University of Hawai’i at Mānoa—William S. Richardson School of Law

The information on this page was provided by the law school.

Official Guide to ABA-Approved JD Programs


The William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai’i is located at the foot of beautiful Mānoa Valley, minutes from sandy beaches and lush rain forests, as well as from the economic and legal center of urban Honolulu. We offer an excellent academic program with professors committed to outstanding teaching, scholarship, and public service. Our school is particularly noted for its collegial atmosphere, accessible faculty, student support and camaraderie, and unequalled cultural and ethnic diversity.

Placement after graduation is consistently very high. Our distinguished alumni serve as leaders in national and international arenas, as well as in Hawai’i. We are recognized specifically for our programs in environmental law and international law, with a focus on Asia, Pacific, and human rights law, as well as for Native Hawaiian Law. We are also known for excellent teaching by our renowned faculty members in core law school courses ranging from property and business law to criminal, elder, and constitutional law, as well as for our attention to students in small legal writing classes. The William S. Richardson School of Law is fully accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools.

Programs of Study

We offer a three-year, full-time JD program and an evening, part-time JD program. Law students may earn certificates in Environmental Law, Pacific-Asian Legal Studies, and Native Hawaiian Law. Summer courses are available, as well as free specialized short courses with distinguished visiting faculty in our January Term (J-Term). We also offer a one-year LLM program with specializations available in Business and Commercial Law, Conflict Resolution, Criminal Law, Environmental Law, Ocean Law and Policy, and Native Hawaiian Law. We also offer foreign-trained lawyers an Advanced JD program, which allows them to complete the JD degree in as little time as two years, and we recently began to offer a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) degree.

Environmental Law Program

The Law School’s Environmental Law Program (ELP) was established in 1988 in recognition of the special challenges involved in developing an environmentally sustainable economy within a unique and fragile island environment. It has grown into a comprehensive program with a regional, national, and international reputation for excellence. Thanks to its dedicated faculty, alumni, and friends throughout Hawai’i and the Pacific region, the ELP offers unparalleled opportunities for students interested in focusing their studies in the environmental law field. The ELP has several components:

  1. Certificate in Environmental Law
  2. Faculty and student scholarship
  3. Community outreach and education
  4. Moot court
  5. Colloquia series
  6. Off-campus learning, with an international emphasis
  7. Student-led Environmental Law Society
  8. Career counseling and placement
  9. Postgraduation fellowships

Pacific-Asian Legal Studies

Enhanced by Hawaii’s location, and our extraordinarily diverse population, cultures, and economic relationships, we offer an exceptional program in Pacific-Asian Legal Studies (PALS). The program has the twofold purpose of conducting research and enriching the JD curriculum. Many faculty members have expertise in Pacific-Asian legal scholarship, teaching, and law reform. Recent course offerings have included, for example, Chinese Business Law, Chinese Law and Society, Pacific Island Legal Systems, Korean Law, Philippine Law, Japanese Law and Society, and US-Japan Business Transactions. The Certificate in Pacific-Asian Legal Studies allows students to focus their coursework and to earn recognition for this specialization within the regular JD program.

When approved, selected students may participate in full-semester externships for academic credit in Asia, Pacific Island nations, or elsewhere. Students may also arrange a semester of study in Asia, Europe, and Canada, and we have exchange programs with several leading schools abroad.

International Law Certificate

Our faculty includes many leading scholars in international law; they specialize in areas such as international criminal law, international business and bankruptcy law, international human rights and humanitarian law, and international environmental law. The Law School offers a wide variety of international law courses, allowing students to earn a certificate. Certificate candidates must fulfill specific course requirements, including the basic International Law course as well as a writing component.

Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law

Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law is an academic center that promotes education, scholarship, community outreach, and collaboration on issues of law, culture, and justice for native Hawaiians and other Pacific and indigenous peoples. Established in 2005, Ka Huli Ao offers new courses and supports native Hawaiian and other law students as they pursue legal careers and leadership roles. Ka Huli Ao offers the only Native Hawaiian Law Certificate. Certificate candidates must fulfill course and procedural requirements before being awarded a certificate. Since the certificate program began in 2007, over 100 graduates have received Native Hawaiian Law Certificates.

Ka Huli Ao also brings guests and speakers to the Law School to explore current issues in native Hawaiian and idigenous law. It supports the Law School’s LSAT Preparation course to increase the pool of applicants, particularly from native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and other underrepresented communities. Ka Huli Ao faculty also advise and support the Native American Moot Court Team, which has become nationally recognized award winners. Ka Huli Ao has published four community-focused legal primers focusing on Hawai’i water law, Iwi Kūpuna (ancestral remains), traditional and customary rights, and quiet title and partition law. Ka Huli Ao also maintains the Punawaiola website, which makes valuable legal materials of the Hawaiian Kingdom, including privy council minutes and statutes and constitutions available online. Finally, Ka Huli Ao supports students and graduates who seek externships, summer fellowships, and job placements working on native Hawaiian legal issues at the local, state, and national levels.

Legal Writing

The legal writing program teaches students foundational legal reasoning and writing skills to prepare them for practice through an innovative and creative curriculum of two courses in the first year—Lawyering Fundamentals I and II—and a required upper-level writing seminar. The three required writing courses are taught in very small sections of 8 to 10 students, which provides students with extensive one-on-one guidance through individual meetings and detailed feedback on drafts and rewrites of writing assignments. The first-year courses use engaging teaching methods to focus on fundamental legal practice skills: reading legal authority, developing legal analysis, and learning principles of effective legal writing. The upper-level writing seminar is an exciting opportunity for students to perfect skills as they explore a scholarly topic of their choosing with a professor who shares an interest and expertise in their chosen area of law.

Clinical Opportunities

All students are required to take at least six credits of practical experiential learning, and most students take many more courses. We offer an extensive array of clinical courses and professional skills opportunities. Clinical courses teach and model excellent practice skills and stress a reflective method to approach lawyering behavior. These courses are taught by full-time faculty as well as by some of Hawaiʻi’s finest judges and lawyers, who evaluate and mentor students in presenting oral arguments, handling dispositions, and negotiating for their clients in simulated sessions as well as with real clients. Skills taught in the various clinical courses include interviewing, counseling, fact investigation, drafting, negotiation, alternative dispute resolution, motion practice, trial practice, appellate practice, and legal writing. Our Clinical Program also directly addresses the legal problems faced by some of Hawaii’s most vulnerable people. Clinics include the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, Elder Law, Veterans Law, and the Hawai’i Innocence Project.

Community Service and Pro Bono

Our Pro Bono Program introduces students to public interest service on a voluntary basis and encourages them to respond to unmet legal needs in the community. Each student must complete at least 60 hours of law-related work in one or more agencies or projects. In the past, students have worked for a wide variety of public service groups such as the Legal Aid Society of Hawai’i, Volunteer Legal Services Hawai’i, Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, Earthjustice, and many more.

JD Admission

Admission to our full- and part-time Juris Doctor (JD) programs is determined by an applicant’s academic achievement, aptitude for the study of law, and professional promise. Preference is given to residents of Hawai’i and to nonresidents with strong ties to, or special interest in, Hawai’i, the Asia-Pacific region, environmental law, and other specific programs in the Law School. Approximately 20 percent of our students are nonresidents.

In addition to the LSAT and undergraduate GPA, factors considered for admission include academic work beyond the bachelor’s degree, work experience, writing ability, public service, diversity, overcoming adversity, and unusual accomplishments. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) will be accepted in lieu of the LSAT on a one-year trial basis for applicants wishing to begin their studies in the fall of 2018.

Applications from students wishing to transfer to complete their JD requirements or wishing to visit for a semester or a year are considered for both August and January admission.

LLM Admission

Admission decisions for our Master of Laws (LLM) program are based upon a candidate's previous law study, work experience, English writing ability, letters of recommendation, and TOEFL or IELTS scores. There is no LSAT requirement, but applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in law, or its equivalent, from an institution outside the United States, or a JD degree from an ABA-accredited American law school.

Advanced JD (AJD) Admission

The Law School’s Advanced JD (AJD) program allows graduates of foreign law schools to earn a JD degree in as little as two years. Qualified foreign law graduates may be admitted with advanced standing and awarded up to one year of full-time credit for their previous law study. No LSAT is required for admission to this program.

Law School faculty members work with admitted JD students to design individual courses of study suited to each student’s background and interests. The AJD program offers foreign law graduates excellent preparation for bar admission in the United States and for the successful practice of law. Students who complete this accelerated JD program receive the same degree as other JD students and are eligible to take the bar examination in all US jurisdictions, if they meet other requirements for bar admission.

Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) Admission

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 legal scholarship. A student enrolled in the program must have earned a JD degree from an American law school or an LLM degree from a law school in the United States or another common law country after earning his or her first law degree. The program is intended primarily for those who teach or who wish to teach law, or who are involved in policy work in research institutions or government organizations.

SJD applicants will be required to submit a statement of interest or a preliminary dissertation proposal, a writing sample, official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a CV.

Student Activities

Student editorial boards publish the University of Hawai’i Law Review and the online Asian-Pacific Law and Policy Journal. Students also organize and participate in many aspects of our extensive moot court program, including participating in national and international competitions. Our moot court teams regularly perform well, bringing home national and international titles and awards.

Most students are active in various organizations within the Law School and in the community. A sampling includes Advocates for Public Interest Law (APIL), student divisions of the American Bar Association, American Inns of Court, Phi Delta Phi and Delta Theta Phi, Hawai’i Women Lawyers, and the Environmental Law Society. Student affinity groups include the ’Ahahui o Hawai’i, an organization primarily made up of Native Hawaiian law students; Black Law Students Association; Filipino Law Students Association; La Alianza; and LAMBDA; as well as the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society.

Library and Physical Facilities

The main classroom building features a moot court room and an open courtyard that facilitates informal conversations and activities. A new Clinical Building will be completed by the summer of 2018. It will feature experiential learning and community outreach, focusing on trial practice and advocacy.

Law students have full access to all facilities of the university, including the health, counseling, and computing centers, as well as its extensive athletic facilities. The Law School buildings have wireless Internet access throughout. Law students also enjoy 24-hour access to the Law Library.

Career Services

We assist students and alumni in obtaining part-time, summer, and associate positions in the public and private sectors through our Professional Development Office. Most students choose to remain in Hawai’i or in the Asia-Pacific region, and about 85 percent of our graduates work in Hawai’i after graduation. Many firms in Honolulu, government employers, and public interest organizations participate in on-campus interviews for second- and third-year students. Our students also are among the leaders in the nation in obtaining prestigious judicial clerkships upon graduation. Recent graduating classes have had an employment rate ten months after graduation in the 80 to 97 percent range.

Contact Information

2515 Dole Street,
Honolulu, HI 96822-2350,
United States