What was life like be­fore Google?

Herald on Sunday - - REVIEW -

Alan Ring­wood is a part­ner and spe­cial­ist lit­i­ga­tor at Bell Gully. He has been prac­tis­ing law for more than 30 years.

Life be­fore Google is hard to re­mem­ber, but it def­i­nitely in­volved more field trips.

The world was not at your fin­ger­tips. The world was out there, in the ac­tual world, and all the in­for­ma­tion you needed was stored in hard copy form.

This meant that there were trips to the uni­ver­sity li­brary, to check the def­i­ni­tions

— in ev­ery sin­gle dic­tionary they held — for the word you needed to con­strue in a very par­tic­u­lar way.

There were whole days spent in the Law So­ci­ety li­brary, while it rained out­side, try­ing to find any kind of ob­scure author­ity for some ar­cane point of law that you knew must have been ju­di­cially con­sid­ered some­how, some­where, some­time.

There were trips to the Auck­land Pub­lic Li­brary to look at mi­cro­fiche records of his­tor­i­cal news­pa­per ar­ti­cles to do with some­thing or other.

And — if that could be imag­ined – there were even more ex­cit­ing trips.

There was an af­ter­noon at the Lon­don Bar, up­stairs on the cor­ner of Queen and Welles­ley, where they had more than 100 beers and you could check all the la­bels for any that con­tained a de­pic­tion of a lion, for a pass­ing off dis­pute.

And then buy bot­tles of all the ones that did.

There were trips to bot­tle stores all across the city to check the la­bels on bot­tles of whisky for sim­i­lar rea­sons.

These sorts of field trips are still some­times nec­es­sary (or we can con­vince our­selves that they are); but preGoogle there was sim­ply no al­ter­na­tive.

Then there was the wait­ing for in­for­ma­tion.

Or­der­ing a text book from some other li­brary, wait­ing a week, and hop­ing that it would be use­ful when it ar­rived. This all meant that the process of giv­ing le­gal ad­vice had a very dif­fer­ent rhythm, and clients seemed nat­u­rally to un­der­stand that.

In par­tic­u­lar (in case any are lis­ten­ing) they did not ex­pect the ad­vice that very same day; or even nec­es­sar­ily that week.

So you not only had more time to re­search it, you also had more time to think about it, and you could put it aside to do some­thing else in the mean­time if you liked, and come back to it af­ter re­flec­tion, and when it was done you posted it, and you might not get asked to clar­ify it for an­other week or two.

Life be­fore Google was a lot less con­ve­nient. But it cer­tainly was not all bad.

Alan Ring­wood stud­ies the old-school way.

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