Crown Solicitor's Office (New South Wales)

The New South Wales Crown Solicitor's Office (CSO) is an executive government agency of the New South Wales Department of Justice in Australia that has the role of providing legal services to the government, its agencies, and its statutory authorities. The Office practices in twelve areas of law, namely administrative law, child protection law, commercial law, community law,[1] constitutional law, coronial law and inquiries, criminal law, employment law, government law, native title law, property law, and tort law.[2] The Office frequently instructs barristers with regard to civil matters.[3]

New South Wales
Crown Solicitor's Office
Agency overview
TypeExecutive agency
JurisdictionNew South Wales
Headquarters60–70 Elizabeth Street, Sydney
Ministers responsible
Agency executive
  • Karen Smith,
    NSW Crown Solicitor
Parent AgencyDepartment of Justice

It was announced on 10 June 2015 that Lea Armstrong[4] would be appointed as Crown Solicitor (to commence 13 July 2015); she became the first woman appointed to that role in New South Wales.[5] Previously John McDonnell followed by Richard Kelly were the Acting Crown Solicitor following the departure of Ian Knight.


In 1817, the position of Solicitor for the Crown, or Crown Solicitor, of the colony of New South Wales was created with the appointment of Thomas Wylde.[6] In 1839, a Crown Solicitor for civil matters and another for criminal matters were appointed; but, in 1856, with introduction of responsible government, these roles were merged into that of a single New South Wales Crown Solicitor.[6] In 1902, the first Australian-born New South Wales Crown Solicitor, John Varnell Tillett, was appointed to the position.[6]

During the 1990s, the operations of the Crown Solicitor's Office were commercialised, and the Office was required to compete with the private legal profession for untied government legal work.[6] In 1994, Ian Victor Knight, was appointed to the position; and, in 1996, he commenced a restructuring of the agency, converting its four branches into ten specialist practice groups.[6]


The Office provides legal services with regard to:[7]

  • matters that have implications for the Government of New South Wales beyond an individual Minister's portfolio;
  • matters that involve the constitutional powers and privileges of the State of New South Wales and/or the Commonwealth of Australia;
  • matters that raise issues which are fundamental to the responsibilities of Government; and,
  • matters that arise from, or relate to, matters falling within the Attorney General's area of responsibility.

In addition to this, the Office competes with private legal firms and professionals to perform untied, general legal work for government agencies. Although it can act for individuals sued on behalf of the state,[8] the Office cannot, however, provide legal services to the general public, which is the function of LawAccess NSW, per Section 110 of the Legal Profession Act 2004 (NSW).[7][9]

List of Crown Solicitors

Ordinal Crown Solicitor Term start Term end Time in office Notes
1 Thomas Wylde 1817 1822 4–5 years [10]
2 William Henry Moore (joint appointment) 1822 1827 4–5 years
Frederick Garling (joint appointment)a [11]
vacant 1827 1829 1–2 years [10]
2 William Henry Moore 1829 1834 4–5 years
3 David Chambers 1834 1835 0–1 years
4 Francis Fisher 1835 1839 3–4 years
5 John Moore Dillon (joint appointment) 1839 1859 19–20 years
6 Francis Fisher (joint appointment) 1839 1839 years
7 George Cooper Turner (joint appointment) 1839 1849 9–10 years
8 William Whaley Billyard 1850 1859 8–9 years
9 John Williams 1859 1891 31–32 years
10 Ernest Augustus Smith 1891 1894 2–3 years
11 George Colquhoun 1894 1901 6–7 years
12 John Varnell Tillett 1902 1931 28–29 years
13 John Ernest Clark 1931 1941 9–10 years
14 Arthur Harry O'Connor 1941 1946 4–5 years
15 Finlay Patrick McRae 1946 1961 14–15 years
16 Raymond James McKay 1961 1976 14–15 years
17 Hugh King Roberts 1976 1994 17–18 years
18 Ian Victor Knight 1994 2015 20–21 years
19 Lea Armstrong 2015 2019 3–4 years
19 Karen Smith 2019 incumbent 243 days [12]>
^a There is evidence that Garling may have served as a Crown Solicitor from 1816 or earlier. However, it is referenced that he was the second Crown Solicitor and served alongside Moore on the first occasion; and was not reappointed to the role when the office was re-established in 1829.[11]


  1. "Community Law". Crown Solicitor's Office of New South Wales. Government of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 3 March 2015.
  2. "Careers". Crown Solicitor's Office of New South Wales. Government of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 9 April 2013.
  3. "Coin from the Crown". Justinian. Law Press of Australia. 26 November 2010.
  5. "Lea Armstrong appointed NSW's first female crown solicitor". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 10 June 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  6. "History of the Crown Solicitor's Office". Crown Solicitor's Office of New South Wales. Government of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 3 March 2015.
  7. "Role of the NSW Crown Solicitor". Crown Solicitor's Office of New South Wales. Government of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 5 March 2015.
  8. "Who the Crown Solicitor acts for". Crown Solicitor's Office of New South Wales. Government of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 28 July 2013.
  9. Parliament of New South Wales. "Legal Profession Act 2004, s. 110". AustLII.
  10. "History - CSO Home New South Wales". Archived from the original on 31 March 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  11. McIntyre, Joanna (1966). "Garling, Frederick (1775 - 1848)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 30 October 2007.
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