2515 Dole Street
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-7966
Fax: (808) 956-6402

Dean: Camille A. Nelson
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs: Nicholas Mirkay
Interim Associate Dean for Student Services: Trisha Nakamura

General Information

Since admitting its first class of students in 1973, the William S. Richardson School of Law has graduated thousands of attorneys, most of whom continue to serve in the state of Hawaii. Richardson graduates have risen to prominent positions, including governor of Hawai‘i; lieutenant governor; president of 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 masters of law (LL.M.) for international students.

Student Body

The Law School attracts students from all over the world who wish to take advantage of our unique programs and educational opportunities. And as the only law school in Hawai‘i, we naturally enroll many students from the state and the Pacific region who are interested in the school’s exceptional Pacific-Asian, Native Hawaiian, International Law, or Environmental Law areas of emphasis. Each entering class (approximately 90 full-time day students and 24 evening part-time students) typically reflects the unique multicultural community of Hawai‘i. In more recent years, our entering class has been two-thirds 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 Mānoa (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), 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 unique 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 considered in the admission process.

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 submission of transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a completed law school application to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).

Application Deadlines

Applications for admission must be filed with the School of Law and must be submitted online through the Law School Admission Council. 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 under-served 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. Ulu Lehua Scholars, like all first year (1L) law students, take Contracts, Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, Lawyering Fundamentals, Legal Research, and Torts. However, Ulu Lehua Scholars take American Legal Systems during their first year. 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 Ulu Lehua Scholars to critical legal theory and to other interdisciplinary perspectives on the relationship between law and social change. Ulu Lehua Scholars also benefit from a structured program of tutoring 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 law school journals, legal organizations, 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 under-representation 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 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 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 part-time 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.

LL.M. Program for International Students

Our Master of Laws (LLM) Program provides foreign and American law graduates with the opportunity to build upon their legal education and expertise. We accept applicants who have earned a law degree from outside the U.S., such as a bachelor’s degree in law (LL.B); and we also accept candidates who have earned the Juris Doctor (JD) degree in the U.S. Both types of students are fully integrated within the Richardson Law School Community and enjoy the flexibility to design their own curriculum. LLM students must complete 24 credits to obtain a general LLM degree. Up to six of the 24 credits may be taken as graduate level courses outside the Law School.

For law graduates coming from other countries the LLM offers a broad introduction to U.S. and international law, with the option of obtaining a certificate in a specialized area. The LLM degree can satisfy the course requirements for those who wish to take the New York or California bar examination. LLM students who do exceptionally well may be considered for transfer to the JD program if they wish to continue their law study in the U.S.

American lawyers who wish to pursue a general LLM (with the option of obtaining a certificate in a specialized area) are encouraged to apply. The Law School offers a significant number of advanced courses, as well as opportunities for supervised research projects, in the areas of: Environmental Law; International and Comparative Law; and Human Rights and Social Justice. The LLM program for American students encourages an interdisciplinary approach and thus permits students to take up to 6 of their 24 credits from graduate departments outside the Law School. The LLM for American lawyers also includes the opportunity to conduct advanced legal research and complete a substantial research project or clinical project in the student’s area of specialization. American lawyers may elect to complete their LLM degree on a part-time basis, however, only a selection of elective courses are offered during evening hours.

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 by emailing 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 Mānoa 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, JD-MSW, 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: Law School courses at the intersection of Law, Aging, and Medicine, 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 fields of elder law and health law: bioethics. 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 nationally and internationally recognized Environmental Law Program (ELP). For over thirty years, ELP has offered a significant number of exciting and diverse courses in environmental law and related fields. The program also collaborates to create student opportunities via the environmental law clinic, two moot court teams, for-credit externships, student travel grants, paid research associate positions, paid summer Jarman Fellowships, and paid ELP Post-Graduate Fellowships. The centerpiece of ELP is the Certificate in Environmental Law. The certificate program recognizes increasing student interest in this area, the expertise of a substantial number of our faculty, and growing opportunities in environmental law for future attorneys, policy makers, and scholars. The ELP certificate is available to only 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 faculty’s expertise in the area and student interest in this growing field. Students who wish to obtain their JD with a Certificate in International Law take a foundational course in the field (LWPA 585 International Law) and then complete three additional elective courses in the field of international law. Possible electives include: International Protection of Human Rights; International Environmental Law; Climate Change Law and Policy; International Business Transactions; International Criminal Law; International Ocean Law; International Economic Law; Space Law and Policy; and Gender: Law and Conflicts. (Not all electives are offered every year.) Students seeking the Certificate in International Law will also take at least one course in foreign or comparative law, giving them exposure to the domestic legal systems of foreign countries. Students can also participate in one of the Law School’s three international moot court teams and conduct research on an international law topic with supervision from members of the faculty.

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 non-profit 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