Bar Journal - Winter 2008
"There have been countless occasions when I needed fast access to caselaw, statutes, and/or secondary authorities - and Casemaker was always there. Like many attorneys who began practicing prior to the late '90s, I recall that a legal research tool like Casemaker was financially beyond the reach of most solos, as well as some small firms. Casemaker continues to be a very special service available to NH Bar members. And it keeps getting better!"
- Actual NH Bar member e-mail
We could not have said it better.
Casemaker, which became available to Bar members at the end of 2002, provides access to a complete library of NH caselaw, statutes and rules, ethics opinions, Bar Journal articles and more. The "more" includes:
- federal caselaw and other materials;
- caselaw and laws for all 50 states;
- and "more*" to come.
(*The "more" to come will be explained later. Stay tuned.)
This issue of the Bar Journal starts off with a four-page guide that highlights core features and the new capabilities of Casemaker that were added in the past year - in a version known as Casemaker 2.0. Regular users might have overlooked some of these enhancements, as Casemaker 2.0 was designed not to throw roadblocks in the paths of users for whom Casemaker is a familiar and reliable friend. So a re-introduction is necessary for even the most committed Casemaker habitués as the improvements made, while subtle, are significant.
For some, an introduction
At the same time, we hope this guide proves to be an enticing introduction to a vast electronic law library that is accessed with simple but powerful search tools. For those who have never used Casemaker, and for those who tried Casemaker in its earlier days and found that they were not ready to make a switch, we encourage you to glance through the illustrated guide on the following pages, and then take a test-drive through Casemaker – available 24/7 at www.nhbar.org in the For Members area.
If you were an earlier visitor, you will find the Casemaker library has grown by leaps and bounds. Since New Hampshire first added Casemaker, its total library of caselaw materials (including all 50 states) has grown to more than 3.0 million cases, about 2.5 million more than when New Hampshire joined the Casemaker consortium of state bar associations which offer Casemaker access as a member benefit. Casemaker 2.0 now allows for easier searching across multiple libraries, and all 50 states – not just those in the Casemaker consortium - are represented in the state libraries.
Casemaker is not just bigger, it is better. Casecheck is a feature that allows users, having called up a case, to be alerted to later cases that reference the original object of a search and it now includes citations from other states. For ease of searching, the Casecheck links put the user in the exact location in the case where the case is cited. And for those consulting statutes and codes, the SuperCODE area of Casemaker informs users when a newly enacted law refers to the section of a law or code that was the original search and it now jumps to updates in session laws..
An often-overlooked tool in the Casemaker arsenal of search features is the Thesaurus function. Using the tilde ~ symbol in front of your search term automatically expands your searches to include similar words (example: ~alcohol can yield caselaw containing the words: liquor, whiskey, intoxicant, and spirits, to name a few.)
Casemaker has new owner
On Feb. 4, 2008, it was announced that Casemaker’s parent company, Lawriter LLC, had been acquired by Collexis Holdings, a leading developer of advanced search and knowledge discovery software (and unrelated to Lexis-Nexis, one of the leading for-profit legal publishers.) Collexis, which has developed an advanced library for life sciences researchers, www.biomedexperts.com, uses a proprietary technology that goes beyond "keyword" searches to develop conceptual profiles of what researchers are looking for and provides research results that are more relevant and efficient.
Shortly after the acquisition was announced, Lawriter’s new owner announced that it had acquired an additional 3.5 million documents – principally federal caselaw from the circuits and the district courts – to bolster Casemaker’s coverage.
The purchase announcement underscores Collexis’s contention that its acquisition of Casemaker is designed to bring greater resources and innovation to the Casemaker Web library. In fact, the new owners of Casemaker are conducting greater outreach efforts with the state bars that subscribe to Casemaker and providing faster response to users’ research questions. A series of online seminars, offered at no cost, are also being scheduled with the state bars. (See Bar News and the e-Bulletin for details on programs to be scheduled for New Hampshire Bar members in the late spring.)
Casemaker’s current search methodology and tools will be retained, the company says, and new types of productivity and search tools will eventually be offered to the 450,000 US lawyers who currently have access to Casemaker through the 28 state bar associations that are members of the Casemaker consortium.
"We understand the importance of Lawriter’s legacy of strong relationships with state bar associations and we intend to build on their past successes so that Lawriter may continue to provide even more services as a high-quality provider," said Bill Kirkland, CEO of Collexis Holdings, in the announcement of the acquisition.
NH’s Plans for Casemaker
The NHBA, too, will increase its efforts to enhance the effectiveness - and promote the use of - Casemaker. A user-group, which could provide advice on potential additions or changes to the Casemaker library in NH, is in the process of being organized.
And the Bar will also look at offering more training sessions and orientation materials, either at the Bar Center or at local bar association meetings if requested.
View an extensive User Guide for Casemaker 2.0 (934 Kb PDF)