NSW Supreme Court Chief Justice attends Parramatta Law event

The Parramatta Legal & Justice Coalition, which is advocating for an expanded legal and justice precinct in Parramatta, was pleased to welcome the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW to the recent Law Term opening event.

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The Parramatta Legal & Justice Coalition, which is advocating for an expanded legal and justice precinct in Parramatta, was pleased to welcome the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW to the recent Law Term opening event.

Chief Justice Andrew Bell and several other CBD-based judges and legal dignitaries attended the event held at 4 Parramatta Square, followed by the traditional Red Mass (a Mass celebrated annually for all members of the legal profession, regardless of religious affiliation) held at St Patrick’s Cathedral Parramatta, on Monday, 6 February 2023.

Parramatta & District Law Society President and Chair of the Parramatta Legal & Justice Coalition Stephen McAuley believes it is the first time the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has attended the opening of Parramatta’s Law Term.

“It is often attended by Judges of various courts including the Supreme Court, but we’re particularly grateful that this year the Chief Justice agreed to attend. It represents an acknowledgement that Parramatta has significantly grown and is significantly more important in terms of volume of demand for access to the legal system in and around Parramatta,” said McAuley.

Parramatta solicitor and member of the Coalition Michael Shephard said that the Chief Justice visit is symbolic and “I’m hoping it’s a first step. A lot of dignitaries are coming and it will add gravitas to the situation and we hope he’ll have a look around Parramatta and see how it has grown in the past five to ten years.”

Shepard & Shepard Solicitors has a long history in Parramatta. First established in 1908 by Michael Shepard’s grandfather, it is Parramatta’s oldest continuous family-operated law firm.

two people leaving a building

“Parramatta is geographically the centre of Sydney, and the justice precinct is a fitting place for the Supreme Court. Having the permanent sitting of a couple of judges in areas like probate would be great, and that would be a starting point,” said Michael Shepard.

Stephen McAuley also takes this view and says that the current situation allows for some sittings of the Supreme Court, but it would be preferable to have a permanent presence to allow more matters to be heard.

“At the moment it’s mainly criminal matters that are dealt with by the Supreme Court at Parramatta. But we think there’s a demand for not just criminal matters, but civil matters with disputes in relation to property, deceased estates, businesses, contracts, personal injury, so there is a demand for an expansion of the Supreme Court presence,” said McAuley. 

“It’s not for the convenience of solicitors that we’re advocating, it’s for the convenience of ordinary people who unfortunately are caught up in the legal system, not perhaps by their own choosing. We want to help mums and dads, small business owners, and bigger businesses, who have matters in court. They might be based in Penrith, they might be based in north west Sydney, or Parramatta and it makes sense from a time point of view, and a cost point of view to have their matters dealt with at Parramatta, rather than the Sydney CBD.

“The perceptions of Parramatta have changed and are changing. I think there’s a need for people to come out to Parramatta and see for themselves. For people that haven’t been to Parramatta for a while they’d be surprised about the amount of economic activity that is going on, which flows into a need for a judicial presence at the highest level,” added McAuley.

people working around a desk

In 2019, the City of Parramatta’s Legal & Justice Report recommended that given Parramatta is home to the second-largest legal and justice precinct in Greater Sydney, relocating the Supreme Court in Parramatta would make justice more accessible. 

“[Parramatta] is already a prominent centre in the State’s judicial system, but a range of factors have anchored the overwhelming majority of legal services activity in the Sydney CBD. This geographic distribution should not persist in the future, at least not to the degree that it holds today. As the population continues to move west, equitable access to justice services becomes a critical consideration. Parramatta is a prime location for this investment,” the report concluded.

The Parramatta Legal & Justice Coalition was formed in 2021 to advocate and promote an expanded legal and justice precinct in Parramatta to transform the CBD into one of Australia’s key legal hubs. The City of Parramatta prepared a Legal Advocacy brochure to ensure the legal services meet the needs of our growing community: 

“More than two million people call Western Sydney home. Over the next 20 years, that’s set to rise by another one million. In that time, Parramatta’s population is forecast to double from 287,289 in 2022 to 487,731 in 2041. As Sydney’s population growth continues to move west, equitable access to justice services becomes critical to the region’s liveability and prosperity.” 

Alison Cui who is a Partner with Parramatta firm Hammond Nguyen Turnbull, represents the Parramatta Chamber of Commerce on the Coalition and says that the current justice precinct has just about everything except the Supreme Court. 

“The Parramatta community is very different from the Sydney CBD community. There’s a different sort of clientele. You’ve got more families running businesses, you’ve got a larger immigrant population, and the client's needs are different. As those clients grow bigger the community needs change and there’s more need to have the Supreme Court in Parramatta to cover matters that other courts can’t handle. It is a need that has grown over the past few years and we can see a need for it in the future,” said Cui.

 business people walking through parramatta square

Coalition members include representatives from the City of Parramatta Council, top law firms, universities, and business groups including the University of New England Law School; law firms Coleman Greig Lawyers, Lachlan Macquarie Chambers, Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers, Frank Law, and Shephard & Shephard Solicitors; the Parramatta & District Law Society; and business groups Parramatta Chamber of Commerce, Business Western Sydney, and Property Council of Australia.  

“It’s important that we have a common goal in Parramatta. The Coalition is not just a group of lawyers, all the members want the same thing which shows it’s a great idea,” added Cui.

Parramatta is already the second-largest legal centre in NSW and its courts hear 25,000 cases per year. Over the next 20 years, it is expected that court matters heard in Parramatta will increase by 30 per cent.

Currently, even though Parramatta is the second-largest legal centre in NSW, it makes up only five per cent of Greater Sydney’s legal jobs. Through the City’s expansion plans, it hopes to attract more barristers, solicitors, judges and judicial officers to the area.

It is estimated that an expanded Parramatta Legal and Justice Precinct could attract 2,200 more jobs by 2036 with further investment while attracting more than $350 million a year to the local economy.

Find out more:

Download the Legal and Justice Report (2019) and the Legal Advocacy Brochure 

For more information contact economicdevelopment@cityofparramatta.nsw.gov.au