If there is one consistent theme that comes from the folks at Fastcase, it is that they are not afraid to challenge the status quo. This time around, Fastcase is putting fresh spin on the old idea of providing advanced sheet of court opinions in a compiled format. The format this time around, is eBooks via Kindle, Android and Nook. To make things really interesting, Fastcase is providing these eBook Advance Sheets for free.

Fastcase CEO, Ed Walters gives a great overview of what they are doing below. I’ve tested out a few of these via my iPad and Kindle (Ed sent me some .mobi and .epub examples), and they have a nice clean look and feel about them. The idea of replacing those heavy paperback advanced sheets with a eBook version is something that should appeal to those that continue to get Advanced Sheets.

I had a brief conversation with Jason Wilson about the usage of Advance Sheets in the age of Westlaw/Lexis/Bloomberg, and we both came to the consensus that Advance Sheets aren’t as heavily used as they were a few years ago. However, the idea of being able to download them onto a convenient platform like an iPad or Kindle Fire, may make a number of attorneys bring back that experience.

The other shortcoming that we could think of in this example is that there is not synopsis provided by Fastcase for the Advance Sheets. Granted, that would be a big investment for Fastcase, and perhaps in the age of electronic data, a synopsis isn’t necessarily as important as it used to be.

Here is Ed Walters’ introduction to Fastcase Advance Sheets. The Advance Sheets themselves will be downloadable through iTunes, Amazon and Google Play, as well as directly from Fastcase at their eBooks page.

Today we’re excited to share a glimpse of the future — a pre-release version of Fastcase Advance Sheets, a series of eBooks available this week for free on iPad, Kindle, Android, and Nook devices.

Fastcase Advance Sheets give lawyers a first look at judicial opinions from around the country in eBook format, replacing printed law books.  They are the first of five Fastcase eBook products that will be released this year to disrupt the $5 billion legal publishing market.


The term “advance sheet” has been used for more than a hundred years to describe the paperback drafts mailed to lawyers and libraries before the printing of paper books. Subscriptions to the advance sheets alone cost upwards of $850 per year, for each of nine or ten series of reporters – the final books cost even more.  Lawyers in years past would thumb through advance sheets from their jurisdiction, looking for decisions of interest in their field.

But with the proliferation of judicial opinions, nobody can carry around all the paper books, much less scan through them for important rulings.  Even though the volume of decisions has dramatically increased, nobody has really re-thought the way we publish caselaw reporters since the late 1800s, when John B. West created the regional reporter system that became West Publishing Company.

Nobody until now.  The companies that print paper books can’t or won’t re-invent the industry, but Fastcase can and will.

Fastcase Advance Sheets

Fastcase has replaced the heavy, voluminous, redundant caselaw reporter with modern eBooks that are slim, light, and beautiful.  Fastcase’s Advance Sheets are more comprehensive than traditional paper tomes, because they include all decided cases – even “unpublished” opinions that won’t be printed in the books (but which are precedential in many courts, and often contain persuasive authority).

And because the Fastcase collection is in eBook format, it will work on most e-readers, including iPad, Kindle, Nook, and Android tablets.  That also means that text can be highlighted, copied, shared, annotated, rotated, read on an airplane or train, or even on a beach.  And instead of reading an entire paper advance sheet, Fastcase’s eBooks can be searched for key terms, and they include introductory summaries highlighting the issues in each case.

Unlike their paper counterparts, Fastcase Advance Sheets will be free.

Because Fastcase already collects these opinions for its desktop legal research service, publishing them in eBook format is simple, and the marginal cost is low.  So Fastcase offers them for free, consistent with our mission of democratizing the law and building smarter tools for legal research.  Fastcase also will introduce a series of paid eBooks later in the year, with advanced features and highlighting particular subject areas – so lawyers can follow the latest cases in their chosen field.  But the Advance Sheets will continue as a free product, under a Creative Commons license.

About Fastcase Advance Sheets for eBooks:

  • Each book publishes one month’s judicial opinions (designated as published and unpublished) for specific states or courts
  • Available for iPad, Kindle, Android, Nook, and other e-readers
  • 40 volumes published this week, approximately 300 more by the end of the month
  • Advance sheets for each state, federal circuit, and U.S. Supreme Court
  • Volumes begin with summaries of opinions included
  • Fully searchable, with highlights, annotations, bookmarks, and other key features
  • Free, and licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA license.

About Fastcase:

  • Disrupting the legal publishing market with smarter tools for legal research since 1999
  • More than 500,000 subscribers from around the world
  • Affiliated with 22 state bar associations and dozens of voluntary bar associations
  • Market leader in mobile research according to 2011 ABA Technology Survey, with apps for iOS and Android devices