Sydney Law School

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Sydney Law School
Sydney Law School shield.png
Shield of Sydney Law School
Established 1855
School type Public
Parent endowment A$1.8 billion
Dean Joellen Riley
Location Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Enrollment 3,300[1]
Faculty 78 (permanent) [2]

Sydney Law School (Sydney Law or SLS) is the faculty of law at the University of Sydney, the first university in Australia. Located in the main Camperdown campus of the University, the Sydney Law School began a full program of legal instruction in 1890 following the appointment of its first Dean, having offered legal examinations since 1855.[3]

In 2015, the QS World University Rankings ranked Sydney Law School second in Australia, and 13th in the world.[4] The Social Science Research Network ranks Sydney Law School as 1st in Australia and 6th in the world in its Top 500 International Law Schools List for legal research uploaded to its website, based on views and downloads.[5]

The School has approximately 1,700 undergraduate students; 1,500 postgraduate coursework students; and 100 postgraduate research students.[citation needed] There are now 24 chairs, including the Challis Chairs of Law, Jurisprudence and International Law. In 2010, the School replaced its graduate-entry LL.B. degree with the Juris Doctor degree; the LL.B. degree is still available but only as part of an undergraduate double degree program.

Sydney Law School has produced many luminaries in law and politics, including current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and five other Prime Ministers, four Federal Opposition Leaders, two Governors-General, nine Federal Attorneys-General and 23 Justices of the High Court, more than any other law school in Australia. The school has also produced 24 Rhodes Scholars.


University rankings
Sydney Law School
QS World[6] 13
Australian rankings
QS National[7] 2

As the Faculty of Law, the law school was inaugurated in 1855 and established by the Act to Incorporate and Endow the University of Sydney 1850 (NSW) and an 1855 University Senate by-law, becoming the third faculty (after the Faculties of Arts and of Medicine) of the University of Sydney.

The Faculty of Law commenced its work in 1859, primarily as a body of assessment and examination rather than teaching. In 1890, the first chair was appointed to the faculty and a full legal academic programme commenced at the Faculty.

Prior to 2011, Sydney Law School was the sole School under the Faculty of Law, under the College of Arts and Humanities, one of the three constituent Colleges of the University. As part of a re-organisation of faculty organisation, in 2011 the Faculty of Law was renamed Sydney Law School, adopting the better-known name of its sole School.[8]

The Sydney Law School has won the prestigious Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition on four occasions (in 1996, 2007, 2011 and 2015).[9]


St. James Campus[edit]

Sydney Law School

The Law School building on Phillip Street in the centre of Sydney's legal and business district was the home of the Sydney Law School until early 2009. While the faculty is now located in the New Law School building on the main Camperdown campus of the university, some classes and other functions continued to be hosted on the St. James campus until 2015, and students could still submit assignments there. As of 1 July 2015, the building is no longer owned by the University and the Law School's CBD operations have been relocated to 133 Castlereagh Street, Sydney.[10]

The campus is bounded by Elizabeth, King, and Phillip Streets and is opposite the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The building consists of 13 dedicated levels, three of which are underground. Level four is the ground entrance level and houses the assembly hall, a foyer, and some offices; levels one and two house "Harvard-style" lecture theatres; level three houses a staff car park and other amenities; level five housed University of Sydney Union premises, including the office of the Sydney University Law Society (SULS), until their relocation to the New Law School Building on the Main Campus at Camperdown and Darlington. The Sydney University Law Library and the Faculty of Law's information desk were located on levels seven to ten and twelve, respectively. These facilities have since relocated to level zero to one and level three of the New Law Building, respectively.

The building was constructed in 1969 in the brutalist architectural style. Busts of classical orators and jurists adorn the Phillip Street entrance, while the University of Sydney crest is found on the Elizabeth Street and Phillip Street entrance. The St. James campus is located near St. James railway station and Martin Place railway station and is serviced by a bus stop outside its entrance on Elizabeth Street.

New Law School building[edit]

The Sydney Law School has changed location several times in the past but has always remained in the centre of the city because of the tradition of teaching by practitioners, and for easy access to the courts and members of the profession. However, with the increased number of enrolled students enrolled, the campus in the city was no longer sufficient for both staff and students and hence, the faculty proposed to shift the law school to the main campus in Camperdown.[11] Consequently, a new law school was constructed at the main Camperdown campus, adjacent to Fisher Library and on the site of the former Edgeworth David Building. Completed in February 2009, the faculty administration began occupation in mid-February, prior to classes beginning in early March.

On 30 April 2009, the New Law School Building was officially opened by Governor-General of Australia Quentin Bryce. Also in attendance were Robert French, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia; Murray Gleeson, immediate past Chief Justice of the High Court; Jim Spigelman, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales; and Malcolm Turnbull, leader of the Federal opposition.[12] Numerous seminars and other sessions were held as part of the building's opening day program.[13]

The design and construction of the New Law School Building were each performed by local Australian firms, namely FJMT (Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp) Architects and Baulderstone Pty Ltd, respectively.[14] The building is in the style of late-20th-century International Style architecture and is characterised by its blue tint glass exterior walls.[15] There has been recurring problems with minor water leakage onto the ground floor of the library outside the Malcolm Turnbull reading room with buckets collecting drips seen often with some in-floor lighting having to be replaced.

New Law School Library

The new law school library is part of the New Law School building on the Camperdown campus and is very popular with Sydney university students, so much so that students from other faculties like to study there. Its popularity is such that during peak session, the library can be so busy that it is impossible to even find a spare seat at a desk or table.

There has also been criticism of the design of the library by some students who complain that the open atrium design of the library mean that the NO-TALKING ZONES on the mezzanine level are situated directly above and overlooking the Talking Zones separated only by 20 or so feet of air. The library includes a striking reading room flooded with natural light which was privately funded by the Australian Federal Minister for Communications, Malcom Turnbull.


Herbert Smith Freehills Law Library


The Sydney Law School offers the LL.B. (combined degree undergraduate-entry) and the J.D. (graduate-entry) as professional degrees in addition to higher-research degrees (HRDs), namely the M.Crim. by Research, LL.M. by Research, Ph.D., and S.J.D.[16] In addition to this, the law school offers postgraduate coursework degrees/diplomas and non-degree/-diploma study in specialist areas of law and government, for both law and non-law graduates.[17]


The following publications are produced by the Sydney Law School Law Publishing Unit:

Student organisations[edit]

Two student organisations operate in association with the Sydney Law School. The Sydney University Law Society (SULS), formed in 1902, represents all law students at the University. The Chinese Law Students Society (CLSS), formed in 2004, provides services with a more international outlook.[18]

A number of other student societies at the University of Sydney also cater to law students. These include the Korean Law Students Society at the University of Sydney (KLUS), which caters to Korean ethnic students, formed in 1997, and the St. Thomas More Society, which caters to Catholic students.

Notable alumni[edit]

In its over 150-year history, the Sydney Law School has produced a prominent group of alumni. As of 2014, it has produced six Prime Ministers as well as 23 out of 50 Justices of the High Court.[19] There is also a justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa among the ranks of Sydney Law School alumni. The following is a list of prominent alumni:

International Court of Justice[edit]

High Court of Australia[edit]

In total the University of Sydney has produced 24 out of 50 Justices of the High Court of Australia.

Supreme Court of New South Wales[edit]

Alumni of Sydney Law School are represented among the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the highest judge in the state of New South Wales, and other heads of sections of the Supreme Court and include, but are not limited to:

Federal Court of Australia[edit]

Supreme Court of Western Australia[edit]

Solicitor General of Australia[edit]

Other legal professions[edit]


During the Australian constitutional crisis of 1975, the leaders of all branches of the Australian government were Sydney Law School alumni:

From 1998 to 2001, the leaders of all branches of the Australian government were again Sydney Law School alumni:



Rhodes scholars[edit]

Vinerian Scholars[edit]

Arts, media, and entertainment[edit]


Notable faculty[edit]


  1. 1890–1910: Pitt Cobbett
  2. 1910–1942: John Peden
  3. 1942–1946: James Williams
  4. 1946–1947: Clive Teece (acting)
  5. 1947–1973: Keith Shatwell
  6. 1974–1977: David Benjafield
  7. 1978–1979: Dyson Heydon
  8. 1980–1985: John Mackinolty
  9. 1986–1989: Colin Phegan
  10. 1990–1992: James Crawford
  11. 1992–1993: Alex Ziegert (acting)
  12. 1993–1994: Colin Phegan (acting)
  13. 1994–1997: David Weisbrot
  14. 1998–1999: Ros Atherton (acting)
  15. 1999–2002: Jeremy Webber
  16. 2002–2007: Ron McCallum
  17. 2007–2012: Gillian Triggs
  18. 2012–2013: Greg Tolhurst (acting)
  19. 2013–Present: Joellen Riley

Notable professors[edit]

  • Richard Vann, Challis Professor of Taxation Law
  • James Crawford, former Challis Professor of International Law and Dean, Justice of the International Court of Justice (2014-)
  • Ron McCallum, former Blake Dawson Waldron Professor in Industrial Law and Dean
  • Ross Parsons, former Professor of Law
  • Ivan Shearer, former Challis Professor of International Law
  • Julius Stone, former Challis Professor of Jurisprudence and International Law
  • George Winterton, former Professor of Constitutional Law
  • Joellen Riley, Professor of Labour Law
  • Ben Saul, Professor of International Law
  • Gillian Triggs former Challis Professor of International Law
  • Donald R Rothwell, former Challis Professor of International Law


In 1999 legal history was made when Justices Virginia Bell, Margaret Beazley and Carolyn Simpson formed the first all-female bench in an Australian court. According to the Women Lawyers Association of NSW, there has never been an all-female bench in England or New Zealand. All three justices are graduates of Sydney Law School.[28]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Sydney Law School website - History". 
  2. ^ "Sydney Law School website - Academic Staff". 
  3. ^ The University of Sydney. History - Sydney Law School. Retrieved 14 May 2013
  4. ^ "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015: Law". Top Universities. QS. 
  5. ^ "SSRN Top 500 International Law Schools". Social Science Research Network, Top 500 International Law Schools List. 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2015". Quacquarelli Symonds Limited. 
  7. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2015". Quacquarelli Symonds Limited. 
  8. ^ Implementation Report - University of Sydney
  9. ^ "International Law Students Association: The Future of International Law: Jessup Archives". International Law Students Association. 
  10. ^ "CBD Campus". Sydney Law School. University of Sydney. Retrieved 17 October 2015. 
  11. ^ "The Law School Shift" (PDF). Sydney Law School. 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  12. ^ "Sydney Law School Open Day - 30 April 2009 - Sydney Law School - The University of Sydney". Sydney Law School. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  13. ^ "Sydney Law School Building Opening - 10am-3pm, Thursday 30 April - Sydney Law School - The University of Sydney". Sydney Law School. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  14. ^ "Faculty of Law, The University of Sydney". Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  15. ^ "Sydney Architecture Images- New Law School, Sydney University". Sydney Architecture. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  16. ^ "Research Programs @ Sydney Law School - Future students - The University of Sydney". Sydney Law School. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  17. ^ "Postgraduate Law @ Sydney - Future students - The University of Sydney". Sydney Law School. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  18. ^ Sydney Law School - Student Societies
  19. ^ 17 of the 24 justices studied for law degrees at the University of Sydney; the remainder studied at the University at a time before the Sydney Law School offered a full programme of legal study.
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Sydney Law School: Rhodes Scholars 1904-2013". Sydney Law School. 
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Mackinolty, John; Judy (1991). A Century Down Town: Sydney University Law School's First Hundred Years. Sydney: Sydney University Law School. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°52′08″S 151°12′39″E / 33.869008°S 151.210762°E / -33.869008; 151.210762