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Legally Speaking


Issue: February, 2006
Author: Warren A. Lauer

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From the President. . .

The Wyoming State Bar recently conducted an online survey to determine whether Wyoming attorneys are interested in receiving Casemaker, an online law library. As of this writing, over 500 Wyoming attorneys have responded; an overwhelming majority of the respondents support the proposal.

After the survey was distributed, I met an attorney friend at the post office. He told me that he was intrigued by the idea, but knew very little about the program. I had to admit to him that I had never heard of Casemaker until I attended a Western States Bar Conference meeting a couple of years ago. At that time, representatives from several Bar associations mentioned that they provided Casemaker as a benefit to their members.

Because many of you probably aren’t familiar with Casemaker, I have decided to devote this column to providing details about Casemaker and what it could do for Wyoming attorneys.

What is Casemaker?

Casemaker is a web-based legal library. It was created by the Ohio State Bar Association in 1998. In 2000, Nebraska became the first State Bar to join what is now a consortium comprised of 23 states. It is my understanding that several other State Bars are seriously considering joining as well.

What kind of material would be made available?

Each State Bar decides what specific information would be most helpful to its members. At a minimum, we would select decisions from the Wyoming Supreme Court, the Wyoming Statutes, administrative agency rules and regulations, and Attorney General opinions. Other states have included session laws, administrative agency decisions, the city codes from major cities and law journals.

You would also have unlimited access to the libraries of other states that are members of the consortium. Most of the states that surround Wyoming, including Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Nebraska, are members. Finally, you would have access to federal cases, statutes and rules and a nationwide collection of ethics opinions.

How much will Casemaker cost a Wyoming attorney?

Members of the Wyoming Bar would pay an annual fee of $15-25. No other fees would be assessed for unlimited research.

What will the assessment be used for?

When a state joins Casemaker, it pays to have the consortium’s library expanded to include its opinions and statutes. After the material has been entered into the library, Casemaker charges an annual fee for maintenance and updating the database.

I can already get a lot of legal information on the Internet. Why would I need Casemaker?

Casemaker differs from Internet research in several aspects. First, it has effective browsing and search capabilities, while many Internet sites have weak search engines. Coverage of legal material is much more complete and material will be continually updated.

Will Casemaker replace commercial vendors?

I’m sure that Casemaker will have little or no effect on firms that presently subscribe to commercial legal research services. However, what Casemaker will do is to provide research capabilities to attorneys who might otherwise not be able to afford such services. I don’t subscribe to Westlaw or LexisNexis because many of my clients are not willing to pay the hefty research costs, so Casemaker would be a great service for me.

Will it be hard to learn how to use Casemaker?

No. Casemaker provided the Bar Officers and Commissioners a trial membership. After about 10 minutes worth of training, I was able to do some effective research. Casemaker will provide training; it also has a toll-free number for questions.

Casemaker prides itself on ease of use: “We designed a search engine so simple, fast and intuitive that even a senior partner in a large firm will use it rather than call upon a new associate to do it for him.”

Are users satisfied?

In a 2003 survey of members of the Ohio Bar Association, 93% of Ohio lawyers reported that they were satisfied or very satisfied with Casemaker. Members of our Bar who are also licensed in states where Casemaker is provided also react positively, as is evidenced by the following email:

I wanted to memorialize my support for the WY state Bar in subscribing to Casemaker. This program will enable attorneys to save money on on-line research and hence pass the savings on to their clients. As you are aware, it can easily cost clients hundreds of dollar in on-line research expenses (not including attorney time) using the current expensive on-line research companies. This program is not ideal for complex litigation research. However, it is sufficient for much of the research that will be needed by many attorneys in WY.

Special thanks to all of you who took the time to answer the survey questions. The Bar Officers and Commissioners will review your responses and make a decision on whether to implement Casemaker in February.

Copyright © 2006 – Wyoming State Bar