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History of the Bar Association

In July 1896 an association of barristers was formed in New South Wales to consider and report upon all matters of current legislation, enunciate and enforce rules of professional discipline and to foster social and professional liaison amongst the members of the Bar.

On 9 June 1902 the old association was dissolved and the first annual meeting of a new body took place. It was called the Council of the Bar of New South Wales.

On 22 October 1936 the New South Wales Bar Association was incorporated and the first meeting of the Council of the New South Wales Bar Association took place. The Memorandum and Articles of Association noted that the Bar Association would make suggestions on legislation, court rules, procedure and business. The memorandum also noted that a library would be established together with reading, meeting, and dining rooms,
and power to undertake law reporting, printing, publishing and bookbinding.

Over the years, both the judicial and executive branches of government sought the advice of the Bar Association regarding Bills and rules of court. By 1960 the number being sent to the Bar Association had increased markedly. In 1962 the association formed a standing Law Reform Committee to deal with the increased workload. By 1968 there were 14 standing committees of the Bar Association including the Ethics, Finance, Fees, Accommodation, Liaison with the Law Society, Bar History, Law Reform, Continuing Legal Studies, Barristers’ Benevolent Association, Reading, Membership, Listing, Library and Housing committees.

In 2005 there were 13 standing committees and three working parties. A considerable number of barristers are appointed as members of court liaison committees, government working parties and statutory authorities, providing their skills and expertise for the public benefit.

Thirty four presidents and 104 Bar councils later, the association has grown from strength to strength. In 1961 Bowen QC, then president of the Bar Association commented:

The Bar as a community has entered upon a period unlike anything experienced before...We have not been afraid to speak out, if need be publicly, on matters of general concern on which the community might fairly look to the Bar as an experienced professional body for guidance.

The statement remains true today.