A brief before and after using Cloud Linking.

The legal research company Fastcase is introducing a new feature today, Cloud Linking, that automatically converts case citations in legal documents into hyperlinks to the full-text cases.

Cloud Linking is notable because the links it creates are public and free — anyone can follow them regardless of whether they have a Fastcase account. While both LexisNexis and Westlaw also have tools that convert citations into hyperlinks, the person following their links must have a subscription to view the source material.

“We’re trying to make public law more public and useful – to move from a world in which law is scarce to one in which law is abundant,” said Ed Walters, Fastcase cofounder and CEO. “Our team at Fastcase has always said that law should be like electric power: nearly ubiquitous, inexpensive, reliable, and useful for powering other things.”

To convert a document using Cloud Linking, you must be a Fastcase subscriber. In Fastcase 7, Cloud Linking now appears as an option on the top menu bar. In Fastcase 6, click Options in the top menu bar and then select Cloud Linking.

Upload a document and the converted version is downloaded in less than a minute.

From there, simply upload a Microsoft Word or PDF document. A duplicate of your document is then downloaded, with all the case citations converted to hyperlinks. (Be sure your PDF document has been text-recognized; it won’t work with image-only PDFs.) Fastcase says the process should take less than a minute. The documents I tried took only seconds.

This is a beta version of Cloud Linking and it still has some limits. It currently works only with cases, not statutes or regulations. Fastcase plans to add these later. And it only converts full citations containing the volume, reporter and page. A short citation will not be converted. Needless to say, it works only for cases included in the Fastcase database, which goes back to the late 1800s for most jurisdictions.

In addition to using this for your own pleadings and briefs, you could use it to add links to an incoming brief from an opponent, to make it easier to access the cited cases. It can also be used to add links to blog posts, client alerts, or any other kind of document.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.