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Law Graduates in Politics

Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott

Is it just me, or are there a lot of law graduates in politics? Maybe it’s because you can’t read statutes for three to five years without wanting to change a few of them. Or maybe politics is a natural career path for a law graduate with a knack for debating; so many law students are mooters and former high school debaters after all.

Regardless of their reasons for making the jump from applying the law to creating it, more than a few law grads have made their mark in politics.

Of the 150 members of the Federal House of Representatives, 45 pollies have law degrees, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, Attorney General Nicola Roxon, former Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop, independent MP Robert Oakeshott and Minister for Defence Stephen Smith. Embattled politicians Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson are law grads too.

It’s a similar story in the Senate with law grads like Penny Wong and Nick Xenophon accounting for 21 of 75 seats. I’m not very keen to read the CVs of any more politicians, but I’m willing to wager that there are more than a few politicians at the State and Territory level who have LLBs too.

Overseas, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was a business and family lawyer before he ran for the top office, and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi graduated from law with honours in 1961. Ten of America’s presidents have law degrees, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Abraham Lincoln. Another five US Presidents are law school dropouts. In the UK, former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher are both graduates of the Inns of Court School of Law. While campaigning against apartheid, Nelson Mandela also ran a law firm, Mandela and Tambo, South Africa’s first black law partnership.

Even Vladimir Lenin and Fidel Castro are law grads, and Saddam Hussein spent three years at law school before dropping out.

So be nice to your law school friends… one of them might just become Prime Minister.

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