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Faculties and schools_

History

More than 160 years of legal scholarship

Sydney Law School has a long history of providing the best, research-led legal education in Australia.

Inaugurated in 1855, Sydney Law School was one of the first three disciplines at the University of Sydney, alongside Arts and Medicine. The Law School commenced its work in 1859, but this work in the main was examining rather than teaching.

John Henry Challis, a merchant and landowner of Potts Point, NSW left a substantial bequest of his real and personal estate to the University. As a result of this bequest, eight University chairs, including those of Law, International Law and Jurisprudence, were founded, together with a number of specific lectureships, several of them in the Law School.

In 1890 Pitt Cobbett was appointed to the first Chair of Law and became the first Dean of the Faculty. This marked the commencement of the Sydney Law School as we know it today. After Pitt Cobbett's resignation in 1910, Mr. J. B. Peden (later Sir John Peden) was appointed to the Chair of Law and became Dean of the Faculty. A second chair was created after World War I, and A H Charteris, of the University of Glasgow, was appointed Challis Professor of International Law and Jurisprudence.

The earliest lectures in the Law School, before Pitt Cobbett's arrival from England, were given on the second or the top floor of an old building called Wentworth Court, which ran from Phillip to Elizabeth Streets on the site of the former Government Insurance Office. Soon after Professor Pitt Cobbett's arrival in 1890, the Law School, with its 14 students and teaching staff of five, four of whom were part-time lecturers, moved a few doors along to 173 Phillip Street.

In 1896 the Law School moved across Phillip Street to no. 174 Selbourne Chambers, on the site of the present Selbourne Chambers. It remained there until 1913, when it moved for a year to a 'cramped and noisy' upper floor in Martin Place, while Wigram Chambers (no. 167 Phillip Street) and Barristers' Court, both of which the University had recently purchased, were being converted into University Chambers for the Law School and tenants.

Sometime later, Barristers Court was resumed and demolished for the widening of Elizabeth Street, and in 1936 the University purchased all that remained of the original site. On this block, a 13-storey building was erected and opened in 1938. It was joined to the old Phillip Street Building, and it contained a well-appointed law library occupying three floors. The rest of the space was let. In 1939 there were 288 students and a teaching staff of 17 – two professors and full-time tutor (F C Hutley, later Mr Justice Hutley of the Supreme Court of NSW), and 14 part-time lecturers.

In the years immediately following World War II, there were some 1100 students in the Law School; the number fell to 650 by 1953. During the 1950s, three further chairs of law were created and another was added in 1969. In that year the Sydney Law School moved again, this time into a building of some 16 storeys bounded by Phillip, King and Elizabeth Streets. This was now known as the 'St James Campus'. The building contained nine lecture rooms, placed on two of the floors below street level which provided better air-conditioning control and reduced noise problems. Student amenities included a common room, games rooms and two squash courts. The library, which occupies four floors of the building, accommodated 450 readers, half in individual carrels.

In 2009, Sydney Law School relocated to the University of Sydney's Camperdown campus, occupying the New Law Building, an award-winning complex located on Eastern Avenue. A state-of-the-art complex for Law research and teaching, its major components include a moot court facility, law library, teaching spaces and forecourt.

In 2015, Sydney Law School officially resumed its CBD teaching activities in the University's new CBD building located at 133 Castlereagh Street, Sydney.

Sydney was the first Australian law school to admit women, and three of Australia’s six female high court judges graduated from Sydney Law School. We count among our alumni six Prime Ministers of Australia and four Chief Justices of the High Court of Australia.

We have a reputation for excellence which has been built over more than 160 years of teaching and research. We are committed to continuing to provide the best legal education for our students and leading the way in research by addressing key issues impacting both Australian and international law.

  • 1890–1910: Professor Pitt Cobbett
  • 1910–1942: Professor John Peden
  • 1942–1946: Professor James Williams
  • 1946–1947: Mr Clive Teece (Acting)
  • 1947–1973: Professor Keith Shatwell
  • 1974–1977: Professor David Benjafield
  • 1978–1979: Professor Dyson Heydon
  • 1980–1985: Mr John Mackinolty
  • 1986–1989: Professor Colin Phegan
  • 1990–1992: Professor James Crawford
  • 1992–1993: Associate Professor Alex Ziegert (Acting)
  • 1993–1994: Professor Colin Phegan (Acting)
  • 1994–1997: Professor David Weisbrot
  • 1998–1999: Associate Professor Ros Atherton (Acting)
  • 1999–2002: Professor Jeremy Webber
  • 2002–2007: Professor Ron McCallum
  • 2007–2012: Professor Gillian Triggs
  • 2012–2013: Professor Greg Tolhurst (Acting)
  • 2013–2018: Professor Joellen Riley
  • 2019–2019: Professor Cameron Stewart (Acting)
  • 2019–Present: Professor Simon Bronitt

  • 1894 George Flannery
  • 1897 Thomas Bavin
  • 1898 John Peden
  • 1900 Ernest Mitchell
  • 1903 Richard Clive Teece
  • 1906 Norman Rowland
  • 1907 Edward Real
  • 1909 Samuel Townsend
  • 1912 Claude Weston
  • 1913 Harold Mason
  • 1915 Clive Slade
  • 1916 Horace Petrie
  • 1917 Neil McTague
  • 1918 Herbert Evatt
  • 1921 Aubrey Berne
  • 1922 Percy Spender
  • 1923 Philip King
  • 1924 Malcolm McIntyre
  • 1925 Bernard Sugarman
  • 1925 Leomine Pilkington
  • 1926 George Amsberg
  • 1926 Garfield Barwick
  • 1927 William Lieberman
  • 1928 Henry Woodward
  • 1928 Alfred Gain
  • 1929 George Wright
  • 1930 M.F. Hardie
  • 1930 William Sheldon
  • 1931 Kevin Ellis
  • 1932 Alexander Stevens
  • 1933 Edwin Hook
  • 1934 Cyril Walsh
  • 1935 Allan Eastman
  • 1936 John Kerr
  • 1937 James Massie
  • 1938 Clive Weston
  • 1939 Francis 'Frank' Hutley
  • 1939 Jack O'Brien
  • 1940 Manoel Callas
  • 1940 Ronald Cary
  • 1940 Kenneth Cohen
  • 1941 William Shearer
  • 1941 Harold Glass
  • 1942 Arthur Rath
  • 1942 Ewart Smith
  • 1943 Raymond McKay
  • 1944 Ross Waite Parsons
  • 1945 David Benjafield
  • 1946 James Esler
  • 1947 Leslie Downer
  • 1947 Kenneth Jacobs
  • 1948 Dennis Mahoney
  • 1949 Allan Saunders
  • 1950 Robert Conacher
  • 1950 Frederick Watson
  • 1951 George Murray
  • 1952 William Hodgekiss
  • 1953 David Panckhurst
  • 1953 Geoffrey Kolts
  • 1954 William Deane
  • 1955 Elizabeth Evatt
  • 1955 Albert Lacey
  • 1956 Theodore Simos
  • 1957 Patrick Lane
  • 1958 Roderick Meagher
  • 1959 Andrew Hiller
  • 1960 Geoffrey MacCormack
  • 1961 Jeremy Badgery-Parker
  • 1962 Donald Graham Hill
  • 1963 David Harland
  • 1964 James Wood
  • 1965 Michael Chesterman
  • 1966 Mary Gaudron
  • 1967 Stephen Denning
  • 1967 Andrew Wentworth Stevenson 
  • 1969 John Lehane
  • 1970 Kenneth Wee
  • 1970 Robert Forster
  • 1971 James Spigelman
  • 1972 Richard Gelski
  • 1973 Christopher Penman
  • 1973 Philip Ward
  • 1974 Margaret Somerville
  • 1976 Susan Charny
  • 1977 Richard White
  • 1978 Margaret Allars
  • 1979 Jane Gray
  • 1980 James Allsop 
  • 1981 Margaret Cole 
  • 1983 Mark Speakman 
  • 1984 Justin Gleeson 
  • 1985 Elizabeth Grinston 
  • 1986 Roy Williams 
  • 1987 Tod McGrouther 
  • 1987 Elizabeth Dibbs 
  • 1988 Margaret Mary Ryan 
  • 1989 Joanna Bird 
  • 1990 Andrew Bell 
  • 1991 Craig Carracher 
  • 1992 Simon Evans 
  • 1993 Jaclyn Moriarty 
  • 1994 Elisabeth Peden 
  • 1994 David Murphy
  • 1994 Evan Fountain 
  • 1995 Joellen Riley 
  • 1996 Christopher Alexandrou 
  • 1996 Sarah Goldfinch 
  • 1997 Benjamin Kremer 
  • 1998 Michael Davis 
  • 1999 Thomas Riemer 
  • 2000 Stuart Lawrance 
  • 2000 Natalie Krestovsky 
  • 2000 Simon Fitzpatrick 
  • 2001 Andrew Lang 
  • 2002 Yane Svetiev 
  • 2002 Eloise Scotford 
  • 2002 David Thomas 
  • 2003 Jonathan Pickering 
  • 2003 Erin Walsh 
  • 2004 Robert Yezerski 
  • 2004 William Edwards 
  • 2005 Nicola Campion 
  • 2005 Caroline Spruce 
  • 2006 Selina Wrighter 
  • 2007 Sascha Morrell 
  • 2007 Oliver Jones 
  • 2008 Fiona Roughley 
  • 2008 Thomas Prince 
  • 2008 Zelie Heger 
  • 2009 Zachary Vermeer 
  • 2009 Tina Zhuo 
  • 2010 Jane Taylor 
  • 2011 Alicia Lyons 
  • 2012 Chelsea Tabart 
  • 2012 Nikki Joson 
  • 2013 Daniel Ward 
  • 2014 Kathleen Heath 
  • 2016 Melissa Chen 
  • 2017 Daniel Farinha 
  • 2018 Zubin Bilimoria 
  • 2019 Harry Stratton 
  • 2020 John-Patrick Asimakis 
  • 2020 Harrison Rogers
  • 2021 Olivia Morris
  • 2021 Haiqiu Zhu

JuristDiction, a magazine published annually for our alumni and the wider legal community.

Our past issues provide in-depth articles about the law, our students and alumni.  

JuristDiction 2008, issue 1

  • The future of law: an update on the New Law School Building
  • The forgotten children: exposing Australia's treatment of child refugees
  • The class of 1951

JuristDiction 2008, issue 2

  • Climate visionaries: forging legal solutions to climate change
  • Sharia law in Indonesia: understanding the world's largest Muslim nation
  • The climate warrior: a look at the Australia Youth Climate Coalition

JuristDiction 2009, issue 2

  • Honorary award for The Hon Justice Arthur Robert Emmett and Mr Bruce McWilliam
  • Opening celebrations for the New Law Building on the Camperdown campus
  • Alumni achievement: His Hon Judge John North 

JuristDiction 2010, Autumn

  • Social Justice Clinical Course - student activism past and present
  • Reconciliation and injustice
  • Women, crime and beyond
  • An outstanding defender and scholar
  • Should corporations engage in political activities?

JuristDiction 2010, Summer

  • 'A spiritual thing': the Sydney legal profession in the First World War
  • Regulating the development of energy resources
  • Enabling the disabled world

JuristDiction 2011, Spring

  • Vale Justice Roddy Meagher
  • Changing of the guard: Law School alumni continue to head the NSW Supreme Court
  • The Peter Nygh Hague Conference internship

JuristDiction 2011, Winter

  • A commitment to community service
  • Law and development in our times
  • Himalayan Field School on development and human rights
  • Building capacity with AusAid
  • Judicial training in the dragon kingdom of Bhutan

JuristDiction 2012, Spring

  • Healing the system: Larry Gostin, health pioneer
  • Profile: Justice Peter Garling
  • The graduating class of 1962 (Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG)

JuristDiction 2012, Winter

  • David Re - trial chamber judge
  • Syria, Libya, and the use of force under international law
  • Soldiers or assassins? America's killing of Osama Bin Laden
  • 2012 Prize Giving Ceremony and graduation party

JuristDiction 2013, Spring

  • A constitutional recipe for an Australian republic
  • Profile: Helen Irving
  • What's God got to do with it? Freedom of religion and constitution
  • Clinical legal education

JuristDiction 2014, Winter

  • Profile: Chloe Flynn
  • All the world's a stage
  • Sexting and young people
  • Wingara Mura - Bunga Barrabugu

JuristDiction 2015

  • In memoriam: we remember Katrina Dawson
  • Word beaters: our students win fourth Jessup moot title
  • Shaping the future of Indigenous law
  • Alumni achievement: a portrait of alumnus Charles Waterstreet has won the 2015 Archibald Prize.
  • Class of 1975 reunite
  • Alumna, Cat Thao Nguyen, empowered by law studies after life struggle
  • A pathway to Cambridge or Oxford.

JuristDiction 2016

  • Not guilty: the Innocence Project
  • Neurolaw in the courtroom
  • In the courts of Cambodia: alumna Hannah Solomon shares her experience
  • Law Without Walls
  • An Australian intern in London: Catherine Qu is selected to intern at the International Bar Association

JuristDiction 2017

  • A world record in the Jessup Moot
  • The alumna who is changing the world
  • Passport to Oxford: recipients explain how the experience transformed their legal careers
  • Colin Phegan Lectureship – a gift to learning
  • Young lawyers celebrated: alumni and student named in Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards
  • Women in leadership: four alumni winners of the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards

JuristDiction 2018

  • Shaking up the student law society
  • The gift that keeps on giving: Tom Yim honours former lecturer with gift that will help new generation of students
  • Women of influence: Professor Rosemary Lyster earns a spot in 2018 Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence
  • AI and the future of banking: student Isabella teaches Westpac about the role of artificial intelligence in banking.

The Sydney Law School Reports were designed to inform students, graduates and supporters of the activities occurring at the Law School at the time, and included letters from prominent members of the profession, research updates and student news. 

Images:

  • (Left) Page 36 of The Jubilee Book of the Law School of the University of Sydney 1890 - 1940. In 1912 the Law School moved to University Chambers and remained there for 26 years. See page 14 of the book for more details.
  • (Right) Old Law School Building in Phillip Street. Sourced from University of Sydney archives [Ref G3_224_0967].

 

The Law School Shift written by former Vice-Chancellor Sir Bruce Williams KBE (2009)

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