Melbourne Law School

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Melbourne Law School
School typePublic
DeanPip Nicholson
LocationCarlton, Victoria, Australia

Melbourne Law School (MLS or Melbourne Law) is one of the professional graduate schools of the University of Melbourne. Located in Carlton, Victoria, MLS is Australia's oldest law school,[1][2] and offers J.D., LL.M, Ph.D, and LL.D degrees. The University of Melbourne Law School has been ranked seventh in the world and first in Australia in the Times Higher Education World University 2018 Subject Rankings for Law.[3]

MLS has produced a number of notable alumni in law and politics, including four Prime Ministers of Australia, three Governors-General, four Chief Justices of Australia and thirteen Commonwealth Attorneys-General. Alumni include a current Justice of the High Court of Australia, the current Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, the current Governor of Victoria, the incoming Solicitor-General of Australia, the current President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, the current Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner and the current Chairwoman of the Victorian Bar Council.


MLS was established in 1857, when Richard Clarke Sewell was appointed Reader in Law. This was in response to demand for legal education from those seeking admission to practise as lawyers and the university's need to increase student numbers. The first students studied for a certificate that, with practical training, qualified them for admission to legal practice. In 1860 they were given the additional option of studying for a degree.[4]

MLS was expanded and reorganised in 1873, becoming the Faculty of Law.[5][6] The school continued to grow throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and underwent a major transformation with the appointment of Sir Zelman Cowen as Dean in 1951. Sir Zelman shaped MLS after the United States model, rather than the British model that is common in Australia. Sir Zelman reformed teaching, research and academic recruitment. Under his stewardship, full-time academics came to dominate teaching, instead of part-time practitioners. Many prominent international academics were invited to study at the School, and many Australians were given the opportunity to study abroad.[7][8]

In 2007 MLS accepted its last cohort of LLB students. From 2008 the only degree offered by MLS qualifying for legal practice is the graduate-entry JD. This change to an entirely graduate law school is consistent with University-wide changes occurring under Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis's Melbourne Model, although MLS does offer some subjects to the University's undergraduate students (known as 'breadth' subjects).


The entrance to Melbourne Law School

Applications are assessed on two criteria: academic results in all previous tertiary study and LSAT score.[9] There are only about 300-350 students admitted to Melbourne JD program annually. The student body is divided into 12 streams, with each containing no more than 35 students.[citation needed]


Research centres[edit]

MLS is host to a number of research centres and institutes, specialising in a wide variety of legal fields:[10]

  • Asian Law Centre
  • Asia-Pacific Centre for Military Law
  • Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies
  • Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation
  • Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law
  • Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society
  • Centre for Media and Communications Law
  • Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law
  • Civil Justice Research Group
  • Competition Law and Economics Network
  • Electoral Regulation Research Network
  • Global Economic Law Network
  • Institute for International Law and Humanities
  • Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia
  • Transactional Law
  • Obligations Group
  • The Tax Group


Mooting is mandated as assessment at MLS for some core J.D. subjects, such as constitutional law,[11] and is widely pursued by the student body in both internal and external moot court competitions. MLS's internal moot court competition takes place in MLS's purpose-built moot court.[12] It is organised and run each year by the Melbourne University Law Students' Society, and is currently sponsored by King & Wood Mallesons.[13] MLS students have achieved success in multiple international moot court competitions. Teams from MLS have won the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition and the ELSA Moot Court Competition three times, and in 2012 a team from MLS won the IASLA Space Law Moot Court Competition.[14][15] An MLS team also won the inaugural Victorian Championship Moot in 2013.[16]

External programs[edit]

MLS offers subjects taught in New York City, Washington, D.C., Delhi,Shanghai and Geneva, and has partner programs with many of the world's leading law schools, including University of Virginia School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law. MLS is a founding member of the Center for Transnational Legal Studies in London, and contributes both staff and students to the Center every year. Additionally, MLS has dual degree arrangements with the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, New York University School of Law and the Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law.


MLS students are involved in preparing and publishing the Melbourne University Law Review and the Melbourne Journal of International Law. These two journals jointly publish the Australian Guide to Legal Citation, the most widely followed authority for legal citation formats in Australia.[17] MLS students also produce a newspaper, De Minimis, and a magazine, "Purely Dicta".

Additional journals published by MLS include the Australian Journal of Asian Law (in conjunction with the Australian National University and the University of Washington), Australian Journal of Labour Law, and Media and Arts Law Review.


MLS has been consistently ranked among the top Law Schools in the world.

2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
QS Ranking by Subject (Law)[18] 5th 8th 8th 8th 11th 8th 6th
T.H.E. Ranking by Subject (Law)[19] NA NA NA NA NA 7th 10th


Student organisations[edit]

Three main student organisations are associated with MLS. The first is the Melbourne University Law Students' Society, which represents all law students at the University of Melbourne. The second is the Global Law Students Association, which focuses on international legal issues, careers and provides additional support for international students at MLS. The third, The Melbourne China Law Society, facilitates the comparative study of Chinese, Hong Kong and Australian law, as well as providing Mandarin language training to MLS students.

In addition, the Postgraduate Law Student Association provides support to LL.M students.

Melbourne Law Masters Student Association (MLMSA) represents the collective interests of all MLM (Melbourne Law Masters) students within Melbourne Law School.[20]


Below is a list of the deans of MLS from 1873 to the present:

  • 1873–1888 William Hearn
  • 1889–1892 Edward Jenks
  • 1893–1927 William Harrison Moore
  • 1928–1936 Kenneth Bailey
  • 1937–1937 George Paton
  • 1938–1942 Kenneth Bailey
  • 1943–1951 George Paton
  • 1951–1963 Zelman Cowen
  • 1964–1964 Harold Ford
  • 1964–1966 Zelman Cowen
  • 1967–1973 Harold Ford
  • 1973–1977 Sandford Clark[21]
  • 1978–1983 Colin Howard[22]
  • 1984–1986 Mark Weinberg[23]
  • 1986–1988 Harold Luntz
  • 1989–2002 Michael Crommelin[24]
  • 2002–2003 Ian Ramsay
  • 2003–2007 Michael Crommelin
  • 2008–2009 James Hathaway
  • 2010–2011 Michael Crommelin
  • 2011–2017 Carolyn Evans
  • 2017–2018 Jenny Morgan
  • 2018–present Pip Nicholson

Notable alumni[edit]

Alfred Deakin, the 2nd Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies, the 12th Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, the 17th Prime Minister of Australia, and Julia Gillard, the 27th Prime Minister of Australia, all graduated from MLS. Three Governors-General and at least 13 Attorneys-General have also graduated from MLS, including Gareth Evans, Nicola Roxon and Mark Dreyfus.

Foreign politicians who attended MLS include Neri Javier Colmenares, a Member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, Adnan Buyung Nasution, Member of the Presidential Advisory Council of the Republic of Indonesia and Dame Meg Taylor, former Ambassador of Papua New Guinea to the United States and current Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Four MLS graduates have served as Chief Justice of Australia. This number includes Sir Owen Dixon, one of Australia's most eminent jurists,[25] and Sir Isaac Isaacs, the first Jewish Chief Justice. Geoffrey Nettle, a current Justice of the High Court of Australia, graduated from MLS. In addition, two MLS graduates have served on the International Court of Justice: Hsu Mo and Hilary Charlesworth.

Francis Gurry, the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, Gillian Triggs, the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, and Samuel Pisar, the UNESCO Special Envoy for Holocaust Education all graduated from MLS.

MLS graduates in the business world include James P. Gorman, Chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley.

Legal academics who graduated from MLS include Sir David Derham, the founding Dean of Monash Law School, Greg Craven, the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, and Sir John Monash, a Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne and decorated World War I general.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Waugh, John (2007). First Principles: The Melbourne Law School 1857–2007. Carlton, Vic.: Miegunyah Press. pp. 5–8. ISBN 9780522854480.
  3. ^ "Law 2018". Times Higher Education (THE).
  4. ^ Waugh, John (2007). First Principles: The Melbourne Law School 1857–2007. Carlton, Vic.: Miegunyah Press. pp. 5–8, 14–16. ISBN 9780522854480.
  5. ^ Waugh, John (2007). First Principles: The Melbourne Law School 1857–2007. Carlton, Vic.: Miegunyah Press. pp. 37–41. ISBN 9780522854480.
  6. ^ "The Faculty of Law". Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  7. ^ "Zelman Cowen, 1951–1963, 1964–1966". Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  8. ^ Waugh, John (2007). First Principles: The Melbourne Law School 1857–2007. Carlton, Vic.: Miegunyah Press. pp. 176–80, 188–90. ISBN 9780522854480.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 April 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Research Centres : Melbourne Law School". Melbourne Law School. 1 July 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  11. ^ "LAWS50028 Constitutional Law - 2012".
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Mooting".
  14. ^
  15. ^ Quine, Stephanie (8 August 2012). "Curious students probe space law".
  16. ^
  17. ^ Legal citation Archived 2012-03-31 at the Wayback Machine, Guide to Legal Research, Library, University of New South Wales accessed 3 September 2011.
  18. ^ "QS Top Universities Ranking". Top Universities. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  19. ^ "Times Higher Education World University Rankings". Times Higher Education (THE). Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 14 February 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ "Professor Michael Crommelin AO".
  25. ^ Justice Jim Spigelman, "Australia's Greatest Jurist," presented in Sydney, May 2003.

Further reading[edit]

  • Campbell, Ruth. 1977. A History of the Melbourne Law School, 1857 to 1973, Faculty of Law, Parkville. ISBN 0-909454-43-4.
  • Waugh, John. 2007. First Principles: The Melbourne Law School 1857–2007, Miegunyah Press, Carlton, Vic. ISBN 9780522854480.

Coordinates: 37°48′09″S 144°57′36″E / 37.8024°S 144.9600°E / -37.8024; 144.9600