Nathan Li

Nathan Li

Nathan joined the Pinnacle family in 2012 as one of our scholars and his journey has come full circle with him now taking on the role as one of our valued mentors.

Nathan has had a successful career since graduating from Sydney University Law School. He is in his second year of Barrister practice, having sat and passed the New South Wales Bar Exam; he has worked as a Judge’s Associate in the Federal Court; he has worked in large and reputable law firms; and, he has completed a master’s degree. Now, his legal career consists of running diverse and stimulating cases in court where every day is different.

Nathan shares with us some of his story and what being part of The Pinnacle Foundation program has meant to him.

Tell us a little about your journey and how you became involved with The Pinnacle Foundation.
I first heard about The Pinnacle Foundation when I was attending an LGBTIQ+ conference called on Queer Collaborations the year before I first applied to be a scholar. An existing scholar at the time was giving a talk about The Pinnacle Foundation in one of the sessions and I thought that it sounded like a great scholarship program, and I decided to apply. I remember meeting one of the founders of The Pinnacle Foundation, Susan Brooks, during my interview and later I met one of the other founders, Sean Linkson OAM. It really was quite fascinating how they truly wanted to nurture LGBTIQ+ scholars and I found them very welcoming, and they made Pinnacle feel like a family.

After being successful in the application process, I was awarded a scholarship and matched with my mentor. My mentor was a partner in one of the large law firms in Sydney and that was quite useful as I was able to understand the realities of what practicing as a lawyer was like and how to get into the legal profession, which is something I did not really know about until I spoke to my mentor.

During my scholar years, I was encouraged to attend different events hosted by The Pinnacle Foundation, which was a great way for me to be able to share my story and to form connections with the wider Pinnacle family. Even after I graduated, I continued to attend some of these events as an alumnus and about two or three years ago I received a call asking if I was interested in becoming a mentor for Pinnacle and I thought that would be a lovely opportunity. I was matched with my scholar who had quite a similar life path to me, a similar cultural background and he was also studying law at the University of Sydney. My scholar was very bright, and it was so nice to be on the other side of the relationship, as a mentor, and seeing what I could share with my mentee. It was a rewarding experience giving back and being able to be part of the Program from both the scholar and mentor perspectives.

What have you gained from being part of the Pinnacle program, and now Pinnacle family so far?
The scholarship program helped me during my studies both financially and with my well-being, in terms of my self-esteem and helping me figure out who I am, where I belong and how to make it in a corporate world that I was completely unaware of.
My parents came to Australia when I was five years old and so my parents were not a readily available source of guidance when it came to studying in a tertiary institution in Australia and working in a corporate setting. Even after graduating and in my role as an alumnus, it feels so nice to be part of the Pinnacle family and still be connected to the alumni and mentors who were part of my year’s cohort. It is comforting to be a part of a wider group of people who have similar life experiences and career trajectories. When I applied to become a scholar, I was mid-way through my degree and already had some queer friends, however, being connected with the wider Pinnacle family has meant that I have further developed my connection to our community. I have met some wonderful people and have been able to participate in fostering opportunities for other young LGBTIQ+ Australians who are just starting out in their studies and careers.

What has your experience with your mentor been like?
I found that my mentor was really professional and very good at giving advice, and that is something that I try to emulate with my mentee. I try to be as honest as possible about the good aspects and the challenging aspects of being a lawyer and the realities of our profession. It is about encouraging your mentee and helping them by providing them with enough information and support so that they can make the decisions that are best for their life. I try and tailor my advice as a mentor to suit the needs of my mentee, and to be true to what a career in the legal profession in Australia looks like. For example, sometimes it is encouraging to know that even though many start out as graduate lawyers not everyone stays in the legal profession forever as opportunities come up all the time.

What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about applying for the Pinnacle Foundation scholarship program?
The first piece of advice is, do apply, and the second piece of advice is to be yourself when applying. There are so many scholars with a wide variety of backgrounds who can share so much from their personal experiences and perspectives and can enrich the program with their unique backgrounds. I remember in my cohort we had a mix of people; some were visual artists, and some were in medicine, and all other kinds of professions, and it was so great to see that we all came from different walks of life. You should be proud of who you are and what your interests are and share them with our community because that is what makes our community so rich.

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