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Lawyers win crucial seats

Lawyers win crucial seats

With the complete outcome of the 2010 Federal Election still unknown, the one certainty is that lawyers turned pol

With the complete outcome of the 2010 Federal Election still unknown, the one certainty is that lawyers turned politicians will play a significant role.

In particular, Adam Bandt and Laura Smyth were arguably the stars of the lawyerly bunch to pick up seats.

Bandt, a former lawyer with Slater & Gordon and a barrister, won the seat of Melbourne for The Greens.

This was a stunning triumph for Bandt, who also ran in 2007, as he gained the seat with a 13.3 per cent swing. He becomes only the second ever member of The Greens to sit in the House of Representatives, and replaces Lindsay Tanner, the retiring former Minister for Finance and Deregulation.

Bandt will be a key figure in deciding the next federal government as Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard enter into negotiations to form a minority government.

Bandt is one of three MPs who have previously worked at Slater & Gordon. Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Richard Marles, the member for Corio in Victoria, have also had stints with the firm. Marles was one of the few Labor Party candidates to secure a positive swing, increasing his share of the first preference vote by 6.57 per cent.

In Victoria, Laura Smyth, a 33 year-old ex-senior associate with Holding Redlich, looks likely to have gained the seat of La Trobe for the Labor Party. At the time of publishing, she was leading the Liberal Party incumbent Jason Wood with 51.59 per cent of the vote compared to 48.41 per cent.

If Smyth prevails, she will be one of only two ALP candidates to have gained a seat in the lower house.

The 20 lawyers who ran as incumbents in NSW and Victoria all retained their seats, with another four lawyers being elected to the lower house for the first time.

That means that nearly one quarter of all sitting members from the House of Representatives will soon be ex-lawyers.

Of the 150 House of Representative Seats, lawyers will be sitting in 32 of them (21.3 per cent). This is a remarkable result for members of the legal profession running for office, with more than half of the lawyers running (54 per cent) getting elected.

The ALP will have 19 lawyers sitting across its benches, with the Liberal Party having 12 and The Greens one.

One Slater & Gordon lawyer who didn't fare so well was Steven Lewis, head of the firm's commercial dispute resolution practice. He was one of three lawyers taking on the incumbent, Malcolm Turnbull, in the blue ribbon Liberal seat of Wentworth in Sydney's eastern suburbs. Turnbull, a former journalist, barrister, general counsel with Consolidated Press and managing director of Goldman Sachs, secured a massive swing of nearly 10 per cent to the Liberal Party, while Lewis, who was running for the Labor Party, saw his party's vote dip by almost the same margin. Matthew Robertson, a legal researcher for the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, ran a close third to Lewis with 17 per cent of the vote as a Greens candidate. Barrister Malcolm Duncan only gained 0.5 per cent of the vote as an independent.

In the key marginal seat of Lindsay, former Blake Dawson senior associate David Bradbury looks likely to retain the seat for the ALP. At the time of writing, Bradbury had secured 50.69 per cent of the two party preferred vote.

In addition to Bandt, the three other lawyers to be elected to office for the first time included Michelle Rowland, a former telecommunications lawyer with Gilbert + Tobin who looks likely to retain the western Sydney seat of Greenway for the Labor Party. On a two party preferred basis, Rowland had 50.82 per cent of the vote at the time of writing, leading the Liberal Party's Jaymes Diaz on 49.18 per cent. Diaz is a lawyer with his own small family run firm based in Blacktown. Stephen Jones, a legally trained former union official, retained the seat of Throsby for the ALP.

Long-term Liberal Party incumbents Joe Hockey, Philip Ruddock and Bronwyn Bishop, all solicitors before entering Parliament, increased their respective majorities in their safe Sydney seats. Ruddock will take his place in Parliament as the longest serving current member, with the former partner of Berne, Murray and Trout first elected when Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister in 1973.

In the "bellwether" seat of Eden-Monaro, Mike Kelly, who was a former director of Army Legal Services, looks likely to retain the seat for the ALP after a swing to him of just over two percent. In what's possibly a good omen for the party as it looks to negotiate a minority government with the four independents and Bandt, the party that has held Eden-Monaro has been the party of government since 1972.

In Queensland Chris Trevor, the founder of the Gladstone firm Chris Trevor & Associates, was one of the expected eight ALP candidates to lose their seat as the state turned against Labor.

Despite a swing against him of nearly 9 per cent, Shayne Neumann, a family law specialist and former partner with Neumann Turnour Lawyers, retained the seat of Blair for the ALP. Similarly, Graham Perett, a former solicitor, is likely to retain Moreton for Labor despite a nearly 12 per cent swing against him and Kirsten Livermore retained Capricornia despite an 8.52 per cent swing against her. The former barrister Peter Slipper retained the rural seat of Fisher for the Liberal National Party of Queensland.

In Western Australia, three lawyers have been returned to parliament. Julie Bishop, the deputy opposition leader and former managing partner of the Perth office of Clayton Utz, won Curtin, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith retained Perth and Melissa Parke retained Fremantle for the ALP, despite suffering a swing against her of nearly 6 per cent. In the same seat, Kate Davis, the 28 year-old Greens candidate, attracted over 17 per cent of the vote. Davis runs the Women's Law Centre in Perth and has helped to establish outreach legal clinics for local Aboriginal women in the Fitzroy Crossing area of the Kimberleys.

In South Australia, shadow minister Christopher Pyne retained Sturt, while Ruth Beach increased The Greens vote in Adelaide to 13.6 per cent. The only lawyer running in Tasmania, Wendy Heatley, achieved just over six per cent of the vote for The Greens in the seat of Franklin.

>> What do election promises mean for lawyers? Click here to read Lawyers Weekly complete legal-related election coverage

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