New Zealand Law Society - The legal minds hoping to be elected to Parliament

The legal minds hoping to be elected to Parliament

This story has been updated to show which lawyers and former lawyers were voted into Parliament on Saturday 17 October 2020.

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Lawyers love politics — six past Prime Ministers as well as two acting PMs have been from the profession. So it’s no surprise that yet again dozens of current and former practitioners have put their hands up to stand for Parliament.

The array of hopefuls representing parties from across the political spectrum will be hoping to join the ranks of former lawyers in Parliament such as Winston Peters, David Parker and Judith Collins.

After some extensive research we have come up with a list of 41 lawyers and former lawyers who are standing in 2020. This compares to 31 in 2017 – which was 6% of all candidates. For consistency we have only included those who are currently practising or who have previously practised law.

Why do so many lawyers stand for Parliament?

Emily Henderson, who is standing for Labour in Whangarei where she works for Henderson Reeves, says it’s a natural move.

Emily Henderson

“I'm standing for Labour because Labour's core values – social justice and a real commitment to equity and the well-being of our most vulnerable – are my core values,” she says.

“Labour's social justice goals run deep in my whānau. I grew up in Whangarei, one of our most deprived rohe, with a family and criminal court lawyer dad and a family therapist mum, so there was deep awareness of deprivation and commitment to social equity at home.”

Ms Henderson says her Parliamentary goals are to extend “the gains we've made in the criminal courts and to sort out the Family Court.”

New Zealand Labour has 16 candidates who are practising or former lawyers, more than any other party.

One lawyer who is already representing a Northland seat in Parliament is National’s Chris Penk.

He says Parliament should ideally include a representative sample of New Zealanders. But he also notes, lawyers have traditionally been involved in politics to a disproportionately high level, “which is understandable for a number of reasons”.

“Certain skills are needed to succeed in both spheres, such as advocacy and good communications, and a working knowledge of the legislative process and statutory interpretation are invaluable to the new MP in particular.

Chris Penk
Chris Penk

“I’m motivated to be involved in politics by the opportunity it affords for problem solving. In this sense, the lawyer and the MP perform similar functions in society, albeit that one applies the law and the other writes it.”

Teall Crossen, a candidate for the Green Party, says she wants to be part of a government that leads on climate justice and supports resilient communities.

“My experience as an environmental lawyer at the United Nations and climate change negotiations, as well as working in Aotearoa on local conservation issues, equips me with an ability to understand different perspectives and negotiate constructive and enduring outcomes that benefit people and nature.”

Election 2020 candidates who are current or former lawyers

*denotes MP elected on Saturday 17 October 2020

Labour (16) 

*Andrew Little. After graduating Mr Little became an employment lawyer for the Engineers Union. He is ranked at No 7.

*David Parker. He had a long career in business and law before being elected to Parliament as Labour MP in 2002. No 9.

*Kiri Allan was a commercial lawyer and business consultant with Kahui Legal in RotoruaEast Coast. No 25.

*Marja Lubeck worked in industrial law and workplace negotiations and was the long-standing President of the Flight Attendant and Related Services Association. Rodney. No 34.

Duncan Webb was a director at Duncan Webb Lawyers in Christchurch. Labour, Christchurch Central. No 43.

*Rino Tiraketene was formerly a commercial lawyer with Simpson Grierson. Te Tai Tonga.

*Camilla Belich is a lawyer with the Public Service Association and was formerly a Senior Associate at Bartlett Law. No 30.

*Vanushi Walters is a Director of Auckland medico-legal and employment specialists Cogent Law. No 22.

*Rachel Brooking is a barrister based in Dunedin. No 46.

*Helen White is a barrister sole specialising in employment law. Auckland Central. No 48.

*Barbara Edmonds is a lawyer with the Department of Internal Affairs. No 49.

*Steph Lewis was an in-house lawyer at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and is now a policy advisor. Whanganui. No 55.

*Arena Williams is an in-house lawyer with Ngā Maunga Whakahii o Kaipara Development Trust. Hunua. No 58.

Emily Henderson is a consultant focusing on the Family Court with Henderson Reeves in Whangarei. Whangarei. No 64.

*Ingrid Leary is a former lawyer. Dunedin South. No 59.

Claire Mahon is a human rights lawyer, and the founder and CEO of the Global Human Rights Group, a social enterprise that operates from New Zealand. Rotorua. No 74.

National Party (8)

*Judith Collins specialised in employment, property, commercial, and tax law before entering Parliament in 2002. She was a Vice-President of the New Zealand Law Society and retains her practising certificate. Papakura. No 1.

*Simon Bridges was a Senior Crown Prosecutor in the District and High Courts. Tauranga. No 4.

*Chris Penk is a former Navy officer whose service included navigating officer on a submarine. He then became a lawyer, establishing Ong and Penk Lawyers in Auckland. Kaipara ki Mahurangi. No 41.

Harete Hipango has worked in family, mental health, youth justice, child welfare, criminal, Māori land law and mediation. Whanganui. No 21.

Paulo Garcia was a lawyer in both his native Philippines and New Zealand, where he was a director at GarciaLaw in Auckland. No 25.

*Joseph Mooney is a director at Mooney Lawyers Ltd in Invercargill. Southland. No 62.

Mark Crofskey is a former lawyer with 18 years’ experience in Wellington and London. Remutaka. No 56.

David Patterson specialises in structuring commercial transactions and taxation law at Chapman Tripp in Wellington. Rongotai. No 48.

New Zealand First (2)

Winston Peters worked at Russell McVeagh before becoming an MP. If New Zealand First enter Parliament, Mr Peters will again lead the party as he is No 1 on the list.

Denis O’Rourke is a former lawyer who specialised in legal drafting, statutory interpretation and commercial law. Banks Peninsula.

Green Party (3)

*Golriz Ghahraman was a human rights lawyer who worked as a prosecutor and defence lawyer at United Nations tribunals for Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Cambodia. Mr Roskill. No 7.

Teall Crossen is a senior solicitor at the Department of Conservation. Rongotai. No 12.

Natasha Fairley is a barrister with Ponsonby Chambers in Auckland. She is standing in Northcote. 

ACT (3)

Carmel Claridge is a former lawyer standing in Tamaki. No 14.

Miles McConway is a solicitor in Wynn Williams’ dispute resolution team in its Christchurch office. Wigram. No 12.

Mo Yee Poon is a Senior Associate with Chen Legal in Auckland. He is standing in Pakuranga.

*James McDowall (although not a lawyer) is the Practice Manager and co-founder of Online Immigration Lawyers. Waikato. No 6.

The Opportunities Party (1)

Shai Navot is a lawyer specialising in civil litigation and criminal prosecution. North Shore. No 2.

Māori Party (2)

John Tamihere is a former lawyer who worked for the Māori Land Court and the then Department of Māori Affairs. The party co-leader, Mr Tamihere is standing in Tāmaki Makaurau and is No.7 on the party list.

Lady Tureiti Moxon was formerly with McCaw Lewis Chapman in Hamilton specialising in Māori land law, civil and Treaty jurisprudence. No 11.

New Conservatives (2)

Warren Butterworth is a sole practitioner based in central Auckland. Wairarapa.

Ted Faleauto Johnston works as a criminal barrister, and has been practising mainly in South Auckland for almost 30 years. Panmure-Ōtāhuhu.

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (1)

Co-leader Michael Appleby is a former human rights lawyer and academic. Wellington Central.

Outdoors Party (1)

Sue Grey is a barrister in Nelson. She is the party’s co-leader.

Sustainable New Zealand (2)

Vernon Tava is a criminal defence barrister in based in Auckland, and is the party leader. Auckland Central/ No.1.

Shannon Withers is a barrister based at Vulcan Chambers, Auckland. Epsom/ list candidate.

This list is compiled from party websites and information from some party officials. While we have endeavoured to list every current or former lawyer standing there may be one or two we have missed, and we are happy to add any more.

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