In recent years, Australia has seen no shortage of lawyers-turned-politicians. The likes of Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Julia Gillard, and John Howard have all cut their teeth in the legal profession, and followed a well-travelled route that would-be Australian leaders have been walking for years.
However, it isn’t just Australian politics which favours a background in law – world leaders from Mexico to China have commenced their careers in law.
Insights has compiled a list of five of the most noteworthy lawyers who became heads of state.
President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping has claimed many titles in his political career: Chairman of the Central Military Commission, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and, more simply, the “Paramount Leader”.
The Chinese head of state can also include “Doctor” on the list, having obtained a Doctorate of Law (LLD) from Tsinghua University in 2002.
Enrique Peña Nieto
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has dealt with his share of controversy since assuming Mexico’s highest office in 2012. Between the slump in value of the Peso, the frequent prison breaks of drug kingpins like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and the unexplained deaths of 43 protesting students, Guzman is now facing calls to step down.
Despite his rocky run as President, Peña Nieto boasts a law degree from Panamerican University. Even this has been called into question, however, with an academic report claiming he plagiarised up to 29% of his thesis.
The surprise entry of this list, Vladimir Putin is more renowned for his hard-line leadership style, uncompromising foreign policy, and well-crafted tough guy image than for his legal knowledge. However, Russia’s head of state studied law at Russia’s oldest law school, St Petersburg State University (formerly Leningrad State University).
While Putin has never practised as a lawyer, he has applied his legal knowledge in his role as both a politician and a KGB operative.
Having held the office of President of Brazil for little more than two months, Michel Temer pursued a long and illustrious legal career before taking the top job. Temer followed his undergraduate law degree with a Doctorate of Law from the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paolo, after which he progressed to serve as a São Paolo State Prosecutor.
In addition to practising law, Temer has also penned a number of books on Constitutional Law, and is licensed as a Professor of Constitutional Law at the Pontifical Catholic University.
In the final days of his presidency, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on Barack Obama’s career before politics.
A graduate from the Harvard School of Law, Obama served as the President of the Harvard Law Review. He later progressed to teach to teach Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years, while also working as a civil rights lawyer for 11 years.
Views on Obama’s time in the Oval Office may differ, but as his time as President comes to an end, his status as the world’s most famous Constitutional Law Lecturer is set in stone.
Are there any world leaders you would add to our list? Let us know in the comments section below!