History of the Law Society

The Law Society is incorporated pursuant to section 7 of the Legal Practitioners Act 1981.

Under the Act, the Society may:

  • appoint inspectors to examine trust accounts maintained by legal practitioners;
  • appoint a supervisor to exercise control over trust accounts of legal practitioners where proper cause exists;
  • appoint a manager in respect of the practice of a practitioner or former practitioner;
  • establish a scheme to provide professional indemnity insurance for the benefit of legal practitioners;
  • manager and administer moneys deposited in the Combined Trust Account;
  • maintain the Statutory Interest account and the Legal Practitioners Fidelity Fund;
  • establish the validity of claims made under the Fidelity Fund; and
  • make an application to the Supreme Court or to the Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner concerning the conduct of a legal practitioner.

The Society was first established on 17 November 1879 as an unincorporated association. Since its establishment the Society has functioned as an active and integral part of the South Australian legal profession.

The original letter reads:

“At a preliminary meeting of the Members of the Legal Profession held on Monday, 13th October, resolutions were carried affirming the desirability of forming a Law Society, a Provisional Committee was chosen to frame a code of rules.
I am directed by the Provisional Committee to forward herewith a draft copy of proposed rules for your consideration and to particularly request you to attend a general meeting of all the profession to be held at Messrs. Knox and Gwynne’s Office on Monday, 17th inst., at 3 p.m. to settle the rules.
I remain Yours Faithfully 
Arthur M Hardy 
Hon Sec"

The original rules of the Law Club of South Australia (1851) were produced and a resolution was passed that the Rules and By-Laws be circulated amongst the Committee for their consideration. These rules were settled on 17 November, 1879. 

On 4 December 1879, only eight people turned up to consider a ballot of members. The meeting was adjourned for a week, whereby 19 people attended. Applications from 72 practitioners were received. The membership fee was set at 1 pound 1 shilling.

1879 The Law Society was created on 13 October 1879 as an unincorporated association. The committee was formed on this day and present were Messrs Bundey (Chair), Ayers, Moulden, Labatte, Barlow, Bakewell, Sheridan and Hardy.
1880 First Annual General Meeting held on 30 June at Malborough Chambers, Waymouth St.
1883 First Rules repealed by the New Rules operational 1 January.
Law Society with the University of Adelaide established a Faculty of Law.
Membership: Over 60 members.
1885 Meetings of the Law Society held at Central Chambers, King William St until 1893.
1894 Meetings of the Law Society held at the office of the Honourable Secretary, James Henderson, 14 Waymouth St
1904 Meetings of the Law Society held at the office of Honourable Secretary, PE Johnstone, 38 Currie St until 1908
1909 Meetings held at the office of the Honourable Secretary, CA Edmunds, Bank of New Zealand Chambers, Pirie St
1911 The Female Law Practitioners Act was passed, permitting women to practise law in South Australia.
1915 The Society gained statutory incorporation in the Law Society Act 1915 improving the Society’s status and providing for the appointment of a Statutory Committee to investigate complaints against practitioners
1917 Membership: Approx 120 members
1920 The Lawbook Company takes over the publication of the State Law Reports
1924 Membership: 153 members
1933 Meetings of the Society held at the Commercial Bank Chambers, King William St.
The Law Society reaches an agreement with the State Government to administer a legal assistance scheme and is implemented in 1936 when the Poor Persons Legal Assistance Act is passed. This scheme was in place until the Legal Services Commission was established in 1979.
1936 Membership: 182 members
1938 Sir George Murray gifts 10,000 pounds to establish for the members of the Society a library. The library is named ‘The Murray Law Library’.

The Law Society once again undertakes to maintain the Red Cross Bureau for Wounded, Missing and Prisoners of War.  55 members engaged in war service in 1940 and by 1942 the number had risen to over 100.  A number of law students were also engaged in war service. The Law Society provided free legal aid to members of the active forces (mainly in the preparation of wills).

1941 Membership: 243 members
1942 When the threat from the Japanese was at its height some of the library’s collection was moved to the Sleeps Hill Tunnel for safe keeping.
1947/1948 The first woman Secretary of the Society, Miss Sesca Anderson (later Mrs Zelling) was appointed. She resigned upon her marriage but continued for sometime as acting Secretary.
1948 From about 1948 the premises of the Society were at the Exchange Building, 26 Pirie St (renamed the Commercial Union Building in 1952).
The first edition of the Law Society Judgment Scheme published.
1962 Membership: 381 members
The Law Society moves to Mutual Life Chambers, 44 Grenfell St.
1963/1964 Roma Mitchell appointed Vice President for two years 1963/64 to 1964/65 but does not become the Society’s first woman as she is appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court.
1968 Membership at 475 members.
1967 The Law Society Bulletin was published for the first time.
1972 The new Legal Practitioners Act.
1979 The Law Society purchases its own premises in Gilbert Street.
1982 Opening of Law Society House, Gilbert Place.
1988  The Law Society purchases new premises in Waymouth Street.
1989 The Society relocates to 124 Waymouth Street.
1989 The Murray Law Library celebrates its 50 year anniversary
1990  In May 1990 the Chief Justice officially opens Law Society House
1992 Membership: 1723
1994  The Practical Legal Training course commences
1994 The Legal Practitioners Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme established, pursuant to s 52 of the Legal Practitioners Act
1998 The Law Society’s website is launched
1999 The Law Society President’s Points of Law Column is published in The Advertiser
1999 The Law Society is given accreditation for its GDLP course and the the Legal Practice Centre at Franklin St opens
2000 The Law Society premises at Waymouth St are sold
2001 Membership: 2324
2004 The Law Society celebrates its 125th year anniversary
2008 Membership: 3061
2012 Christopher Kourakis is appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia - he is the first past Law Society President to be appointed Chief Justice
The Society moves to new premises at 178 North Terrace
2017 Publication of the Law Society Judgement Scheme ceases
2018 Membership: 4091
1879-1881 The Hon W H Bundey QC MP
1881-1884 The Hon J W Downer QC MP
1884-1885 The Hon C C Kingston MP
1885-1887 The Hon J W Downer QC MP
1887-1889 The Hon C C Kingston QC MP
1889-1891 The Hon B A Moulden MP
1891-1892 The Hon R Homburg MP
1892-1894 The Hon W F Stock MP
1894-1898 The Rt Hon C C Kingston QC MP
1898-1903 The Hon Sir J Symon KCMG KC
1903 The Hon J H Gordon KC MLC
1904 The Hon L von Doussa MLC
1904-1905 The Hon R Homburg MP
1905-1915 The Hon Sir J Downer KCMG KC MP
1915-1919 The Hon Sir J Symon KCMG KC
1919-1921 E B Grundy KC
1921-1926 A W Piper KC
1926-1931 T S O’Halloran KC
1931-1932 H Thomson MC KC
1932-1933 H Mayo KC
1933-1934 F Villeneuve Smith KC
1934-1935 H Mayo KC
1935-1937 G C Ligertwood KC
1937-1939 A J Hannan CMG KC
1939-1941 H Mayo KC
1941-1943 G C Ligertwood KC
1943-1945 The Hon C L Abbott KC MP
1945-1947 H G Alderman KC
1947-1949 D B Ross KC
1949-1951 E Phillips KC
1951-1952 A M Moulden OBE
1952-1953 K L Ward QC
1953-1955 F E Piper QC
1955-1957 E L Stevens
1957-1959 J L Travers QC
1959-1961 D S Hogarth QC
1961-1963 C H Bright QC
1963-1965 J N McEwin
1965-1967 A K Sangster QC
1967-1969 R N Irwin
1969-1971 B A Magarey
1971-1973 S J Jacobs QC
1973-1974 C J Thomson CdeG
1974-1975 R G Matheson QC
1975-1977 M F O’Loughlin
1977-1978 P R Morgan
1978-1980 E P Mullighan QC
1980-1982 D W Bollen QC
1982-1983 J W von Doussa QC
1983-1984 D F Wicks
1984-1985 J W Perry QC
1985-1986 T A Worthington
1986-1987 P A J Herriman
1987-1988 R K Burr
1988-1989 J R Mansfield QC
1989-1990 B M Debelle QC
1990-1991 B E Withers
1991-1992 N W Morcombe QC
1992-1993 R J Lindquist
1993-1994 S Walsh QC
1994-1995 D E Clayton QC
1995-1996 A N Abbott
1996-1997 D J Meyer
1997-1998 J M Harley
1998-1999 B J Powell QC
1999-2000 S G Connell
2000-2001 M Keith
2001-2002 C Kourakis QC
2002-2003 A B Goode
2003-2004 D G W Howard
2004-2005 A J Ward
2005-2006 D J Eszenyi
2006-2007 M J Kelly
2007-2008 G K Feary
2008-2009 J R Goldberg
2009-2010  R P Mellows
2010-2012  R Bönig
2012-2013 S J White
2013-2014  C M Bailes
2015 R Perrotta
2016 D R A Caruso
2017 A Rossi
2018 T J Mellor
2019 A N Nikolovski
2020 T White 
2021 R A Sandford
2022 J S Stewart-Rattray 

1879 - 1882


 Mr A M Hardy



 Mr M H Davis

1884 - 1886


 Mr A M Hardy

1886 - 1892


 Mr J Nicholson

1893 - 1898 


 Mr J Henderson

1899 - 1903 


 Mr J R Anderson KC

1903 - 1908


 Mr P E Johnstone

1909 - 1923


 Mr C E Edmunds

1924 - 1927    Mr G S Reed
1927 - 1934    Mr R Frisby-Smith
1935 - 1937     Mr R J Clark
1938 - 1939 
 Mr L C Masterman
1940     Mr J H Portus
1941-1945    Mr F L Field
1946 - 1947    Mr N C Hargrave
1948 - 1949     Miss S R Anderson
   Mr L K Gordan
 Mrs S R Zelling
1951     Mr J H Roder
1952 - 1953    Mr D B McLeod
1953 - 1970    Mr J A Maitland
1971 - 1973     Mr T L Kahn
1974 - 1977    Mrs J E Sedsman
1978 - 1979    Mr E R Mitchell
1979 - 1982    Miss S M Colley
1982 - 1990    Miss J A McAdam
1990 - 2002     Dr B C Fitzgerald
2003 - 2012    Mrs J M Martin
2012 - 2022    Mr S K Hodder
2023 -     Ms D Newcombe
The Oral Histories project began in 2009 to interview eminent retired members of the legal profession and practising members of the profession.  A number of these interview transcripts are available below.  

The Society is grateful to the Law Foundation for their continued funding since 2009 to enable these interviews to take place.
 Author Link
 Honourable Christopher Legoe AO QC  Lindy McNamara View
 Robyn Layton AO QC  Lindy McNamara View
 Honourable Brian Martin AO QC  Lindy McNamara View
 Mr Charles Morland Bailes  Lindy McNamara View 
 Mr Kevin Borick QC  Lindy McNamara View
 Honourable Rodney Burr AM  Lindy McNamara View 
 Honourable Dean Clayton QC  Lindy McNamara View 
 Honourable Bruce Debelle AO QC                                          
 Lindy McNamara                      View
 Honourable John Doyle AC QC   Lindy McNamara      View
 Honourable Kevin Duggan AM QC RFD  John Goldberg View
 Honourable Robert (Bob) Fisher AO QC   John Emerson View
 Honourable Samuel Joshua Jacobs AO QC   John Emerson View
 Honourable John Mansfield AM QC  Lindy McNamara View 
 Ms Josephine Mercer  Lindy McNamara View
 Mr Peter Morgan  Lindy McNamara View
 Honourable Ted Mullighan QC  John Emerson View
 Honourable Margaret Nyland AM  John Goldberg View
 Mr Robert Piper  John Emerson View
 Ms Lindy Powell QC  Elisa Holmes View
 Mr John Snewin OAM  Alison Rogers View
 Honourable Chris Sumner AM  Lindy McNamara View
 Mr Colin Tindall  Lindy McNamara View
 Mr Kevin Ward  John Emerson View
 Honourable Terry Worthington QC  Lindy McNamara View