5 minutes reading time (1007 words)

Q&A with Ed Walters, CEO Fastcase, Law Professor, and Robotics Geek


Susan: In 1999, you left a perfectly good job as a big firm lawyer in Washington to start Fastcase, a legal research startup in a market dominated by bigger companies. What was it about the legal industry that made you wake up one morning and say, I’m going to take on the world of legal tech?

Ed: I was complaining late one night to the lawyer in the office next to mine about the tools we were using. They were insanely expensive, miserable to use, and our clients were always mad when we did. We were paying judges, legislators, and regulators our tax money, so they could make the law and give it away to foreign-owned publishing conglomerates, who would sell the law back to us at insane markups. The lawyer in the next office was Phil Rosenthal, my co-founder (who, in addition to his law degree had a Ph.D. in physics from CalTech). We knew that business model was unsustainable, and there was no reason why we couldn’t be the ones to build a better way to access the law.

Susan: Fastcase has done some amazing work bringing the legal research and analytics to more than 1.1 million lawyers across the world. What made you decide to partner with bar associations to provide access in this way?

Ed: Our dual mission from the very start was to democratize the law and to make legal research smarter. So bar associations were a natural partner. When we work with a state bar association, every lawyer in the state gets free access to our service, which really democratizes the law. And although we don’t get paid like a duopolist, Fastcase makes enough money to invest in continuous improvement, which makes our tools smarter all the time. Today dozens of bar associations offer Fastcase to their members as a free benefit.

Susan: I always hear about Fastcase and the new things you are working on from the acquisition of Docket Alarm in 2018, NextChapter in 2019, and the tech stack from Judicata in 2020. What’s next for Fastcase, any clues that you can give us?

Ed: We have opened Docket Alarm’s library of more than half a billion state and federal briefs, motions, and pleadings for research in Fastcase. That means that nobody starts with a blank page anymore – you can always find a form template for a motion or a pleading before a court. We’re also rolling out more than 400 expert treatises in Fastcase, and our NextChapter team is rolling out a new tool to help you easily automate repetitive documents that you file. People loved Fastcase before, but love it even more later this with these additions.

Susan: You were recently quoted as saying Fastcase has a new citator in development. That’s exciting news – what can you tell us about it?

Ed: In Sept 2020 Fastcase acquired the tech stack of Judicata, a legal research startup based in Silicon Valley. Judiciata did a number of great things that we’re excited to put into the roadmap, but I think the citator is the most important of them. They have created a citator that they have benchmarked as better than the gold standard for citators in the market. More nuanced, deeper and just better. And so that’s a big part of our work going forward. Our teams are already working together on a new version of the citator. I think with our focused effort you’ll start seeing citator results rolling out this year, in a way that I hope is going to make the Bar Association citators the new industry standard, the new gold standard.

Susan: 2021 was a big year for Fastcase, with the Fastcase/Casemaker merger. What can we expect to put in front of SJC Bar members over the next year?

Ed: Casemaker and Fastcase had complementary strengths. Casemaker had an amazing editorial team that updates the statutes in a brilliant way. Without getting too technical, it’s a very hard thing to do. When a governor signs an act into law, it doesn’t magically drop itself into the code. And there’s a very technical art to it that Casemaker had perfected to update the statutes and regulations on a regular basis in a way that’s the best in the business. The Fastcase team was really focused on innovation, really a software company. The idea was to build software that was very empowering for users, that was easy to use and powerful at the same time. We were building some of the best features in the world. By combining our forces, we could put together the best content updating and editorial team in the business and the best innovative software company in the business. We are stronger together.

Susan: If you had to leave our members with just one thing. Why Fastcase, why should they use your service over another provider?

Ed: I don’t think Fastcase is all things to all people, but one thing that’s unique is that people can try Fastcase for free through the San Joaquin County Bar Association anytime they like, for as long as they like. You just go to the bar website at https://www.sjcbar.org, log in with your San Joaquin County Bar Association username and password, and you’re off and searching. The free benefit also includes unlimited free reference attorney support by phone or live chat, so if you’re ever stuck on research, the bar has put a team of reference attorneys on call to help you. It’s one of the reasons people love Fastcase – it’s a great legal research library that is constantly getting even better, and at a price that works for everyone – free with your bar membership.

Susan: Robotics geek?

Ed: Yes! I teach The Law of Robots, and The Law of Autonomous Vehicles, at Georgetown Law in the fall, and at Cornell Law School / Cornell Tech in New York City in the Spring. It’s very inspiring to meet bright law students and explore together how law should respond to a rapidly changing world.



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