study for news, papers, or a combination of both. For example, a search for “criminal procedure” (without the quotes), retrieves over 8,000 hits. Date, author, affiliation, the field of study, and journal title can then further refine the results. All papers are available for download. Also, the citation count of each article is available. Microsoft describes the citation count as an “estimation based on a statistical model which takes advantage of both the local statistics of individual publications and the global statistics of the entire academic graph to determine the estimates of citation counts.”
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arturo blog 3.jpgNot unlike Microsoft Academic, the Law Library’s ScHOLAR, in part, collects, preserves, and makes available the scholarly papers of the Texas Tech University School of Law faculty. ScHOLAR encompasses more than just faculty scholarship, though. In addition to Law Faculty Scholarship, ScHOLAR contains four additional “communities” or collection types—Special Collections, Law School History, Law Library History, and Regional Legal History. For example, under the Law School History collection, one can find some interesting information about the School’s past. One can read about two of our most respected, senior members of the faculty—Professor Weninger’s Jail Term Findings (p. 6) and Professor Krahmer’s accomplishments (p. 5)—in the 1984 issue of Cornerstone­­­­ (a magazine for the alumni, friends, and supporters of the Texas Tech School of Law). A little exploring can turn up fascinating historical tidbits about the history of the law school.
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