In news similar to a wedding announcement jointly issued by Hatfields and McCoys, two longtime competitors in the legal research market, Casemaker and Fastcase, have joined forces to form a single company under the Fastcase brand, with an estimated subscriber base of more than three-fourths of all lawyers in the United States.
A little over a year ago, the two companies were in litigation against each other in federal court in Atlanta over Casemaker’s copyright claims in the Georgia government regulations. In early December 2019, the companies agreed to dismiss this litigation after reaching an agreement on undisclosed terms.
The rivalry between them stretched back to the early years of both companies, when each company struggled to win the deal to become the preferred membership benefit of state and local bar associations. For years, one of my favorite posts remained an article I wrote in 2009 that compared the two research services directly.
The combined company’s subscriber base now includes the bar associations of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and four dozen bar associations in major cities, counties and disciplines with a combined total of more than 1 million users attorneys, an estimated 1.3 million Lawyers in the country.
(Here are the lists of Fastcase’s bar partners and Casemaker’s bar partners.)
“Starting today,” said Ed Walters, Fastcase co-founder and CEO, “every member of a prosecutor’s office in the country will have access to legal research through our mixed company.”
No immediate changes
In the near future, the merger will have no impact on these subscribers as both the Casemaker and Fastcase research platforms will continue to operate in their current form and under their previous brand names.
Behind the scenes, however, the two companies will combine their teams and technology to further improve the research, analytics and workflow products they offer. All employees from both companies will remain with the merged entity, including Casemaker President and CEO Satish Sheth, who will join Fastcase’s board of directors, and Fastcase co-founder Walters, CEO, and Phil Rosenthal, President.
Walters told me last night that no decision had been made about the fate of the two companies’ research platforms. As time goes on, the decision will be made whether to keep one or both, or possibly even combine the best of each into a new platform.
Walters is most excited about the potential that comes from combining the editorial strength of Casemaker with the “innovative DNA” of Fastcase and the other brands under the umbrella, Docket and analytics company Docket Alarm, the bankruptcy platform NextChapter and the newest brand Acquisition, legal research firm Judicata.
“Every time we innovate, virtually every lawyer in America gets it right away,” said Walters.
One plus one equals three
The talks that led to the merger began almost immediately after the companies resolved their lawsuit in December 2019 and the merger became official on January 1. Now, according to Walters, they will go through an extended period of time analyzing how best to take advantage of the companies. various research libraries, data sources and other assets.
“This is really one of those places where one plus one equals three,” he said. “All services are getting better and all at the same time.”
Walters said the bar associations it has affinity relationships with will play a critical role in determining the future course of the company and the shape of its products.
“We still have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but the advantage now is that we can talk to all prosecutors about it and get their advice and guidance,” he said.
“It is clear how much more we can do together for our bar partners and companies,” said Fastcase President Rosenthal in a company statement. “We have long admired what Casemaker has done for bar associations and their members. We are very grateful for the excellent editorial and productive services of Casemaker and for their deep understanding of the bar market. “
Although rivals in the marketplace, the two companies have long shared a mutual respect, as I can personally attest through conversations with executives from both companies over the years.
The companies also differ in their products and scope. Fastcase has diversified beyond legal research and launched its Full Court Press publishing division, taking over Docket Alarm and Law Street Media in 2018, NextChapter in 2019, and Judicata’s technology and team in 2020.
In the meantime, Casemaker has built a strong editorial arm for updating laws and regulations, has a case law repository that includes more historical material from an earlier period, and has its own case citator in CaseCheck +.
“The combination of our two programs is long overdue, and now the fun really begins,” Casemaker President Sheth said in a statement. “The first thing we will do is what we always do. We will put our customers first.”
Casemaker was founded in the late 1990s when a Cincinnati attorney worked with the Ohio State Bar Association to create a searchable database of Ohio cases. Walters and Rosenthal were with Covington & Burling when they left the company in 1999 to start Fastcase.
If you had asked me when Casemaker and Fastcase would ever merge, my answer would have been, “When hell freezes over.” Good thing I brought a coat.
The bottom line is that this is big news. Not potentially huge. Huge now.
As much as I’ve presented this story about the competition between Casemaker and Fastcase, the fact is that both competed against the legal research duopoly of Thomson Reuters (with Westlaw) and LexisNexis. Love them or hate them, Wexis, as some call the duo, has dominated the legal research market almost monopoly.
Both Casemaker and Fastcase have grown in importance over the years to become viable alternatives to Westlaw and Lexis, to refine the sophistication of their research tools, and to round off the breadth and depth of their libraries.
As a single company with an integrated subscriber base of more than three-quarters of all US lawyers, this new fastcase is more than ever a force to be reckoned with in defining the future of the legal research and publishing market.
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