History of Auckland Law School

The history of Auckland Law School is closely linked to the history of the legal profession in Auckland, and to the history of the University of Auckland itself.

Early origins

In the years following the signing of te Tiriti o Waitangi, the legal qualifications of judges and legal practitioners in Aotearoa were almost always acquired in the United Kingdom. At that time it was not necessary for would-be lawyers to attend lectures; up until 1882 they could serve ‘articles’, a form of apprenticeship, with a solicitor, or pupillage with a barrister for a few years and then pass an examination set by the judges. 

In 1883 Auckland University College (later the University of Auckland) was established. Lectures in law began the same year with the appointment of Judge Seth Smith to the position of lecturer in law, however, the first chair in law was not established until 1920 with Ronald Algie (LLB 1913, LLM 1915) taking the position.

Key figures

Director of the School for 1938. Munro was succeeded by Julius Stone, a highly qualified lawyer from England. From 1942–‘64 the Dean of Auckland Law School was Professor A G Davis (LLB 1921) — for whom the Davis Law Library at the School is named. During his tenure Davis appointed the School’s first female academic, Nadja Tollemache.

Professor’s Algie and Stone both have lecture theatres at the School named after them along with Professor Jack Northey (LLB 1939, LLM 1941) who immediately succeeded Davis — during his tenure as Dean Northey instigated the Auckland University Law Review, he was also a founding member of the Legal Research Foundation.


In its early days the School was located in Old Choral Hall on Symonds Street until, following significant growth in the ‘60s, the School relocated to Pembridge House on Princes Street. 

After over a decade on Princes Street the Law School moved to occupy a floor of the old Arts/Library Building but in the following years the Law student body almost doubled necessitating another move to the current premises on Eden Crescent.

Since 1992 the Law School has remained on Eden Crescent — a site with an interesting history.

Wai Ariki

A fresh water spring that was essential to life at two local pa and their surrounding gardens can still be found on the site in what is now the car park adjacent to Building 801 of the Law School.

Wai Ariki Puna Wai Tapu: The sacred spring of chiefly waters of the Wai Ariki is a sacred water source to Māori and is still used for ceremonies today, it originates near Albert Park | Te Pā o Horotiu.

In the early days of European settlement local Māori used to trade the water with colonial ships, rolling it in barrels down to the waterfront. Later when iwi lost control of the land a bottling factory was built around the spring, standing from 1845–1964.

Significantly, the spring also helped the city through a drought in the late 1840's. Today the spring still bubbles through the ruins of the old factory.

High Court

Building 801, one of the buildings Auckland Law School now occupies, was previously used by the High Court of New Zealand. One courtroom has been retained unaltered for moots.


Wai Ariki Spring at the Law School.