Another impressive year for UH Law School admissions

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Aug 26, 2015

Incoming Law School class photo at the Supreme Court.
Incoming Law School class photo at the Supreme Court.

A former police SWAT team hostage negotiator, an active duty U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant commander, a high school science teacher, two Teach for America volunteers and a combat weapons engineer.  They have all come to the UH Law School this fall to launch their legal training in another impressive year for admissions.

Those six individuals, along with 100 others, make up the entering class at the William S. Richardson School of Law for the day program, evening part-time program, advanced JD program and the LLM program that began classes this week on the Mānoa campus.

For Aichatou Kimba, a military spouse who earned her law degree in Niger, a master's degree with a focus on environmental law will perhaps lead to her own law practice someday. For Cambodia’s Kimlorn Penh, an LLM with a focus on business and commercial law will mean the opportunity to return to his home country to teach. For Rachel James, on staff in the Hawai‘i office of U.S. Rep Tulsi Gabbard, it’s the next step in a professional plan that most recently saw her gain a master's degree in global leadership from Hawai‘i Pacific University.

“This feels like a natural progression,” said James, who is originally from Arizona. “This is exactly where I should be.”

Penh feels the same way: “My impression here is the law professors are so warm and welcoming. We have a large variety of students from different countries and I feel I fit in. I feel comfortable.”

For Coast Guard LCDR Warren Wright, applying to Richardson Law School was the next important step in a career that included a Congressional fellowship in the office of Senator Lisa Murkowski, and experience with community programs such as the D.C. Lawyers for Youth. Inspired by these programs – and being one of the few without a law degree - Wright is looking forward to working as a lawyer within the Coast Guard, pursuing public interest law, or performing policy work to improve the social justice system.

For Alison "Ali" Martyn, who as a Pennsylvania police officer worked as a hostage negotiator, it was the next step in her commitment to helping create a more equitable criminal justice system. “I think a law degree will empower me to make real change that will affect people's lives in meaningful ways,” said Martyn.

The entering class includes 63 full-time students; 23 evening part-time students; 11 master's degree (LLM) students; 6 transfer, visiting and exchange students; and 3 Advanced JD students. The international students come from 13 countries, including Korea, Japan, China, Cambodia, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Niger and Australia.

“Richardson lawyers are everywhere in Hawai‘i, they populate many parts of this country, and they’re having an increasing presence internationally,” Judge Barbara "Bebe" Richardson told the incoming class during orientation activities last week. Richardson, deputy chief judge of the First Circuit District Court, is the daughter of the Law School’s namesake. “Our dad would be very proud,” she concluded.

The week of orientation activities included a downtown day that offered insights into legal professionalism, a tour of the Judicial History Center, a welcoming pep talk from the Chief Justice of the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, a lunch hosted by Starn, O’Toole, Marcus & Fisher, and taking the Law Student Pledge, including its commitment “above all to seek justice.”

It also included inspiring talks by Hawai‘i Supreme Court Associate Justice Sabrina McKenna ’82, and retired Associate Supreme Court Justice Simeon Acoba, who now teaches at the Law School. McKenna told the students that “Richardson degrees are going to put you on the right path” no matter what career you choose.

Acoba gave the students an overview of the “Richardson years” and the vast impact Chief Justice Richardson’s court brought to changing the law in Hawai‘i. He also noted that Richardson lawyers make up 80 percent of the attorneys in the four largest law firms in Hawai‘i, as well as holding key positions in the Judiciary, in the Legislature and in governmental units throughout Hawai’i.

“Public confidence in the legal system depends to a great extent on the conduct of lawyers,” he noted. “You will be the face of justice and what justice means to the lay person.”

As part of the orientation program, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Johnson ’87 warned the incoming Class of 2018 and 2019 (the evening part-time program is four years compared to three in the full-time day program) about how they must present themselves from this day forward.

He spoke especially about how they are represented in social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “Develop a consciousness about what should be on your Facebook page,” said Johnson. “If your boss or perspective employer were to look at your Facebook page, would it embarrass you? Every single time you put something out there, it’s there forever. “

The downtown day was rounded out by insights on professionalism from a panel that included Michael Broderick, president of the YMCA, the Honorable Dexter Dean Del Rosario ’82, judge of the First Circuit Court, and Dianne Winter Brookins of Alston, Hunt, Floyd & Ing, who is also a lecturer in law at Richardson. The incoming students also heard from Sherry Broder, the 2016 president of the Federal Bar Association, who also teaches at the Law School.

The programs were organized and led by Denise Antolini, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Ronette Kawakami ’85, Associate Dean for Student Services, and Dale Lee, Director of Professional Development.

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