Big changes in the legal research industry are underway. Last week two of the largest legal research alternatives to Lexis and Westlaw, Fastcase and Casemaker, announced their merger. This news comes on the heels of ROSS Intelligence announcing it would shut down its legal research product this month amidst a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against it by Thomson Reuters, the parent company of Westlaw, last May.
The new Fastcase/Casemaker company is going to be interesting. Every member of a state bar organization (and the D.C. bar) currently has access to one or other of those products as a perk of bar membership. Fastcase has been gradually edging ahead of Casemaker in the race for bar association contracts. Casemaker has contracts with about 20 states, with the remainder going to Fastcase. A few states appear to provide membership to both. Utah switched from Casemaker to Fastcase in September 2019.
At this time it isn’t clear what the resulting product is going to look like. Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase, says there is going to be a thorough comparison of the two products over the next six months to determine the best features of each and will make a decision on next steps. According to Walters, “That might look like a new Fastcase product; it might look like keeping both Fastcase and Casemaker; it might involve designing an entirely new system.” Lyle Moran, 2 Competing Legal Research Companies Announce Merger, ABAJournal. Fastcase especially has continued to develop its platform through the years, adding features and products like treatises and Docket Alarm. I’m really curious to see what they end up with and whether the resulting system can gain further market share in the legal research industry.
In May 2020, Thomson Reuters and West Publishing sued ROSS Intelligence for “taking for itself critical features of Westlaw.” Complaint. West alleges that ROSS harvested Westlaw content using bots through a contract with LegalEase, a legal services company providing outsourcing services. An interesting tidbit about content usage is in the complaint (10-11):
Prior to July 2017, LegalEase had consistently averaged approximately 6,000 Westlaw transactions per month. [footnote omitted] Beginning in about July 2017, LegalEase’s use of Westlaw spiked dramatically, eventually reaching approximately 236,000 transactions per month, which, as shown below, is nearly a forty-fold increase over LegalEase’s historical usage pattern and represents a usage rate of nearly five times greater than the average monthly usage of the ‘AmLaw 100’ law firms.
Despite shutting down its research platform, ROSS Intelligence says it is going to continue fighting the legal allegations. I hope more details emerge soon to clarify what happened in this case.