2515 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-7966
Fax: (808) 956-3813

Dean: Aviam Soifer
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs: Daniel Barnett
Associate Dean for Student Services: Ronette M. Kawakami

General Information

Since admitting its first class of students in 1973, the William S. Richardson School of Law has graduated more than 2,200 attorneys, most of whom continue to serve in the state of Hawai‘i. Richardson graduates have risen to prominent positions, including governor of Hawai‘i; lieutenant governor; president of a Hawai‘i university; a federal magistrate; Hawai‘i Supreme Court, intermediate court of appeals, circuit, district, family, and per diem court judges; partners in major law firms; and members of the state Legislature and Honolulu City Council. In addition, graduates of the school are found in significant numbers at the attorney general, public defender, prosecuting attorney offices, private law firms, and non-profit organizations.

The law school offers a three-year, post-baccalaureate program culminating in the Juris Doctor (JD) degree, also known as the first professional degree in law. A JD degree prepares students for the bar examination, admission to the bar, and careers in legal and related fields. The school also offers a doctor of juridical science degree(SJD), and a masters of law (LL.M.) for international students.

Student Body

Many of the students (over 300) in the law school either are from Hawai‘i or have other ties to the state or region. The school also welcomes students from the continental U.S., Asia, the Pacific, and Europe. Many students express an interest in the school’s exceptional Pacific-Asian, Native Hawaiian, International Law, or Environmental Law areas of emphasis. Each entering class (approximately 90 day students and 24 evening part-time students) typically reflects the ethnic diversity of Hawai‘i and includes individuals of African American, Caucasian, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, and Pacific Island ancestry. Law students from the Asia Pacific region represent China, Guam, Japan, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.

Approximately half of the students are female, and about 20 percent have completed other graduate degrees before enrolling in the law school.


The William S. Richardson School of Law is a collaborative, multicultural community preparing students for excellence in the practice of law and related careers that advance justice and the rule of law. We develop highly qualified, ethical professionals through excellence in teaching, scholarship, and public service. We embrace Hawai‘i’s diversity and values and recognize a special responsibility to our state and the Pacific region. We lead in environmental law, Native Hawaiian law, and Pacific-Asian legal studies.

In carrying out this mission, the school’s graduates fill a demand for qualified attorneys who are sensitive to Hawai‘i’s special needs and who will serve government and the public interest as well as private entities.

Students are encouraged to study law and legal institutions as integral parts of larger social, political, economic, and ecological systems. A number of law students concurrently seek other graduate degrees at UH Manoa (such as the MBA at the Shidler College of Business) while undertaking the JD program.


The School of Law is fully approved by the American Bar Association (ABA); this accreditation enables Richardson graduates to present a JD degree acceptable to the bar examiners in every state.

In 1989, the School of Law was admitted to full membership in the Association of American Law Schools (AALS).

Degrees Offered: Juris Doctor (JD), doctor of juridical science (SJD), Masters of Law (LL.M.)


Students have access to academic, personal, financial, and career counseling throughout law school. Academic counseling assists students in defining a program that will satisfy both personal interests and professional development.

Career counseling and information on job opportunities are provided to students for part-time, clerkship, and entry-level positions. About 40 Honolulu legal employers representing the private, public, and public-interest sectors participate in the on-campus interview program for law students. The law school also presents informational programs on career choices and alternatives and preparation for the job search.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the law school is a highly competitive process, which is based on an applicant’s academic achievement, aptitude for the study of law, and professional promise. Included among the specific factors evaluated are undergraduate grade point average, results of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), or, in some cases, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) academic work beyond the bachelor’s degree, academic rigor, writing ability, work experience, and volunteer and civic activities. The admission committee also takes into consideration the diversity of the class and unusual accomplishments or achievements. Residency in Hawai‘i or special experience relevant to Hawai‘i, the Asia Pacific region, or the law school’s specialty programs is also a significant admission criterion.

All applicants must have earned, by the entrance date, a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher learning in the U.S. or a foreign degree that is fully equivalent. Other requirements include the LSAT/GRE results, submission of transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a completed law school application to the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC).

Application Deadlines

Applications for admission must be filed with the School of Law and must be submitted online. Check the law school website for up-to-date deadlines and application requirements. Incomplete applications are not considered. Applicants by the February priority deadline are usually notified of the admission decision in late March/early April for August entry.

Ulu Lehua Scholars Program

The initiative, now known as the Ulu Lehua Scholars Program, was established in 1974, the year after the school’s founding. The program selects students from legally underserved communities who have overcome adversity and demonstrated academic potential, leadership ability, and commitment to social justice, and provides an opportunity for them to obtain a legal education. Ulu Lehua Scholars are fully matriculated into the JD Program and benefit from participation in a small, supportive learning community within the law school. In their first semester, Ulu Lehua Scholars, like all first year (1L) law students, typically take Contracts, Civil Procedure, Lawyering Fundamentals, and Legal Research. In place of a doctrinal 1L class (e.g., Torts or Criminal Law), which they take later in summer or in their second year, however, Ulu Lehua 1Ls take American Legal Systems. In addition to providing participants with structured and individualized instruction in legal reasoning, legal writing, law school study techniques, and other foundational legal skills, this course introduces Lehua students to critical legal theory and to other interdisciplinary perspectives on the relationship between law and social change. Ulu Lehua 1Ls and first-semester 2Ls also benefit from a structured program of tutoring in civil procedure, contracts, torts, real property, and constitutional law, led by upper division Lehua students who excelled in those courses. Ulu Lehua Scholars participate fully in the life of the law school, assuming leadership roles in such organizations as the Hawai‘i Law Review, the ‘Ahahui o Hawai‘i, the AsianPacific Law and Policy Journal, and the school’s award-winning moot court teams. Upon graduation, they become part of a large and influential Lehua alumni community, which includes many current judges, government leaders, social justice advocates, business administrators, and prominent attorneys. The Ulu Lehua Program extends the mission of its predecessor, the Pre-Admissions Program, founded to address the underrepresentation of disadvantaged communities.

The law school seeks candidates who will contribute to fulfilling the goals of the program, including: (1) addressing the legal and related needs of communities under-served by the legal profession in Hawai‘i and the South Pacific; (2) representing communities that are presently under-represented in the law school and the Hawai‘i Bar; (3) serving as role models for and mentors to others who are striving to overcome adversity and to reach their full potential as community leaders in Hawai‘i and the South Pacific; and (4) bringing distinctive viewpoints and life experiences to the law school community, enriching the understanding of all who work and study here.

Degree Programs

Full-Time Program

The JD program is a 3-year, full-time course of study that begins in August with a 3-day orientation for new students. The JD degree is awarded upon completion of the satisfactory completion of 89 credit hours, including a selection of required courses. Completion of the program must be attained within seven years of the date of first registration. Full-time study is defined as registration for a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester plus regular attendance at scheduled class meetings. In addition, all law students must complete 60 hours of pro bono legal service in order to graduate. Visit the law school website for a detailed description of the degree requirements.

The first-year curriculum offers a conventional format of required substantive courses and intensive small group seminars in legal writing, research, and advocacy. The program for the second and third years is primarily elective and includes writing and research seminars, clinical and skills workshops (some of which involve students in actual litigation under the Supreme Court’s Student Practice Rule), and a variety of courses in both traditional and new areas of law.

Part-Time Program

In the fall of 2008, the law school launched a part-time evening program, leading to a JD degree. Part-time students share the same competitive qualities of the full-time student body and graduation requirements are the same for both programs.

A student in the part-time program typically takes between 8-11 course credits over 3-4 evenings per week. The first 2 years of the part-time program are structured to allow students to complete most of the required courses. Making steady parttime progress, including summers, a student should be able to graduate in 4 to 5 years. There is no separate application for admission; applicants may indicate on their application a desire to be considered for the part-time program. Students admitted to the part-time program may continue to hold a full-time job.

Advanced JD Program for Foreign Law Graduates

The Advanced JD allows graduates of foreign law schools to complete their U.S. law studies and earn a JD degree in as little as 2 years. Under this program, qualified foreign law graduates may be admitted with advanced standing and awarded up to 29 credits for their previous law study. The decision on the number of credits to be granted will be made when the application is considered, and successful applicants will be notified at the time of admission how many credits they will receive for their foreign study.

Most students admitted to this program will complete the first-year required JD curriculum in their first year of study, then take their choice of elective courses in the second year of study. We work with all students to design an individual program suited to their background and interests, including participation in our programs in environmental, international, and business law.

The 2-year JD program provides foreign law graduates with the best preparation for bar admission and for the successful practice of law. Advanced JD students are full members of our law school community. Students admitted to the accelerated JD program receive the same degree as other JD students and are eligible to take the bar examination in all U.S. jurisdictions, if they meet the other requirements for admission. For more information, email:

LL.M. Program for International Students

The Masters of Law (LL.M.) program is a 1-year course of study open to foreign legal professionals and law graduates who wish to gain a broader understanding of U.S. and international legal issues. The program begins in August; no students will be admitted mid-year. To graduate, students must complete at least 24 credit hours. Students are free to design their own course of study in consultation with the LL.M. director and may select a range of courses and seminars in areas such as business and commercial law, environmental law, and international and comparative law. The program may (but need not) include first-year courses, which serve as an introduction to U.S. law and methods of study. With the consent of the instructor and the LL.M. director, LL.M. students also may enroll in courses offered by schools or departments outside the law school or participate in legal externships.

The Introduction to American Law course is required and restricted to LL.M. students, but LL.M. students will take all other classes with American JD students and will have ample opportunity to interact with them. The small size of the LL.M. program and of most School of Law classes promotes close interaction, and LL.M. students are encouraged to participate in all aspects of law school life.

Doctor of Juridical Science Program

The Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) degree is an advanced legal degree with a focus on original research and scholarship under faculty supervision. Successful candidates for the degree must produce a work of publishable scholarship that makes a unique contribution to the legal scholarly literature. The program is intended for those who teach or wish to teach law, or are involved in policy work in research institutions or government organizations.

For the SJD program, the maximum course load for any semester is 8 credits. During the fall and spring semesters, 4 credits constitutes a part-time load and 8 credits constitutes a full-time load (or 1 credit of LSJD 500.) For the maximum load, any credits exceeding 8 credits are subject to faculty advisor approval and must be taken on an audit grading basis and does not count towards the SJD degree. For the summer session, 2 credits per session (or a total of 4 credits for two sessions with faculty advisor approval) constitutes a part-time load and 4 credits per session (or a total of 8 credits for two sessions with faculty advisor approval) constitutes a full-time load.

Additional Information

For complete information on admission to the law school’s degree programs, contact the Office of Admissions at 2515 Dole Street, Honolulu, HI 96822 or online at

Special Programs

Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law

The Ka Huli ‘Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law was established in 2005 at the law school through a grant under the Native Hawaiian Education Act. The center focuses on education, research, community outreach, and the preservation of invaluable Hawaiian historical and legal materials. It also offers a variety of courses and supports law students as they pursue legal careers and leadership roles in the Native Hawaiian community. Center faculty have expertise in many aspects of Native Hawaiian rights, water law, Federal Indian law, and traditional and customary rights issues. With assistance from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and other generous community supporters, the center supports a Post-JD Research Fellowship program; awards Summer Fellowships allowing law students to work for Native Hawaiian organizations over the summer; awards student scholarships; and publishes scholarship on Native Hawaiian law. Students may receive a Certificate in Native Hawaiian Law by taking a series of courses in this specialization.

Dual Degree and Graduate Certificate Programs

Law students may integrate their law school work with other graduate work at UH Manoa and receive both the JD degree and a graduate degree. The most popular dual degree programs have been the JD–MBA, the JD–master of urban and regional planning, and the JD–MA in Asian studies, although other dual degrees may be approved in consultation with the law school. Students may also pursue graduate certificate programs including ocean policy, resource management, or gerontology.

Students interested in dual degree or certificate programs must apply separately and be admitted to both the law school and the graduate or certificate program. Admission to one program does not guarantee admission to the other.

Elder Law Program

The UH Elder Law Program (UHELP) consists of two components: the Elder Law course and the Elder Law legal services project. The course is part of the law school’s educational program for training law students in the rapidly expanding field of elder law. The Elder Law legal services project provides direct delivery of limited civil legal services to older persons who are socially and economically needy. It also provides education, training and advice to older persons, their families, and caregivers regarding the often complex legal aspects of caregiving. This direct legal services project is an important source of cases assigned to law students in the Elder Law Clinic.

Environmental Law Program

Recognizing the challenges that Hawai‘i faces in developing an environmentally sustainable economy, the law school has developed a vibrant and diverse Environmental Law Program (ELP). ELP offers a significant number of exciting and varied courses in environment law and related fields. The centerpiece of ELP is the Certificate in Environmental Law. The certificate program recognizes the increased student interest in this area, the expertise of a substantial number of our faculty, and growing opportunities in the field. Students interested in the certificate might also want to consider pursuing a Graduate Ocean Policy Certificate, offered at UH Manoa. The ELP certificate is available only to UH law students. For more information on ELP, visit our website at

International Law Program

In 2016, the law school approved a new Certificate in International Law, reflecting the extensive expertise of the faculty and strong student interest in this growing field. The certificate is available to students who pursue a focused course of study in international law. Courses available include International Business Transactions, International Criminal Law, International Economic Law and Business, International Environmental Law, International Human Rights Advocacy, International and Foreign Law Research, International Intellectual Property, International Ocean Law, International Protection of Human Rights, and Transitional Justice and War Crimes Tribunals.

Pacific-Asian Legal Studies

In keeping with Hawai‘i’s location, culture, and history, the law school has long featured a Pacific-Asian Legal Studies Program (PALS). The law school offers an exceptional range of courses on Pacific and Asian law: students may take general Asian and comparative law courses or choose from specialized courses on China, Japan, Korea, and the Pacific. Our PALS faculty members are actively engaged in current Asian-Pacific issues and bring an unusual depth of expertise to their courses. They are recognized nationally and internationally for their scholarship, which they combine with extensive real-world experience. The law school invites distinguished visitors from Asia and the Pacific to visit and teach short-term specialized courses to supplement the regular curriculum. To recognize students who concentrate in Pacific-Asian law, the law school awards a PALS certificate. PALS actively supports student participation in externships in Asia and the Pacific as part of their law school program, which will also count toward certificate credit. Students may also benefit from some of the many exchange relationships the law school maintains with law schools throughout the Asia-Pacific. For more information, visit our website at

Pro Bono Program

The Pro Bono Program at the William S. Richardson School of Law was one of the first law school pro bono programs and is thought to be the first student-initiated mandatory program in the nation. Students are required to locate and to provide 60 hours of law-related pro bono work under the supervision of an attorney, law school faculty or dean or other supervisor, as approved by the law school Pro Bono Program director. The definition of law-related pro bono work includes law related work in the public interest with private practice and nonprofit attorneys as well as international, federal, state, or local government agencies, courts, or legislatures. Law students are encouraged to provide a portion of their pro bono service for indigent clients. The pro bono requirement began with the entering class of August 1992 and successful completion of the pro bono service requirement is a condition for graduation.

Student Organizations

Law student organizations include:

‘Ahahui o Hawai‘i
Advocates for Public Interest Law
American Bar Association-Law Student Division
American Constitution Society for Law and Policy
Asia Pacific Law & Policy Journal
Black Law Students Association
Client Counseling Team
Delta Theta Phi Legal Fraternity
Environmental Law Society
Environmental Moot Court Team
Ete Bowl
Federalist Society
Filipino Law Student Association
Hawai‘i Women Lawyers
Hispanic Moot Court Team
Intellectual Property Moot Court Team
International Environmental Moot Court Team
International Intellectual Property Moot Court Team
International Negotiations Team
James S. Burns Aloha Chapter, American Inns of Court IV
La Alianza
LAMBDA Law Student Organization
Law and Business Organization
Lawyers Against Sexual Violence
Law for Youth Empowerment
Native American Law Students Association Hawai‘i Chapter
Native American Moot Court Team
Pacific-Asian Legal Studies Organization
Phi Delta Phi International Legal Fraternity, Richardson Inn
Philip C. Jessup Moot Court Team
Robert F. Wagner Labor and Employment Moot Court Team
Space Law Moot Court Team
Student Animal Legal Defense Fund
Student Bar Association
Students for Public Outreach & Civic Education
Students with Keiki
University of Hawai‘i Law Review
William S. Richardson Literary Journal: A Creative Outlet