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A citator by any other name?

Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase Inc., came to Richmond yesterday to talk about the company’s contract for legal research service with the Virginia State Bar, which is up for renewal in February.

A VSB task force, headed by president-elect Jon Huddleston, began several months ago to review complaints by Virginia Beach lawyer Kevin Martingayle and others that the Fastcase “Authority Check” feature does not do enough for Virginia lawyers who may rely on Fastcase as their primary research tool.

Walters told the task force the nine-year-old company is constantly refining its search algorithms, working toward its goal of capturing all citations. He said Fastcase tries to make it very clear to users – through a disclaimer and training offered at bar conferences and in Webinars – that Fastcase’s “Authority Check” is not the same as the Shepard’s or KeyCite citators.

Maybe the problem is the feature’s name, some task force members wondered. Perhaps the name “Authority Check” simply promises more than the feature can, or ever sought, to deliver.

It almost seems the name “Authority Check” will always imply something stronger, broader and better than it ever was intended to be, said task force member Donna Bausch, director of the Norfolk Law Library and the Norfolk-Portsmouth Bar Association.

One suggested alternative – “Automated Citation Engine” – didn’t exactly trip off the tongue lightly.

Walters told Virginia Lawyers Weekly today he thinks the best way to address the task force’s concerns is continued strengthening of Fastcase’s citator feature. The company takes feedback very seriously, he said, but he couldn’t make any name-change decision alone.
By Deborah Elkins

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