New study ranks School of Law high in list of top 20 law schools

The School placed third in helping graduates find state and local clerkships

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Cynthia D. Quinn, (808) 956-7966
Interim, Associate Dean for Student Services, William S. Richardson School of Law
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Apr 2, 2012

The UH Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law has long been known for its commitment to public service and its support and employment assistance for its students, but now it has been nationally recognized for these attributes.   
The January 2012 issue of preLaw, a magazine published by the National Jurist, ranks the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa's Law School in third place on its list of top 20 law schools in helping students find prestigious state and local judicial clerkship positions.
Richardson Law School placed after Seton Hall University and Rutgers-Camden which were first and second, respectively, in having graduates placed in state and local clerkships.

“About 4.5 percent of law school graduates land a state clerkship with a median annual salary of $45,000, and .9 percent serve in local clerkships with a median annual salary of $42,000,” the National Jurist article pointed out.

By comparison, Richardson Law School's total of 101 graduates in 2011 garnered a combined total of 32 state and federal clerkships. (In a survey of all Class of 2011 graduates, 98 responded and 87% of the entire class reported being employed, with 3 not seeking employment.)

The breakdown of those 32 judicial clerkships is as follows:

     - 18 at the Circuit Court;

     - 8 at the Intermediate Court of Appeals;

     - 4 at the Hawai‘i State Supreme Court;

     - 2 in federal court.

Law School Dean Avi Soifer notes that Richardson graduates are obtaining both state and federal clerkship positions in high numbers.

“We just finished compiling employment data for the class that graduated last May and the number of federal and state clerkships they landed went up significantly even compared to the class on which the National Jurist based its rankings,” said Soifer.

Soifer gave tremendous credit to the commitment of faculty members in mentoring students, as well as the legal community’s strong support of the school’s outstanding graduates. He added, “The key factor is that we have extraordinary students. We also emphasize writing skill more than most law schools do and this is very important to judges in selecting their law clerks.”

Christopher Leong, a 2011 graduate now clerking for Hawai‘i State Supreme Court Associate Justice Paula A. Nakayama, has high praise for the Law School’s pro-active stance in helping graduates.

“The school organizes a number of informal sessions with current and past clerks to give them a chance to share about their legal experiences working at court,” said Leong. “Even if a law student is not completely aware of post-grad clerkship opportunities, the school does its best to plant the seed in the minds of the students."

In addition, Leong noted that the school maintains a database of contact information and job availability for all the different courts and judges. Leong said that the information is updated annually which helps significantly in figuring out who is hiring and how to contact them directly.

Michele Sonen, another 2011 Richardson graduate now clerking for Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai‘i, also credits the Law School’s faculty and leadership for the encouragement and support she received in applying for her federal clerkship.

“My professors and Dean Soifer strongly encouraged clerking and guided me through the application process. They were also more than happy to write me letters of recommendation, which, I believe, significantly strengthened my application,” said Sonen, who also worked with Mollway as an extern while still in law school.

Sonen added, “My clerkship exposes me to a variety of issues, legal procedures, and areas of law, as well as different lawyering styles.”  She noted that the experience she’s gaining - being mentored by a judge, and seeing how Mollway approaches and analyzes legal issues - is invaluable. "These are lessons I will carry with me throughout my career," said Sonen.

This new recognition for Richardson Law School comes on the heels of the latest U.S. News & World Report annual rankings in which Richardson maintains its spot as the highest-ranking small law school in the top tier of American law schools. Richardson Law School also continued to rank number one in the country in terms of diversity and third best overall for its low faculty/student ratio.

National Jurist, the leading American journal covering law education, gathered data from a number of sources on every American Bar Association- approved law school in the country, then calculated the Top 20 in five different categories of employment strength, including: government; prosecution and public defenders; federal clerkships; state and local clerkships; and public service.

The data was published in the story entitled “The Best Schools for Public Service,” offering key points such as salary level and numbers of graduates working in these areas.