The first volume of the UNSW Law Journal was publicly launched in 1976 – the year that the first group of students graduated from UNSW Law School. Produced by an Editorial Board of seven student members with Faculty Adviser John McMillan (now Australia’s first Information Commissioner), the inaugural issue became the flagship publication of the emerging Law School.

Since that time, the Journal has continued the tradition of covering important legal issues of the day. It bears the distinction of being entirely managed and produced by students. Members of the Editorial Board are selected from among the most exceptional students of the UNSW Law School, and the Thematic component of each Issue is conceived and produced by one student Editor. The students bring with them a fresh perspective and an enthusiasm for the law that ensures the Journal reflects contemporary legal thinking and exceptional editorial standards.

In August 1995, the Journal published the first issue of Forum. Initially, Forum was launched as a short, polemic newsletter designed to complement the General and Thematic Issues. It informed subscribers of upcoming topics, updated published Issues and provided an arena for comment and debate on current legal affairs, with different perspectives in a series of articles on a particular topic. Following the introduction of a peer-review process for all submissions to the Forum, articles necessarily became as academically rigorous as all other articles published by the Journal, and of comparable length.

A decision was made by the Editorial Board in 2012 to consolidate the publications into three annual Issues, each containing a General and Thematic component. The General component of each Issue contains articles on a broad range of subjects related to Australian and international law.  A new topic is devised for the Thematic component of each Issue.

In 2015, the Journal expanded and now publishes four Issues per year to accommodate the volume of high-quality submissions it receives.  In order to effect the publication restructure, the production process for the first Issue of 2015 was condensed into a shorter time frame. As such, this was a generalist Issue and it did not contain a Thematic component. Since 2016, all Issues have contained both a General and Thematic component going forward.