Skip Navigation
Online Bookstore Book Supplements Newsletter Subscription For Academics For Bookshops For Authors About Us JournalsHolt Prize
A History of Australian Legal Education

A History of Australian Legal Education

By David Barker


A History of Australian Legal Education examines the history and development of legal education in Australia by tracing the establishment of university law schools and other forms of legal education in the States and Territories from the time of European settlement in 1788 to the present day. While early Australian legal education was founded on historic practices adopted in England and Wales over many centuries, the circumstances of the Australian colonies, and later States, have led to a unique historical trajectory.

The book considers the critical role played by legal education in shaping the culture of law and thus determining how well the legal system operates in practice. In addition, it examines a major challenge for legal educators, namely, the tension between 'training' and 'educating', which has given rise to a plethora of inquiries and reports in Australia. In the final analysis, it argues that legal education can satisfactorily meet the twin objectives of training individuals as legal practitioners and providing a liberal education that facilitates the acquisition of knowledge and transferable skills.


Foreword by Hon Chief Justice Kiefel AC
About the Author

1.  Introduction

2.  Literature Review

3.  Early Development – 1788 to 1930

4.  The Waiting Years – 1930 to 1960

5.  Initial Years of Expansion: Second Wave Law Schools – 1960 to 1980

6.  An Avalanche of Law Schools: Third Wave Law Schools – 1989 to 2015

7.  External Factors Affecting Australian Legal Education

8.  Legal Education Reforms: Concerns, Innovation and Transformation

9.  The Four Pillars of Australian Legal Education (and Other Reports)

10. Conclusion

Appendix – Empirical Study: List of Participants




This book is a comprehensive analysis of the historical development of the education and training of law students in Australia. As the author states in chapter 2 “legal education is the most vital component for training future legal practitioners and those who wish to learn about the legal system without necessarily becoming lawyers”. The book considers the role played by legal education in shaping the culture of law. In its introduction the author states “[t]hrough legal education the legal culture is transferred from generation to generation”. But the ambiguity in the core purpose of legal education is the “first and central” theme to the book. Is it just to train future legal practitioners or is legal education an intellectual liberal philosophy? That tension has given rise to a plethora of inquiries and reports in Australia (see chapter 9). In the final analysis the author examines whether these two often conflicting ideals can be reconciled?
         Professor Barker is Emeritus Professor and a former Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology Sydney. The UTS faculty of law was established in January 1975 making it part of the “second wave” of legal institutions. Professor Barker’s book traces the history of legal education in Australia from the inception of the first law schools post federation to the “avalanche” of law schools since 1989 (there is only one public university in Australia which does not now support a law school). The books traces the shift from legal education that was marked by study for a university degree together with either undertaking articles as a solicitor or satisfaction of the requirements of the various bar association and admission boards to the advent of a legal education that is for students who do not ever intend to become legal practitioners. The book also traces the role played by the profession in legal education and examines some of the difficulties experienced by modern law schools in maintaining those vital links to the profession. Although it would be difficult to write such a book without descending at times into lists of names and dates the book avoids becoming mired in those lists. In fact, the book is very readable. It will be of interest to all legal educators and many practitioners

Queensland Law Reporter 4 August 2017 [2017] 30 QLR


Published 30 June 2017
Publisher The Federation Press
ISBN 9781760021429
Australian RRP $59.95
International Price $55.00
currency converter


Law - Legal History

        BACK TO TOP