A few months ago, we wrote about Casetext, a nifty little platform that seeks to essentially democratize/wiki-fy/open source the law, allowing users to annotate cases and share comments. Casetext recently expanded on that open source idea and launched LegalPad, which is WAY cooler. LegalPad is basically the legal equivalent to Medium. However,where Medium is a publishing platform for everyone about everything, LegalPad is a publishing platform for law-related material only.

If you are not already familiar with using blogging platforms like WordPress and/or you just do not want to set up your own blog, LegalPad provides a relatively robust place for your legal writing. It comes with the usual blogging tools: the ability to use create headers, use basic HTML commands, create hotlinks to other websites, and embed documents and photos. However, where LegalPad excels is in its ability to integrate cases and other legal documents. You can bookmark cases already found in Casetext and import them into your post. While in the middle of a post draft, you can consult cases without hopping out. You can highlight quotes from a case and cut and paste them into your post and they will come complete with pincites – just like Westlaw.

When lawyers take advantage of those features, you find posts like this, which offer legal analysis and a wealth of links to past decisions. However, LegalPad can also be used to simply provide a teaser paragraph and link to your own blog (or someone else’s) for the remainder of the post, but frankly that sort of defeats the purpose of such a platform – and, unfortunately, that is much of the content that is currently there.

LegalPad will succeed or fail based on how lawyers leverage the platform. Using LegalPad as a space for vigorous and substantive discussions of the law, grounded in using Casetext’s law library, could create an entirely new space for legal scholarship and dialogue. Making it a glorified collection of links to other material will just be Feedly on steroids.

Featured image: “little cube with paragraph symbol on a keyboard” from Shutterstock.

  • CaseText and LegalPad make me want to read and comment on cases all day. It’s such a great idea, and so well-executed.

  • This makes it even more important for them to get all their primary law in place (if they had my state’s statutes, I’d be on Casetext all the time).

    • I know it’s irrelevant to the end user, but this is no small feat. The way our laws are published is a complete mess. From talking to Ed Walters at Fastcase, I understand they’ve got a whole team dedicated to prying up-to-date cases and statutes out of the reluctant grip of all the various sources.

    • We actually are just starting to add state statutes. On the site are the statutes for California, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Delaware. That said, we’re going to do some work to make sure that that you can search for them by citation and they show up correctly in search. (Here’s what the New York Consolidated Code looks like right now in our search results: https://casetext.com/search?q=*&codes=N.Y.%20Law — in the near future, each section will be identified by citation, and you’ll be able to search by citation to pull up a statute. We also want to introduce navigation by table of contents and clicking “next section,” but that may take a little bit longer to engineer.).

      Sam is right, though, that getting the law into a digital format, accessible to our users, searchable, etc. is a much bigger challenge than you’d think. Part of the issue is that, although much of these works are “public” in that they aren’t copyrighted, no effort was made to make these resources available in a format that lends itself to programatic parsing. But there are solutions, and we’re going to get there as fast as we humanly can to add the entire corpus!

      • That’s great to hear! I know the back end of things is more complicated than it appears. I’m just impatient for the day Casetext can be the first place I go for research, instead of the second or third.