UNSW Faculty of Law

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UNSW Faculty of Law
Established 1971
Type Public
Dean David Dixon
Students 2,900
Location Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Campus Urban
Affiliations University of New South Wales
Website www.law.unsw.edu.au

The Faculty of Law of the University of New South Wales is a law school situated in Sydney, Australia. It is widely regarded as being one of Australia's top law schools, with stringent entry requirements. In 2013, QS World University Rankings placed the UNSW Law School 12th on its list of the best law schools in the world.[1]

The Faculty is composed of the School of Law and 12 affiliated research and specialist legal centres, including a community legal centre, the Kingsford Legal Centre. The Faculty currently teaches approximately 2,900 students.[2]

Today, the Faculty is recognised as one of the top law schools in Australia. In the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Good Universities Guide, UNSW was the only law school in Australia to receive top ratings across all criteria, which include: teaching quality, generic skills, overall satisfaction, and success in obtaining a job.[3]

From 2006 to 2009, the Federal Government's assessment of excellence in tertiary education found that the Faculty leads all Australian universities for the quality of learning and teaching in law.[4][5][6] The Faculty distinguishes itself from other Australian legal education bodies by its small and interactive classes.[7]


On 13 July 1964, the University's Council approved the creation of the UNSW Faculty of Law.[8] On 24 January 1966, the Foundation Chair of Law was created, with the appointee to also be the Dean of the Faculty of Law.[8] On 8 September 1969, Wootten was appointed to this position, where, in 1971, he would oversee the first teaching classes in the faculty.[8]

The Faculty opened on 1 March 1971 with 219 undergraduate students.[9] Prior to this, only the University of Sydney offered law degrees in New South Wales. The task of establishing the new law school was given to John Halden Wootten, QC, a former Supreme Court Justice, who was appointed Foundation Dean in 1969.

When it was first started, the UNSW Law School was just a one-man unit in a wooden hut. Within two years of opening its doors, the Law Faculty had outgrown "The Huts". In 1976, via via other interim homes, it moved to occupy five floors of the UNSW Library Tower. In 2006, the Faculty moved to a new law building on lower campus.


The UNSW Law Building

The Law Faculty is situated on the university's main campus in Kensington, Sydney.

The Faculty is located in the Law Building which opened in July 2006, with the official opening on 21 September 2006 by the then Chief Justice of Australia Murray Gleeson.[10] Prior to that time, the Faculty had been located in several levels of the UNSW Library building on upper campus.

The building is four levels high and was designed by Melbourne architects Corbet Lyons. Features of the building include light-filled atria space, open staircases, landscaped courtyards and an agora running up through floors. There are 13 classrooms with 40-plus seats, two Harvard-style lecture rooms with 90 seats and a 350-seat auditorium. Other features include a new Moot Court and student lounge. The Law Library is occupied over two levels.[11]

In addition to the main campus in Kensington, the Faculty of Law also offers classes, predominantly to those in postgraduate coursework programmes and those in later years of law degree programmes, at its CBD Campus located within Sydney's legal and financial district, on levels 6 and 7 of 1 O'Connell Street, Sydney.[12]

Curriculum and classes[edit]

After an extensive curriculum review, the Faculty introduced a new curriculum in 2013.[13]

The combined law program, which involves a five-year course of study comprising a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor in another discipline, is made up of the following courses:[14]

  • Year 1: Introducing Law & Justice; Torts; and six non-law courses
  • Year 2: Principles of Private Law; Principles of Public Law; Criminal Process; Criminal Laws; and four non-law courses
  • Year 3: Contracts; Administrative Law; Equity & Trusts; Lawyers, Ethics and Justice; and four non-law courses
  • Year 4: Land Law; Resolving Civil Disputes; Business Associations; Business Associations; Court Process & Evidence; Federal Constitutional Law; Law in the Global Context; and two non-law courses
  • Year 5: eight law electives.

The Law Faculty does not use a lecture and tutorial system common in faculties in England and still used by some other Australian law schools. Rather, the Faculty has long conducted classes in a seminar-format, similar to American law schools. Students are asked to contribute to class discussion using Socratic method; basic learning is done through reading materials prior to class, and class time is devoted to examining the complexities and critical exploration of the material -- though the level of Socratic questioning varies between teachers and courses. First year classes ordinarily have a maximum of 28 students. Most upper-year classes have a maximum of 44 students. Some upper-year courses have up to 90 students.[14]

Faculty components and centres[edit]

Kingsford Legal Centre[edit]

The Faculty hosts the Kingsford Legal Centre which is both a teaching centre offering clinical legal education and a community legal centre which provides free legal advice and referral and ongoing assistance to the residents of the local area in relation to legal problems. The Centre takes on cases where there is no other source of assistance or where acting for the client will benefit the community by achieving change in the law or government policy. The Centre advises on matters including domestic violence, debt, criminal law, employment law, legal aid, victim's compensation, motor vehicle accidents, consumer matters and accidents and injuries. It has a state-wide specialisation in discrimination law.[15][16][17]

Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII)[edit]

The Australasian Legal Information Institute is operated jointly by the Faculties of Law at the UTS and the UNSW. AustLII offers free access online to case law, legislation and other primary legal resources[18] and is "Australia's largest online legal public library."[19]

Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law[edit]

The Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law is a public law research centre. It hosted a number of projects including:

  • the annual Constitutional Law Conference and Dinner (the 11th is to be held in 2012)[20]
  • the Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship: Anti-Terror Laws and the Democratic Challenge Project[21]
  • the International Refugee and Migration Law Project[22]
  • the Charter of Human Rights Project[23]
  • the Referendums project[24]
  • the Electoral Law Project[25]
  • the Federalism Project[26]

The founding director was Professor George Williams and the current director is Professor Andrew Lynch.[27]

Other research centres[edit]

There are a number of research centres attached to the Faculty of Law, including:[28]

  • Australian Human Rights Centre
  • Centre for Law, Markets & Regulation
  • Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre
  • Indigenous Law Centre
  • National Children's & Youth Law Centre

Faculty publications[edit]

The UNSW Law Journal is one of Australia's leading academic legal journals and one of the few to be produced entirely by a voluntary student board.[29] Submissions for publication are received from local and international academics, judges, and legal professionals from a wide range of practice areas. The journal is distributed among a diverse set of subscribers, including judges, government departments, non-government organisations, law firms, and more than 250 universities worldwide.

Other Faculty publications and journals include:[30]

  • Australian Indigenous Law Review
  • Australian Journal of Human Rights
  • Australasian Journal of Natural Resources Law and Policy
  • Human Rights Defender
  • Indigenous Law Bulletin

Student organisation[edit]

The UNSW Moot Court

The UNSW Law Society is the peak-representative body for all students in the Faculty of Law. It is responsible for coordinating a variety of events and initiatives for law students. It is divided into the following portfolios: Activities, Administration, Australian Careers, International Careers, Mooting Competitions, Skills Competitions, Education, Juris Doctor, and Social Justice.[31]

Some of the student-organised social events include: an annual Law Ball, drinks and games nights, cocktail events, an annual ski trip, first-year Law Camp, UNSW Law Revue (organised by a separate society, the UNSW Law Revue Society), the valedictory dinner, and a law student talent quest ('Lawlapalooza').[32] The Society organises a number of competitions: Mooting, Client Interviewing, Negotiation, Trial Advocacy (witness examination), and Paper Presentation.[31] Students of all years compete in three different levels of internal mooting competitions, depending on the stage of their degree. The winners of these competitions are supported to compete in intervarsity competitions, such as the National Australian Law Students Association competition.[33] Adjudicators are drawn from a large pool of senior students, graduates, members of the profession (such as solicitors and barristers), and judges. Internal mooting finals are presided over by judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.[34] In recent years, the UNSW Law Society has dramatically increased its funding for students to compete in international competitions - with one team in 2007, two teams in 2010, and two teams in 2011.[35] The Law Society also runs a mentoring program, supported by the Faculty of Law, which aims to assist first year students in their transition from high school to university life.

The Law Society attracts a variety of sponsorship from prominent national and international organisations.[36]

Notable alumni[edit]

Over its 40 year history, the Faculty has produced a number of Rhodes Scholars, Fulbright Scholarship, Lionel Murphy Overseas Scholarship and Goldman Sachs Leadership Award Winners.[37] Since 1997, five UNSW law students have won Rhodes Scholarships.[38] Notable alumni include:

Federal Court judges
NSW Supreme Court judges
  • Tony Meagher (Court of Appeal)
  • Elizabeth Fullerton
  • Megan Latham
  • Stephen Rothman
  • Lucy McCallum (LLB 1986)
Other judges


Student achievement[edit]

UNSW law students have achieved success in international advocacy competitions, including:


  1. ^ "QS University Rankings by Subject 2013 – Law", Quacquarelli Symonds. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  2. ^ UNSW Faculty of Law website - Facts in brief.
  3. ^ "News and Events". law.unsw.edu.au. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  4. ^ 2007 Learning and Teaching Performance Fund announcement by Federal Minister for Education, 7 December 2006
  5. ^ 2008 Learning and Teaching Performance Fund announcement by Federal Minister for Education, 3 October 2007
  6. ^ 2009 Learning and Teaching Performance Fund announcement by the Federal Minister for Education, 5 February 2009.
  7. ^ "Discover UNSW law's international focus", New Sunday Times (New Straits Times Press, Malaysia), 2 October 2011, p 6 accessed 15 November 2011.
  8. ^ a b c "Agency details report - A11-Law". UNSW University Archives. 
  9. ^ "History of UNSW Faculty of Law". 
  10. ^ "A new home for Law". Media, News & Events. The University of New South Wales. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  11. ^ UNSW Faculty of Law website - Law Building.
  12. ^ UNSW Faculty of Law website - CBD Campus.
  13. ^ "UNSW Law website - 'The new curriculum'". 
  14. ^ a b "UNSW Law Undergraduate Guide 2014". 
  15. ^ Joanna Mather, "Education Pro bono a bonus for law students", Australian Financial Review, 6 June 2011, p 28 via Media Monitors Australia Pty Ltd and factiva.com accessed 14 November 2011.
  16. ^ "Kingsford Legal Centre". Access to Justice. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  17. ^ Bernard Lane, "UNSW shows the law is an asset", The Australian (All-round Country edition), 12 November 2008, p 23, via factiva.com accessed 14 November 2011.
  18. ^ Michaela Whitbourn, "Legal eagle's app a firm favourite", Australian Financial Review, 23 June 2011, p 4 via Media Monitors Australia Pty Ltd and factiva.com accessed 15 November 2011.
  19. ^ The Australian High Commission-India (Chanakyapuri, India), "Australian Support Takes Indian Law to the People" (news release), 10 March 2011, Targeted News Service via factiva.com accessed 15 November 2011.
  20. ^ "Gilbert + Tobin 2012 Constitutional Law Conference". Australian Association of Constitutional Law. Australian Association of Constitutional Law. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  21. ^ "Fergal Davis". The Guardian (London, England). 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2011. 
  22. ^ Timothy McDonald, "Refugee law experts say High Court decision will have significant impact", Australian Broadcasting Corporation Transcripts, 31 August 2011, via factiva.com accessed 15 November 2011.
  23. ^ Edward Santow, "Presumption of innocence protected", The Age (Melbourne), 20 March 2010, p 7, Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre, EBSCOhost accessed 14 November 2011.
  24. ^ Paul Kildea, "Referendum education must start without delay" (opinion), Australian Financial Review, 12 November 2010, p 40.
  25. ^ Jenna Price, "Court move to strike candidate off ballot just 'dirty tricks'", The Canberra Times, 15 November 2007, p 15.
  26. ^ Amanda Meade, "Net role urged for poll messages", The Australian, 26 October 2009, p 28.
  27. ^ Chris Merritt, "Local Bill to inflate Greens' influence", The Australian, 3 March 2011, p 4, via factiva.com accessed 15 November 2011.
  28. ^ UNSW Faculty of Law website - Faculty Centres.
  29. ^ unswlawjournal.unsw.edu.au
  30. ^ UNSW Faculty of Law website - Faculty publications.
  31. ^ a b http://www.unswlawsoc.org/?q=welp
  32. ^ UNSW Law Society website.
  33. ^ http://www.unswlawsoc.org/competitions
  34. ^ http://www.unswlawsoc.org/competitions/mooting
  35. ^ President's Report to the 2010 Annual General Meeting, pages 3-4, http://www.unswlawsoc.org/files/2010agm.pdf
  36. ^ unswlawsoc.org
  37. ^ "About us". law.unsw.edu.au. Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  38. ^ "About the Faculty of Law". UNSW Law Society. 
  39. ^ http://www.familycourt.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/FCOA/home/about/Media/Media_Releases/Appointments_to_FCoA_and_FMC
  40. ^ "Jean-Pictet Competition: Honours". 
  41. ^ "For argument's sake". UNSW Newsroom. 22 April 2008. 
  42. ^ "Success a moot point". UNSW Newsroom. 5 February 2008. 
  43. ^ "UNSW Law website - 'First-rate results for our world-class mooters'". 7 May 2013. 
  44. ^ Offner, Steve (20 October 2008). "World champion mooters". UNSW Newsroom. 
  45. ^ "UNSW students placed 2nd in the ICC International Mediation Competition in Paris". UNSW Faculty of Law. 18 February 2010. 
  46. ^ http://www.law.unsw.edu.au/news/2010/04/mooters-excel-internationally

External links[edit]