UNSW Faculty of Law

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UNSW Faculty of Law
Parent schoolUniversity of New South Wales
School typePublic
DeanGeorge Williams
LocationSydney, New South Wales, Australia
33°55′02″S 151°13′40″E / 33.917093°S 151.227890°E / -33.917093; 151.227890Coordinates: 33°55′02″S 151°13′40″E / 33.917093°S 151.227890°E / -33.917093; 151.227890
Faculty82 (permanent)[1]

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. In 2019, QS World University Rankings ranked the UNSW Law Faculty 14th on its list of the best law schools in the world, and 3rd in Australia.[2] It is ranked second in Australia according to the ARWU 2017 subject rankings and the 2018 Times Higher Education subject rankings. [3]

The Faculty comprises the School of Law and 13 affiliated research and specialist legal centres, including a community legal centre, the Kingsford Legal Centre. The Faculty is also co-founder and operator of the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII), which provides free access to case law, legislation and other primary legal resources online.[4] It offers legal education for all career stages: undergraduate law dual degree programs, the Juris Doctor for graduates, postgraduate coursework, postgraduate research, and continuing legal education short courses.[5][6]


The UNSW Law Building

On 13 July 1964, the University's Council approved the creation of the UNSW Faculty of Law.[7] On 24 January 1966, the Foundation Chair of Law was created, with the appointee to also be the Dean of the Faculty of Law.[7] On 8 September 1969, Wootten was appointed to this position, where, in 1971, he would oversee the first teaching classes in the faculty.[7]

The Faculty opened on 1 March 1971 with 219 undergraduate students.[8] 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 judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, who was appointed Foundation Dean in 1969.

In 1976, the Faculty moved to occupy five floors of the UNSW Library Tower on upper campus. In 2006, the Faculty moved to a new law building on lower campus. The official opening took place on 21 September 2006 by the then Chief Justice of Australia Murray Gleeson.[9] A quotation from Hal Wootten, Founding Dean, is set out on a wall of the law building: "a law school should have and communicate to its students a concern for those on whom the law may bear harshly."[10]

Currently the Faculty teaches approximately 2,675 students.[11]


Standing and rankings[edit]

In 2019, the QS World University Rankings placed UNSW Law School 14th on its list of the best law schools in the world,[2] and in 2016 it was ranked 13th in the world.[12] The law school is ranked second in Australia after the University of Melbourne by the ARWU 2017 subject rankings, and second in Australia by the 2018 Times Higher Education subject rankings.[13] The UNSW Law School was noted as one of the primary faculties in helping to place the University 1st in Australia and 33rd in the globe for most millionaires produced.[14]

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.[15] From 2006 to 2009, the Federal Government's assessment of excellence in tertiary education found that the Faculty lead all Australian universities for the quality of learning and teaching in law.[16][17][18]

Beginning in 2019 UNSW moved to trimesters seeing the teaching year divided into three terms rather than two semesters as previously.[19] In order to meet these new requirements the UNSW law school was forced to cut contact hours with students. This was similarly matched across the university.[20] Law students who previously enjoyed 48 contact hours with teachers in their courses now receive 36 hours of contact. Courses that previously ran for 13 weeks run for 10 weeks.[21] This has meant that students now complete various online tutorial tasks to replace face-to-face teaching. Despite this significant drop in staff and student interaction no discount in labour costs was passed onto the student body to reflect the lower teaching hours. This has been criticised as an unimaginative method for saving money,[22] in effect costing students the same for only 75% of what was previously provided. [23] In 2019 UNSW's Dean Prof Ian Jacobs spoke publicly of how China's shift toward domestic higher education was the cause of dropping university rankings for Australian universities, UNSW included, some critiques have instead pointed to difficulties in rolling out the trimester model[24] as well as decreasing student and staff satisfaction with university policy[25] seeing Prof Jacobs public remarks as an attempt at insulating his unpopular trimester system.[26] Recent staff departures to alternative universities supports this claim, with nearly all staff possessing grants from within certain departments choosing to relocate. Despite these challenges UNSW law considered separately has moved up in international rankings. 2020 will provide the first opportunity to review the impact of the trimester system upon the law faculty.

Among the Go8 law schools, UNSW Law topped the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) 2014 survey, conducted and funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, which measured the perspectives of recent students and graduates on experience as students and employment and salary outcomes.[27] UNSW Law achieved the highest percentage in each of these categories, and continued to do so as of 2016.[27][28]

The Faculty distinguishes itself from other Australian legal education bodies by its small and interactive classes,[29] an aspect of its teaching for which it has long been recognised.[30]

Student achievements[edit]

In the past three years, five UNSW law graduates have won Rhodes scholarships.[31][32][33][34][35] In 2018, three UNSW law graduates won New Colombo Plan Scholarships.[36]

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


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

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.[45]

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.[46]

Curriculum and classes[edit]

UNSW Law Building - Auditorium
UNSW Law Building - Classroom

The Law Faculty offers both an undergraduate and a graduate law program, namely the combined Bachelor of Law (LLB) with a Bachelor in another discipline, and the graduate Juris Doctor (JD) program.

After an extensive curriculum review, the Faculty introduced a new curriculum in 2013.[47]

Combined law curriculum[edit]

The combined law program, which involves a five-year undergraduate course of study comprising a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor in another discipline, is currently made up of the following course study structure[48]:

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

For students commencing their degree before 2019, the program structure is:[49]

  • Year 1: Introducing Law & Justice; Torts; and six non-law courses.
  • Year 2: Principles of Private Law; Principles of Public Law; Crime & the 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; Court Process, Evidence & Proof; Federal Constitutional Law; Law in the Global Context; and two non-law courses.
  • Year 5: Eight law electives.

Juris doctor curriculum[edit]

The Graduate Juris Doctor program,[50] which involves a three-year graduate course of study, is made up of the following course study structure:[51]

  • Year 1: Introducing Law & Justice; Crime & the Criminal Process; Principles of Private Law; Principles of Public Law; Torts; Criminal Laws; Contracts; Lawyers, Ethics & Justice.
  • Year 2: Law in the Global Context; Resolving Civil Disputes; Equity & Trusts; Administrative Law; Law & Social Theory/ Legal Theory/ Theories of Law & Justice; Court Process, Evidence & Proof; Land Law; Federal Constitutional Law.
  • Year 3: Business Associations; and seven law electives.

The academic study load of the JD program differs from that of undergraduate dual law program in that for a full-time study mode it requires a full study load of four law subjects each semester in contrast to only part law study load each semester in the undergraduate dual law program.[52]

Electives for the JD program are selected from postgraduate subjects such as those within but not limited to Master of Laws (LL.M).[52] Core subjects in the program are taught solely within the JD cohort, with postgraduate electives taught with the postgraduate cohort and standard electives (if chosen) taught with the undergraduate dual law cohort.

The UNSW JD program has previously been criticised for over-enrollment, with reports that a few students attempted to 'buy' their way into classes for as much as $10k.

Class format[edit]

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. Students are asked to contribute to class discussion using the 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.[53]

Overseas exchange programs[edit]

The Law Faculty offers a number law subjects taught at overseas institutions through international arrangements, including courses at Columbia Law School, UC Berkeley School of Law, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.[54] It also offers exchange programs at over 60 universities, including Sciences Po, Panthéon-Assas University, University College London, Tilburg University, McGill University, National University of Singapore, University of Hong Kong, Tsinghua University, Peking University, and others.[55]


In 2015 and 2016, entry to the undergraduate combined law program required an ATAR mark of 99.7, the highest entry requirement for admission to a law degree in Australia.[56]

From 2017, entry into the undergraduate combined law program will be based on both an ATAR or academic result, as well as the results from a Law Admission Test (LAT) (not to be confused with the Law School Admission Test used in the United States).[57] The test will consist of two questions requiring written responses. It is designed to assess aptitudes and skills that are relevant to success in the law program, including critical thinking and analysis, and organising and expressing ideas in a clear and fluent way. Applicants will have two hours to complete the test.[58] The first LAT test will be held on Monday 26 September 2016 for entry into 2017 admission. LAT results will be valid for two years.[58]

The UNSW JD (Juris Doctor/J.D.) is the professional law degree for graduates of disciplines other than law, or with a law degree from an overseas institution.[52] It is the equivalent of the undergraduate Bachelor of Laws for the purpose of admission as a legal practitioner, but is only open to university graduates. Entry into the JD program is based on academic results in previous university degrees earned by the applicant.[50] The JD is also open to international applicants.[50] Approximately 33% of cohort holds postgraduate qualifications.[51]

Tuition fees[edit]

The undergraduate law program offers Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP).

The Juris Doctor program offers both Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) and Full-Fee places. Commonwealth Supported Places are offered to the most competitive domestic applicants and the remaining eligible domestic applicants will be offered a full-fee place in the JD program.[51] As a guide, to be competitive for a CSP, applicants would have achieved at least a distinction average in previous Bachelor or master's degree. Applicant's eligibility to be offered a CSP place may be improved if they have also completed an optional honours year or research degree.[51]

The tuition fees for 2016 are as follows:[59]

  • Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP): AU$10,440 per year at Commonwealth funded Maximum Student Contribution amount (per EFTSL) as per 2016 rates.[60]
  • Full-Fee Places - Domestic: AU$38,640 per year (based on a full-time year of 48 units of credit) or $805 per unit of credit.
  • Full-Fee Places - International: AU$41,040 per year (based on a full-time year of 48 units of credit) or $855 per unit of credit.

FEE-HELP is a Commonwealth government loan available to help eligible students pay part or all of their tuition fees. FEE-HELP is available only to domestic students on CSP or Full-Fee places. In 2016, the FEE-HELP limit is AU$99,389.[61]

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 statewide specialisation in discrimination law.[62][63][64]

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[65] and is "Australia's largest online legal public library."[66]

Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law[edit]

The Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law is a research centre based around a team of scholars working at the Faculty who specialise in constitutional and administrative law, Indigenous legal issues, and human rights. The Centre's Advisory Committee is chaired by Sir Anthony Mason, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.[67]

The Centre has hosted a number of projects, including: the Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship: Anti-Terror Laws and the Democratic Challenge Project;[68] the International Refugee and Migration Law Project;[69] the Charter of Human Rights Project;[70] the Referendums project;[71] the Electoral Law Project;[72] and the Federalism Project.[73] The Centre also hosts an annual Constitutional Law Conference and Dinner attended by practitioners, academics, and judges involved or interested in public law issues.

Other research centres[edit]

There are a number of research centres attached to the Faculty of Law, including:[74]

  • Australian Human Rights Centre
  • Centre for Law, Markets & Regulation
  • Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre
  • Indigenous Law Centre
  • National Children's & Youth Law Centre
  • Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law
  • Centre for International Finance and Regulation
  • Diplomacy Training Program
  • National Pro Bono Resource Centre
  • Social Justice Project

Faculty publications[edit]

The Faculty publishes the UNSW Law Journal, one of Australia's leading academic, peer-reviewed legal journals. The journal is produced entirely by a voluntary student board, selected on academic merit and editorial skills, and assisted from time to time by faculty advisors.[75] 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. Four editions are published each year.

Other Faculty publications and journals include: Australian Indigenous Law Review; Australian Journal of Human Rights; Australasian Journal of Natural Resources Law and Policy; Human Rights Defender; and Indigenous Law Bulletin.[76]

Student organisation[edit]

The UNSW Moot Court

The UNSW Law Society is the peak-representative body for students in the Faculty of Law and is responsible for coordinating a variety of events and initiatives for law students.[77] Some of the events include: an annual Law Ball, JD black tie dinner, end of year drinks, drinks and games nights, cocktail events, an annual ski trip, first-year Law Camp, UNSW Law Revue, the valedictory dinner, and a law student talent quest ('Lawlapalooza').[78] 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 Society also organises a number of competitions: mooting, client interviewing, negotiation, witness examination, and paper presentation.[77]

The Law Society attracts a variety of sponsorship from national and international organisations.[79]

Notable alumni[edit]

Notable alumni include:


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  122. ^ https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/people/person.asp?personId=28521060&privcapId=324348

External links[edit]