In 1857 the University of Melbourne's founding Chancellor, Sir Redmond Barry, established Australia's first law course.

MLS combined scholarly teaching of the principles of law with preparation for legal practice and Victoria soon became one of the first places in the common law world where all lawyers had to do part of their training at university.

The Law School began in the University's main building, later known as the old quadrangle. In the early years of teaching law there were no designated lecture rooms for law students, and lectures were generally held in the Mathematical and Natural Sciences Lecture Rooms.

Law School Staff and Students in 1876
Law School staff and students, University of Melbourne, circa 1876.

The degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) was offered from 1864, and from 1881 the University awarded the degree of Master of Laws (LLM) to honours graduates in law, after five years, without further study. From 1883 to 1895, the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) was a two-year graduate course, available only to students who had completed the Bachelor of Arts course.

In 1873, the growing Law School was re-organised, new staff were appointed and the Faculty of Law, the University's first, was created to oversee the Law School's academic activities. William Hearn, one of the University's foundation professors, became Dean of Law.

The Faculty's members were the full-time Dean, four part-time lecturers, and members of the University Council with legal qualifications.

This membership linked the Law School with the practising profession and the courts. Over the years non-teaching members of the Faculty have included chief justices, practising lawyers and prominent business figures. In 1884, to make it easier for the many law students who worked in the city and studied part-time, classes and lectures in several law subjects moved to the law courts in William Street (now the Supreme Court).