Practising the Law

As well as adopting the laws of England, New South Wales also followed the English custom of dividing the legal profession into two main classes - barristers and solicitors. Both are officers of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and their function is to assist the court in the administration of justice by appearing or acting for clients requiring legal advice and assistance.

From 1788 to 1815 the only legal practitioners in New South Wales were two former convicts, George Crossley and Edward Eagan. Both men had been struck off in England but owing to the lack of lawyers in the colony, they were allowed to practice there. In 1814 two London solicitors, Frederick Garling and W.H. Moore were selected to go to Sydney to conduct cases before the NSW courts. They arrived in 1815 and were the first free solicitors admitted to the Supreme Court. They were followed by James Norton who formed Australia's first legal firm in 1818. In 1824 the first barristers were admitted - Saxe Bannister, Dr Waddell and William Charles Wentworth.

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The Library holds the official records of a number of legal firms that practiced in nineteenth century Australia.

Detail from Ledger of bills to various individuals for legal services rendered, 1846, by E. J. Cory
Manuscript

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Law and Justice in Australia
Made possible through a partnership with Law Society of NSW, Public Purpose Fund, Allens Arthur Robinson, Clayton Utz, Freehills, Gilbert + Tobin Lawyers, Henry Davis York Lawyers