As Professor Robert Berring relates it, the "Finding the Law" textbook which he co-authored for many years, had a respected origin. But has been overtaken and pushed to the sidelines by changes in technology, libraries,legal education, and the student population.
In 1897, Dean C.C. Langdell told the members of’ the Harvard Law School Association: "We have. . . constantly inculcated the idea that the library is the proper workshop of professors and students alike; that it is to us all that the laboratories of the university are to the chemists and physicists, the museum of natural history to the zoologists, the botanical garden to the botanists."
It was in this academic environment that Professor Berring , along with Morris Cohen, the renowned figure among late 20th-century law librarians and among the foremost legal bibliographers in the United States, co-authored "How to Find the Law" , 8th edition which came out in 1983.
The book was almost eight hundred pages long and attempted to cover every aspect of legal bibliography. The Ninth edition which came out in 1989, added Kent Olson as co-author but was100 pages shorter. This book and "Fundamentals of Legal Research" by Professor Jacobstein and Mersky, were regarded as the preemminent reference works on American legal bibliography.
Professor Berring saw that there was a market for a paperbound abridged edition of the big book. He developed an abridged copy of How to Find the Law called, Finding the Law. Interestingly, Morris Cohen told Berring "...that he believed that there was value in what I suggested but that I was writing for law students that he did not understand, in a style that he could never embrace."
With Beth Edinger of the Boalt Hall Law School reference staff, Professor Berring produced both the 10th and 11th editions. They tried to make the text readable and relevant. However, the changed attitudes and expectations among law students that Morris Cohen was perceiving, seem to have caught up with even the new and improved versions of "Finding the Law".
As Professor Berring observes, "But students stopped reading books on research. All law schools had programs in Research and Writing, but the writing aspect waxed while the research component waned. If there are only going to be a few lectures on research, and the LEXIS and WESTLAW representatives are introducing the freely available Audis of research to each student, who is going to read a four hundred page book on building an engine? Would I have done so as a law student? "
"...The world of textbooks in general is in flux, but I do not see a role for a standard textbook on legal research in it. I continue to believe in the value of research instruction, but it will not come via the standard printed textbook. That day is gone...."
( Source : Finding the Law, R.I. P. , Bob Berring )