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.

pembridge house
Pembridge House, Princes St, was once occupied by Auckland Law School

Early origins

In 1877 the University of New Zealand established the LLB degree.

It was not necessary for would-be lawyers to attend lectures at a university college; up until 1882 they could serve articles under a solicitor for a few years and pass an examination set by the judges

Keith Sinclair A History of the University of Auckland 1883 - 1983

A University College was established in Auckland in 1883. Auckland Law School began in 1883 with the appointment of Judge Seth Smith to part time lecturer in law. Ronald Algie became a lecturer in law in 1915, a professor in 1920 and resigned in 1938. He left to organise the right-wing Freedom Association which promoted individual rights and private enterprise and opposed the Labour state. Algie was followed at Auckland by Julius Stone, a highly qualified lawyer who stayed until 1941.

Post war

Algie was succeeded by A.G.Davis (from 1946 to 1964), an Aucklander with an LLD from London. There was a rapid increase in the number of Auckland law students in the 1960’s. Over the years this demand has led to the standard required for entry to be driven up. Also, the number of women students increased dramatically over the second half of the twentieth century. One woman member of staff, Margaret Wilson, was President of the New Zealand Labour Party in the 1980’s.

Auckland Law School today

Today, Auckland Law School offers a broad-based legal education. In addition to the core compulsory papers for the LLB degree, it has the largest range of elective courses in New Zealand. Located close to New Zealand’s busiest High Court, it is in the heart of the nation's commercial capital.

Academic staff are leaders in many fields of public and private law. Our LLB is an excellent platform for postgraduate study and legal research, as the Law School offers a thriving LLM programme. In recent years there has been considerable growth at postgraduate level, with an even larger range of LLM courses for its own graduates, international students and the local profession.

The Auckland Law School aims to be a truly “global” law school. We have international linkages to the world’s best law schools through student and staff exchanges, visiting fellowships, and international programmes. Every year as part of the student exchange programme, 360º Auckland Abroad, around ten percent of Auckland’s final-year students spend one or two semesters at law schools abroad.

As well as employment in domestic legal practice, Auckland graduates are to be found in an increasing variety of jurisdictions and contexts: some in law firms in the world’s major cities, others working for international institutions and tribunals, still others for NGOs.