Celebrating 140 years of law reform and legal education

P Burak drawing of the Ligertwood Building

Ligertwood Building at the University of Adelaide. P Burak.

The Adelaide Law School is celebrating 140 years of legal education in 2023 with a series of tailored events culminating in a gala dinner this October. The University of Adelaide’s Law School is known for delivering outstanding higher education in South Australia while also playing a vital role in law reform within the state.

Professor Judith McNamara is Dean of Law at the Adelaide Law School.

“As we celebrate the remarkable journey of our School, marking 140 years of excellence in legal education, we reflect on our enduring commitment to shaping legal minds and fostering a vibrant academic community,” she said.

“Through the years, our dedication to innovation, student engagement, and the pursuit of justice has been unwavering. As we look to the future, we remain steadfast in our mission to empower the next generation of legal scholars and advocates, ensuring the legacy of our law school continues to thrive."

Adelaide Law School was founded in 1883 and was the second fully operational law school in the country at that time.

Over the following 140 years, the School’s approach to higher education continuously evolved in response to the changing legal landscape and societal needs of the time, as well as the developing thought behind what a law degree should entail.

“As we celebrate the remarkable journey of our School, marking 140 years of excellence in legal education, we reflect on our enduring commitment to shaping legal minds and fostering a vibrant academic community.” Professor Judith McNamara, Dean of Law at the Adelaide Law School at the University of Adelaide

“In the late 19th century, the University’s law degree included arts courses such as Latin, English, Logic and Philosophy, in keeping with the expectations of legal education at the time,” said Professor McNamara.

“Although this particular practice has evolved, the School’s practical focus and connection to the judiciary and wider legal profession remain a feature of our law degree today.”

This is exemplified by the School’s legal clinics, internships, and lectures and seminars by legal practitioners. Public International law has also long been part of the curriculum and remains a distinctive strength, along with a commitment to fostering critical thinking and ethical lawyering. In addition, the School’s law library houses rare collections of historical legal texts, some dating back over a century.

The Adelaide Law School has seen many remarkable graduates pass through its halls during its long history.

“Some of our most notable alumni include Professor James Crawford who graduated in 1972 and went on to become a Judge of the International Court of Justice,” said Professor McNamara.

“We’ve also seen Professor Irene Watson, who was the Adelaide Law School’s first Aboriginal graduate in 1985, go on to a prestigious academic career as pro-vice chancellor at the University of South Australia. Her research has been pivotal in centring an Indigenous perspective in law reform and advocating for the rights of Indigenous people in international law.”

The Adelaide Law School has played a pivotal role in shaping legal discourse and policy in South Australia and beyond.

“Our work with the South Australian Law Reform Institute has led to meaningful legal reforms that impact our communities daily,” said Professor McNamara.

“Additionally, the groundbreaking work conducted by the Research Unit on Military Law and Ethics has shed light on legal and policy issues relevant to defence matters.”

“As we reflect on our past, we also look forward to continuing these vital partnerships, ensuring that the next 140 years are marked by even greater advancements in legal scholarship and societal progress."

To learn more about the Adelaide Law School’s 140 year anniversary celebrations and events visit: https://law.adelaide.edu.au

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