Guest blogger Morgan Hoyt is a 2L student at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law. When he became a Casetext Ambassador, we asked him to blog about this new resource.
This spring semester, I became the first Casetext Ambassador at Alexander Blewett III School of Law. I did not know much about Casetext prior to applying for the position. I first heard about it through a classmate and immediately became intrigued after learning that Casetext was a free legal research platform powered by insights from the legal community. The concept of democratizing legal research was intriguing, and I decided to apply because I wanted to get involved. The more I use and work with Casetext, the more I see a future where this becomes the place where lawyers, professors, and law students come together to make the law free and understandable. I’m excited to be a part of helping to increase access to those who would otherwise not have it.
In its simplest form, Casetext is a legal research and writing platform. Its library includes over 8.3 million cases and statutes, and they already have over 500,000 users visiting the site each month. However, what makes Casetext different from other platforms is the commentary and analysis from real life members of the legal community linked directly to the cases they are discussing. This provides context and gives life to the text of the case that you are researching.
Casetext also has a host of unique features to further aid your research. One of these features is the Heatmap. The Heatmap is a visual aid that helps you quickly navigate a case. It is located on the left hand side of the case, and it appears as a segmented line with varying shades of blue. The darker the color of blue, the more often that section of the case has been cited to. To travel to that section of the case, simply click on that portion of the line. I regularly use this feature when I need to quickly navigate to the crucial sections of a case.
Another unique feature is Judicial Summaries. Judicial Summaries are concise summaries of the key aspects of a decision extracted from explanatory parentheticals. Casetext has used data science to extract these summaries, and who better to provide you with a summary of the case then a subsequent judge? Together with the Heatmap, these two tools add an additional layer of analysis to your legal research.
Outside of providing access to cases and unique tools to better understand them, you can write about the law using Casetext’s writing tool called LegalPad. LegalPad makes it possible for users to easily write about and connect their analysis directly to the law they are discussing. Generally, these posts are in reference to either a recent court case or regard the contributor’s area of expertise. A great example of this is Doug Hallward-Driemeier’s post regarding the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges merely nine days after the Court issued their opinion.
Casetext has organized this kind of analysis into legal communities. After signing up, users can follow the communities or legal practices areas they are most interested in (e.g. Criminal Law). Each community has a feed similar to one you would see on Facebook so you can stay up to date on what members of that legal community are currently talking about. In my opinion, this is one of the coolest features of Casetext because you can easily stay up to date, and this is a great resource for students who are looking for current topics to write on.
A final feature of Casetext I want to highlight is the WeCite project. The WeCite project demonstrates just how Casetext is truly driving the democratization of legal research. WeCite is Casetext’s version of Shepardizing, but they are building it through crowdsourcing. Last semester, Casetext developed the WeCite project into an exclusive contest for law students, and it has really taken off with students from over 100 law schools participating. It is really easy to get involved, and I encourage students to check it out. All students have to do is go to casetext.com/wecite and sign up. You are then presented with a case and asked how a citation highlighted within that case is being treated. You then choose from one of four relationships to describe the relationship with points being awarded and prizes earned at certain milestones. As a student, I have found WeCite to be particularly helpful. By reading and analyzing citation treatments, my reading comprehension has greatly increased in both speed and accuracy, and I have also earned awesome prizes for my WeCites.
Overall, I have found Casetext to be extremely user friendly with a number of very useful features. It is easy to sign up and free. The access to the communities and blog posts alone make this service worth adding to your research routine. To sign up, head over to https://casetext.com. Do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or are interested in learning more about Casetext!