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Trailblazing woman of law: from university medallist to president

20 June 2022
Law School alumna’s milestones pave the way for women of law
Justice Julie Ward graduated from Sydney Law School with the University Medal in Law. Today she is the President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal.
Sydney Law School alumna, Justice Julie Ward

Sydney Law School alumna, Justice Julie Ward

What happened between the time she was a law student to today has been groundbreaking for the profession and has helped pave the way for women in the legal profession.

Justice Ward has excelled throughout her life in law, starting as an outstanding student. She completed her Bachelor of Laws in 1982 with first class honours and the University Medal in Law.

She then went on to work as an associate to Sir Nigel Bowen, the first Chief Justice of the Federal Court. For two years Justice Ward then worked in law firm, Stephen Jaques Stone James (now King & Wood Mallesons), before receiving a postgraduate scholarship from The University of Sydney. The scholarship enabled her to pursue further study at Oxford University where she completed a Bachelor of Civil Law with first class honours.

Up to this point in Justice Ward’s career her aptitude for the law was prevalent.

Somehow, her career trajectory accelerated further with milestones that show her as a true trailblazer for all women of law.

It is important to celebrate diversity in the law; and women in the law is an important aspect of that.
Justice Julie Ward

Milestones in Justice Ward's career

Justice Ward was the youngest female partner to be appointed at Mallesons in 1998.

In 2008 Justice Ward was the first female solicitor to be directly appointed to the Supreme Court bench. It is rare for a solicitor to be appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court of NSW without serving as a judge in the Magistrates Court or District Court first, so this is a significant milestone.

She sat in the Equity Division of the Court, until her appointment to the Court of Appeal in November 2012. And in 2017, Justice Ward was appointed as the Chief Judge in Equity.

In March 2022, Justice Ward was appointed as President of the Court of Appeal in the Supreme Court of NSW. She is only the second female to be appointed as a President of the Court of Appeal. The first female was fellow Sydney Law School alumna, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, who sat in the role until she was appointed the Governor of New South Wales.

Study hard, maintain your academic curiosity, don’t be too precious, find strong role models and wear fabulous shoes!
Justice Julie Ward

Justice Ward delivered the Special Address at the 2022 Prize Giving Ceremony

Justice Ward has an inspiring and trailblazing career so we asked her about her career and experience in the law.

How do you feel about being a woman of law?

I love being a lawyer – the law has fascinated me since I started my Arts/Law degree in 1977. As for being a woman in law – I feel fortunate to have started in the law in the era I did when the possibilities for women were opening up.

Describe your experience studying at Sydney

I loved my time at Sydney Uni – I lived on campus for the first three years and it was an amazing experience living and working amongst the Oxonian inspired dreaming spires of Sydney Uni.

Describe your experience working in law

I have been very fortunate to work with formidable legal minds and to have had wonderful mentors. My year as associate to the first Chief Justice of the Federal Court (Sir Nigel Bowen) was an unforgettable experience. As for change in the legal profession that has occurred on all fronts – there have been too many changes to recount!


In 1902, Ada Evans was the first woman to graduate with a Bachelor of Laws from Sydney Law School. 120 years on, we celebrate Ada and the changemakers that have followed in her footsteps

Justice Ward recently delivered the Special Address at Sydney Law School’s 2022 Prize Giving Ceremony. Watch her inspiring Address.

Find out more about the Peter Cameron Sydney Oxford Scholarship which promotes further study in law after the completion of a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or a Juris Doctor.

Why Justice Ward is a trailblazing woman of law

1

Youngest female partner to be appointed at global law firm, Mallesons.

2

First female solicitor to be directly appointed to the Supreme Court bench.

3

Second female to be appointed as a President of the Court of Appeal.

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