It's happening again. Another bloated, proprietary industry is giving way to an "open-source" alternative.
The industry? Legal research.
With an increasing number of legal opinions online, rather than locked behind LexisNexis or Westlaw, Fastcase was bound to arise. Fastcase is an up-and-coming competitor to these locked-down, expensive services, offering access to a large legal database at a fraction of the cost. Fastcase still needs to scan and index all the legal opinions still held in books, but this is something that an offshore team can do at a low price.
Fastcase won't unseat Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw anytime soon, just as open-source software alternatives aren't putting anyone out of business today. But the writing is on the wall, according to a June 30 Forbes article released online this week:
Bigger law firms will continue to use Westlaw and Lexis for a long time. The established vendors have the most current and comprehensive databases, and, says Thomas Fleming, lawyers know them best....[Fleming's] firm uses Fastcase for quick searches and to cross-check citations, but he says it has a "phenomenal niche" serving smaller firms that can't afford Wexis.
Niche today, market dominance tomorrow. That's the way the open-source song goes...