Friday, February 16, 2007

Danner on Berring on Legal Information and American Legal Culture

Richard A. Danner, Duke, has posted an article, forthcoming in the Law Library Journal, that is both on the impact of the way legal information is structured on American legal thought -- a topic of importance -- but also on the impact of Robert C. Berring's (Boalt/UC Berkeley) work in this area. The article, Legal Information and the Development of American Law: Writings on the Form and Structure of the Published Law, covers such topics as "the impacts of the categories of the West Digest System on how American lawyers understand and think about the law; and the extent to which the conceptual universe was 'closed,' limiting the acceptable sources of law to published cases--in practical terms to cases published in the West National Reporter System."

The piece, without saying so, also makes another point: we have so much more to learn from the professionals in the law library than where a book is or how to use the newest database. For Berring, pictured at right, on "How I became a law librarian," click here. Here's Danner's abstract:
Robert C. Berring's writings about the impacts of electronic databases, the Internet, and other communications technologies on legal research and practice are an essential part of a larger literature that explores the ways in which the forms and structures of published legal information have influenced how American lawyers think about the law. This paper reviews Berring's writings, along with those of other writers concerned with these questions, focusing on the implications of Berring's idea that in the late nineteenth century American legal publishers created a “conceptual universe of thinkable thoughts” through which U.S. lawyers came to view the law. It concludes that, spurred by Berring and others, the literature of legal information has become far reaching in scope and interdisciplinary in approach, while the themes struck in Berring's work continue to inform the scholarship of newer writers.