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In news for Android-using lawyers, the much anticipated Fastcase app for Android is now available. For lawyers who do not have a Fastcase account at all, this app—like the Fastcase iPhone app—allows you to search, browse, read and save statutes and cases from a national library. If you already have a Fastcase account, then related activities on your Android, such as search queries and saved documents, automatically synchronize to your desktop subscription.
Installing the app takes mere seconds, and existing users can sign right on in. New users can quickly create a new account. I received a “Welcome to Fastcase Legal Research System” email confirmation, thanking me for downloading the iPhone application—evidence that this Android app should do everything the iPhone crowd has in their app.
The interface is mostly intuitive and simple. Users can search or browse statutes, or search cases. Case law searches can be done by keyword or case name; restricted by jurisdiction and date; and refined by results cited generally or within, as well as by relevance and number of results. To search for statutes, you can choose to search by keyword or citation, to restrict to a jurisdiction, and to limit the number of results.
Once you’ve run a case law search, the results set is ranked by relevancy and cites cases by numbers. It shows the first paragraph of the case, the case name and the date. All of these parameters can be edited, though using the menu button to get into the settings to make changes after you’ve gotten the results will force you to rerun the search. Once in a case, the rest of the search results can be accessed through left and right arrow keys at the bottom of the screen. There is also a “search within the case” function that allows you to find keywords in the text of the case you are viewing. Up and down arrow keys take you to the next match. Click on the “Save” button on the top right to save the case or statute.
In “Saved” documents, found through the menu button on your Android device, there is a synchronize symbol. Pressing synchronize will add any items in the “Recent documents” tab of My Library in the desktop version of Fastcase to the Saved listing in the Android app. Documents saved in Android will automatically sync to the desktop. If you click on “Edit” in the list of saved documents, the button label changes to “Done.” Select a case and a checkmark appears. Click “Done” again and it will remove the case from the saved list in the app. The labeling for this function is not terribly intuitive, but not to worry—if you delete a saved case in the app, it isn’t removed in the My Library on the desktop.
The Fastcase app for Android is a web app, meaning you must have access to the Internet for it to function. While there are settings for how long users want to cache data, and how much they want to cache, I was unable to find cached versions of saved cases. This renders the app useless without a data connection, so I will continue to explore.
Note that currently there’s no way to share or email a document from the app, so remember to save the cases you are interested in to access these features from the desktop. As time progresses, perhaps we may see integration with Dropbox or Evernote, as often legal research is only one step in the legal workflow.
The fact that Fastcase makes these apps with access to 50 states’ statutes and case law available for free to subscribers and non-subscribers goes a long way toward access to the law for all people. As an Android owner, I’m happy I get to take part!
Catherine Reach is Director, Law Practice Management & Technology for the Chicago Bar Association. A popular speaker and author on law technology, she was Director of the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center for over 10 years, providing practice technology assistance to lawyers.
A number of new technology announcements for lawyers have crossed our inboxes this past month. Here’s a quick look.
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In this video, I’ll show you how to use the Mac’s built-in keyboard shortcuts so you can save time when you need to type either special characters or boilerplate text.September 14, 2018 0 1 0