History of the Law Society of Tasmania

On the 13th February, 1739, the `Society of Gentlemen Practisers in the Courts of Law and Equity’ was founded in London. Although, prior to this date there may have been social clubs and societies where lawyers met, this was the first body of lawyers established that `should meet as often as they thought proper and take into consideration any matters relating to the benefit of the suitor and the honour of the profession’. However, membership was limited and the Society did not represent all lawyers. Soon the need for a body to represent the profession at large was recognised.

In 1823, a subscription list was opened by attorneys and solicitors in the Metropolis `for forming an Establishment in the nature of an Exchange in the neighbourhood of the Inns of Court’. The object was to purchase a building for the use of lawyers. On 29th March, 1825, a meeting of subscribers was held at Serle’s coffee house and a committee was appointed which called a general meeting on 2nd June, at which the scheme for an Establishment was put forward and adopted. At the annual general meeting in 1831 the Committee was authorised to apply for a Royal Charter, which was granted on 22nd December 1831 and `The Society of Attorneys. Solicitors, Proctors and others not being Barristers, practising in the Courts of Law and Equity of the United Kingdom’ came into being.

In Van Diemen’s Land the same need for a society to represent lawyers was recognised., At a general meeting of the members of the legal profession in Van Diemen’s Land held on the 29th day of October 1845 it was resolved:

‘That it is expedient to establish a Society under the Designation of “The Van Diemen’s Land Law Society”, the objects of which shall be to promote fair and honourable practise among the Members of the profession – to promote propriety of conduct in Articled Clerks to attend to applications for Admission – to oppose improper applications to take such measures as may be requisite to prevent persons not admitted from practising – and to offer to the proper authorities from time to time such suggestions respecting the Practice in any of the Courts, and respecting ‘Alterations of the same, as may appear useful. That such Society be accordingly established.’ The Rules of the Van Diemen’s Land Law Society were adopted and printed by William Gore Elliston, in 1845.

The Royal Kalandar and Almanac compiled by James Wood for 1848 sets out the objects of the Society and its office bearers. However, no reference is made to the Society in subsequent almanacs. The early demise of the Society may have resulted from the tyranny of distance between Hobart and Launceston.

On 13th January, 1888, a meeting of the legal profession was convened at Hobart, as the result of a conference between Mr. Russell Young, Mr. Charles Butler, Mr. W. W. Perkins and Mr. Vivian L. Butler. It was resolved that the legal practitioners residing and practising within the limits of the southern district of Tasmania be associated as a Society under the name of the Southern Law Society.

`The Society was formed because it was felt that there was no body in Tasmania who could represent the views of the profession either before the Judges in Court or in regard to pending legislation; also, to promote reform in the law and practice, to represent generally the views of the profession, to preserve and maintain its integrity and status, to supress (sic) dishonourable conduct or practice, to provide for the amicable settlement or adjustment of disputes, to encourage and promote the study of the law, to form and maintain a library, and to form and maintain clubs or reading rooms for the benefit of members.’ (Cyclopedia of Tasmania, – 1900)

At Launceston, in the same year, a meeting of the legal profession resolved that legal practitioners residing and practising within the northern district of Tasmania should be associated as a Society to be called the Northern Law Society.

For the next 78 years the Tasmanian legal profession was represented by two separate Law Societies. In 1962, efforts to form a uniform Society were successful, and the Law Society of Tasmania came into being in October, 1962, when Charles Ades Service Page became its first President. In the following year the new Society was host to lawyers from all over the world, who came to Hobart for the 13th Australian Legal Convention.

(From Law Societies by P. B. Walker in The Brief Case: a collection of papers on Tasmanian legal memorabilia and Tasmanian places associated with the 21st Australian Legal Convention)

Past Presidents

Van Dieman’s Land Law Society

1845-1848 Joseph Hone

Southern Law Society

1888-1907 C W Butler
1907-1911 R Young
1911-1917 N E Lewis
1917-1919 E H Butler
1919-1921 M W Simmons
1921-1928 F Lodge
1928-1939 W F D Butler
1939-1942 H S Baker
1942-1945 V I Chambers
1945-1947 W E Cox
1947-1950 R Young
1950-1953 H J Solomon
1953-1956 H C Lewis
1956-1960 C A S Page
1960-1963 J B Piggott

 Northern Law Society

1888-1898 A Douglas
1899-1903 R J Parker
1904-1912 A Green
1912-1916 J B Waldron
1916-1931 R L Parker
1932-1947 T Shields
1947-1948 V C Hall
1948-1950 R K Green
1950-1952 C K Stackhouse
1952-1954 H Bushby
1954-1956 N L Campbell
1956-1958 F R Tyson
1958-1959 T M Crisp
1959-1962 J L Barton

Law Society of Tasmania

1962-1963 C A S Page
1963-1964 F Rowland Tyson
1964-1965 G G Blackwood
1965-1966 C M Archer
1966-1967 A L Pearce
1967-1968 J W Wilson
1968-1969 J B Piggott
1969-1970 P E Rae
1970-1971 P Benson Walker
1971-1972 P R Cranswick
1972-1973 F C Mitchell
1973-1974 K N Dockray
1974-1975 G D Brown
1975-1976 P J Sullivan
1976-1977 A G Benjamin
1977-1978 F J Lillas
1978-1979 P M Roach
1979-1980 E C Crawford
1980-1981 A D Holmes
1981-1982 C R Leslie
1982-1983 W P M Zeeman
1983-1984 J R Hurburgh
1984-1985 M J Bessell
1985-1986 P V Manser
1986-1987 P R Page
1987-1988 B H Crawford
1988-1989 S P Estcourt
1989-1990 A M Blow
1990-1991 M J Crisp
1991-1992 D J Porter
1992-1993 F B Dixon
1993-1994 R A Hart
1994-1995 C P Webster
1995-1996 G W Tremayne
1996-1997 P A Griffits
1997-1998 P A Dixon
1998-1999 T G Bugg
1999-2000 M B Bartlett
2000-2002 P L Jackson
2002-2003 C A Cunningham
2003-2004 D J Gunson SC
2004-2005 D F M Zeeman
2005-2006 L S Topfer
2006-2007 N R Readett
2007-2008 M D Schyvens
2008-2009 L O Rheinberger
2009-2010 G L Jones
2010-2011 W M Griffiths
2011-2012 F V Moore
2012-2013 G P Geason
2013-2014 A P Mihal
2014-2015 M J Verney
2015-2016 M J Verney
2016-2017 R J Foon
2017-2018 W C Justo
2018 – E G J Hughes