What was life like before Google?
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.