Q&A with Tiger Lin: 2021 University Medallist, student mentor and soy chai latte enthusiast

Tiger Lin
2021 University Medallist, Tiger Lin (BPolPhilEc/LLB (Hons)), believes studying law was a means for him to give back to his family and community.

I am extremely humbled to receive this award and grateful to all the academics, family and friends who have supported me on this journey.

Throughout his time at The Australian National University (ANU), Tiger Lin (BPolPhilEc /LLB (Hons)) was not only committed to his own studies, but to improving the experiences of other students.

From his involvement in the ANU Law Students’ Society and as an ANU College of Law Student Ambassador to co-launching an online tutoring and mentoring service for regional high school students, Tiger had a positive impact on his peers and was an active participant in the ANU community.

He also excelled in the classroom and was recently named a 2021 recipient of the University Medal in recognition of his exceptional academic performance.

In this Q&A, Tiger reflects on his study experiences and future aspirations now he has completed his Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics at ANU.

Why did you choose to study law?

I guess there are two ways I can answer this question.

At the end of Year 12, I was faced with a dilemma: medicine or law. On the one hand, my mum was pushing hard for me to become a doctor (I remember neurosurgery being mooted). On the other, I loved literature and public speaking, whereas I found maths and science thoroughly uninspiring.

I didn’t know much (if anything) about either course, but fortunately I followed my instincts and landed on the law path.

However, I’ve found that we frequently like to ascribe deeper motives to our actions – often retrospectively. Upon reflection, one of the reasons I love law is because society is structured by law, and therefore, having a thorough understanding of the law is a means of empowerment through knowledge.

Coming from an immigrant background (with the associated language barriers), this was often highlighted to me when my family members were bullied at work or taken advantage of in transactions, without anywhere to turn for help.

I also found that immigrant families were often overcautious in unquestioningly following laws they did not understand for fear of putting a foot wrong – often to their detriment. Studying law was a means of allowing me to give back to my family and community by helping people understand their rights, how our legal system works, and how to access legal support.

I’ll let you decide which interpretation you prefer.

What do you enjoy most about studying at ANU?

My favourite aspect of studying at ANU is our picturesque campus, which lends itself to a serene atmosphere, especially conducive to reflective pondering – particularly useful when writing papers that are rather conceptual.

I always find I study better after a walk past the willow trees by Sullivans Creek and Fellows Oval before trudging back to Burgmann College via the corridor of eucalypts that traces the boundary of South Oval.

What have been some of your most memorable experiences at ANU?

Some of my most memorable moments have come from competing in moots and other law competitions, which are nerve-racking, but also exhilarating experiences.

In particular, the Sir Harry Gibbs Constitutional Law Moot was a highlight. It involved fascinating legal research, the classic scramble to cobble together written submissions and the chance to go head-to-head with constitutional law nerds from other universities. Plus, it was a real bonding experience for our team and we went on to (inadvertently) clerk together that summer.

Other key experiences include an opportunity organised by Professor Jolyon Ford SFHEA to intern at a global law firm in Hong Kong after my exchange there at the end of my second year. This was a formative legal experience for me; as well as the seemingly mammoth effort involved in what was ultimately an extremely rewarding thesis-writing process.

How did you find out you had won the University Medal and what does it mean to you?

I was actually at my work Christmas party when I received the email on my phone. Needless to say, plenty of fun and frivolity ensued…

On a more serious note, I am extremely humbled to receive this award and grateful to all the academics, family and friends who have supported me on this journey. In particular, I must thank my parents and my grandma, who have sacrificed a great deal over the years to raise me and my brother – no easy task, let me assure you.

During your studies you were committed to helping others through your involvement in the Regional Education Support Network, ANU Law Students’ Society and other mentoring roles. What motivated you to take on these roles and what did you find most meaningful?

I think service is an important value to always keep in mind. For me, being part of these initiatives was a way to use my own limited knowledge and experiences to help improve the experiences of other students.

Probably the most meaningful organisation I have been a part of is the Regional Education Support Network. This online tutoring and mentoring service for regional students is focused on overcoming the barriers to academic support that exist in regional communities.

In starting this organisation with a few friends from both ANU and high school, I hoped to use our tutoring and Year 12 experiences to make even the smallest difference to regional students.

It has been a deeply rewarding experience seeing the confidence it has given our students, as well as the buy-in from so many university students as tutors and mentors, many from ANU.

Beyond your PPE and LLB (Hons) degrees, what has been one of the biggest life lessons you’ve gained from ANU?

In my five years at ANU, I have firstly discovered that coffee makes my hands shake – forcing my all-nighters to be au naturel. Secondly, that full cream milk is definitely not for me. It looks like many decades of large soy chai lattes coming up.

What law course did you discover an unlikely passion in and why?

In first year, I tanked my first-ever law exam on contracts. I spent the entire time writing what I thought was a beautifully poetic answer to the first question, and neglected to answer the second question – also worth 50 per cent.

Since then, I have attempted to banish this rather traumatic experience from my mind. Hence my surprise, when in my Advanced Administrative Law course this semester, I discovered that the only research topic that really inspired me was in relation to government contracting and the fettering doctrine. Figure that!

Was there an ANU Law academic who you found influential and inspiring and, if so, why?

Not to be idolatrous, but my passion for constitutional law was inspired by Professor James Stellios FAAL. This started in Commonwealth Constitutional Law in third year, continued in Federal Judicial System last year (along with Conflict of Laws, although largely a private law course), and culminated in his supervision of my thesis on constitutional characterisation and interpretation. I am grateful for his generosity of time over the years as a source of advice, both study and career-wise.  

What advice would you give to first-year students on making the most of their time at ANU, both personally and academically?

Everyone learns and studies differently, and the most important thing is to figure out your unique approach. It sometimes may be tempting to see someone who does well academically, and think that the answer to academic success is in their study techniques or pre-exam rituals.

However, if all your friends’ study schedules run like clockwork yet inspiration only comes at the last minute for you – requiring an all-nighter to put everything together (all too often in my case) – fear not! Although obviously, your life will be a lot easier if you are organised.

Related to this is also the question of mindset. For the vast majority of people, law school gets extremely stressful at times. Self-care and wellbeing can be rather cliché buzzwords, but always make sure to take some time to ensure you are in the right headspace.

Academically, I would encourage you all to make the most of the diverse range of opportunities at ANU to enrich your law degree. From participating in mooting and competitions to seeking out research opportunities or internships and exchanges, there are so many ways to make your degree more than just study. Talk to people!

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your next steps?

In March, I will start as a graduate at Herbert Smith Freehills in Sydney, before moving to the Federal Court as an associate to Justice Nye Perram in November. After that, who knows?

Hopefully, there will be some postgraduate study on the cards…

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Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team