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After graduating in law and completing articles of clerkship, Robert Austin was admitted to practice in 1969. He worked in a corporate and commercial legal practice before becoming a Lecturer in Law at the University of Sydney in 1971. His full- time academic career’s duration was 20 years,
which combined some part-time practice at the NSW bar. He was appointed Professor of Equity and Company Law in 1986 and became Head of the Department of Law.
In 1990, he accepted a partnership with Minter Ellison Solicitors, while continuing to teach part-time at the University of Sydney as Challis Lecturer in Corporate Law. His specialties were in corporate law, trusts and equity, mergers and acquisitions and financial services, on which he has published numerous papers and articles. Large matters included acting for ASX in the establishment of the CHESS settlement system and for the AMP Society in its demutualisation.
He served as a member of the Board of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) for a short time upon its establishment in 1998. Later in that year, he was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, sitting in the Equity Division and sharing responsibility for the Corporations List with Justice GFK Santow. His judgments included a series of decisions in proceedings brought by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission against some of the directors of One-Tel, a failed telecommunications company.
After retiring from the bench in 2010, he resumed legal practice and returned to the NSW Bar in 2016.
Dr Austin holds the degrees B.A., LL.B., LL.M. (Syd), D. Phil. (Oxon). The degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) was conferred “in recognition of (Dr Austin’s) extensive contribution to the practice of corporate and commercial law in Australia as well as his exemplary service to the academic sphere and the teaching of law”, at a University of Sydney graduation ceremony, 11 December 2019. He became a Member of the Order of Australia in 2022.
- Ford, Austin and Ramsay’s Principles of Corporations Law (LexisNexis, 17th edition, 2018, and looseleaf)
- Austin and Black’s Annotated Corporations Act (LexisNexis, looseleaf)
- Austin, Ford and Ramsay’s Company Directors: Principles of Law and Corporate Governance (LexisNexis, 2005)