Robert French

Law, Learning, and Legacy: The Academic Tale of Robert French.

7 Min Read

Robert Shenton French AC is an Australian jurist who served as the 12th Chief Justice of Australia, in office from 2008 to 2017. Before his appointment as Chief Justice, he was a judge of the Federal Court of Australia, serving from 1986 to 2008.

French was born in Perth, Western Australia. He was educated at the University of Western Australia, where he graduated in law, and later attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

Throughout his career, French has made significant contributions to Australian jurisprudence, particularly in the areas of constitutional law and administrative law. As Chief Justice, he oversaw a period of significant constitutional development and was known for his concise and clear judgments.

Apart from his judicial roles, French has also been active in law reform, serving on various committees and working groups throughout his career. His leadership in the High Court and his contributions to Australian law have earned him widespread respect in the legal community.

After retiring as Chief Justice in 2017, French continued to be active in the legal community, delivering lectures, participating in legal debates, and contributing to legal scholarship.

Robert French: Quick Biography

  • Born: 19 March 1947, in Perth, Western Australia.
  • Occupation: Jurist and lawyer.
  • Education:
    • French was educated at St. Louis School in Perth. He then attended the University of Western Australia, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Physics in 1968 and a Bachelor of Laws in 1971.
  • Legal Career:
    • French was admitted to the Western Australian Bar in 1972. He took up practice as a barrister and solicitor in 1972 and went on to become a barrister in 1983.
  • Judicial Career:
    • Federal Court of Australia: French was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in 1986, where he served on the bench for over two decades.
    • Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia: In 2008, he was appointed as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, the country’s apex court. He was the first Chief Justice to be appointed from Western Australia. French held this esteemed position until his statutory retirement in 2017.
  • Notable Positions:
    • French has been an advocate for Indigenous rights and has shown a keen interest in constitutional law matters.
    • Throughout his tenure, he’s been part of various landmark decisions that have shaped Australian jurisprudence.
  • Post-Retirement:
    • After his retirement from the High Court, French returned to the University of Western Australia, his alma mater, as its 15th Chancellor.

Robert French: A Stalwart Academic’s Transition from Physics to Law

Childhood and Early Education:

Robert French’s educational foundation was laid at St. Louis School, presently called John XXIII College, in Perth. His aptitude for science manifested early. A testament to this was his selection, as one among just two students from Western Australia, to attend the International Science School at the University of Sydney in 1964.

Higher Education and Pivot to Law:

French’s academic pursuits continued at the University of Western Australia, where he completed a Bachelor of Science in Physics in 1968. However, introspection and an enlightening conversation with the Dean of Science led him away from a future in theoretical physics and towards the corridors of law. By 1971, French had transitioned from a budding physicist to a Bachelor of Laws graduate. Reminiscing about this shift, he mentioned, “I enrolled in the study of law… with no particular idea of being a lawyer… and had decided that I was not going to be a great theoretical physicist.”

Active University Participation:

Beyond his studies, French displayed leadership qualities, taking on roles such as the President of the university’s Liberal Club and even assuming the position of treasurer for the University of Western Australia Student Guild.

Frequently Asked Questions about Robert French’s

Q1: Where did Robert French go to college?
A1: Depending on the specific Robert French in question, they might have attended different colleges. For example, Robert Shenton French, the former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, went to the University of Western Australia. In contrast, linguist Robert French is associated with the Université de Bourgogne.

Q2: What did Robert Shenton French study in college?
A2: He pursued Physics and Law at the University of Western Australia.

Q3: What influence did college have on Robert French’s career?
A3: His academic foundation had a profound impact on shaping his career path and professional accomplishments.

Q4: Who is the most famous Robert French?
A4: One of the most notable individuals with the name Robert French is Robert Shenton French, the former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.

Q5: How did studying Physics contribute to Robert Shenton French’s legal career?
A5: His Physics studies honed a systematic and logical approach to problem-solving, which benefited his legal career by offering a unique perspective on intricate cases.

Q6: Did Robert French’s college contribute significantly to his career?
A6: Yes, the education Robert French obtained during his collegiate years was pivotal in molding his professional trajectory.

Q7: How crucial is college education in determining a successful career, as illustrated in Robert French’s life?
A7: Robert French’s journey underscores the significant role that higher education can play in cultivating a prosperous career. His cross-disciplinary studies in Law and Physics provided him with invaluable skills, paving the way for his remarkable professional achievements.

Q2: Who is the wife of Robert French?
A2: Robert French is married to Valerie J. French. She earned her LL.B. from the University of Western Australia in 1971 and later served as the President of the Children’s Court of Western Australia.