Mr French is a graduate of the University of Western Australia in science and Law. He served as a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia from 1986 to 2008, and during that time as President of the National Native Title Tribunal from 1994 to 1998. He served as Chief Justice of Australia from 2008 until his retirement in 2017.
He served as Foundation Chancellor of the Edith Cowan University from 1991 to 1996 and was elected as Chancellor of the University of Western Australia in December 2017.
He served as a Member of the American Physical Society’s Committee on International Freedom of Scientists from 2017 to 2019.
In 2019, he provided a report to the Australian Government on freedom of speech and academic freedom in the higher education sector in Australia. He proposed a Model Code which has been substantially adopted in many Australian universities. The Report also proposed a definition of ‘academic freedom’ which has been incorporated, in a slightly modified form, in Australian national law — the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (Cth).
Mr French holds Adjunct and Honorary Professorial positions at the University of Western Australia, Melbourne University, Monash University and the Australian National University.