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 at Mānoa is located at the foot of the 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 unequaled 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.

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The JD Program

At the Law School, we are committed to learning as a collaborative enterprise. Our program challenges students to grow intellectually and professionally. Faculty members engage with students as partners as well as serving as sources of knowledge. A foremost concern of the Law School is to provide assistance in "learning how to learn." Students prepare for a challenging and rewarding professional life equipped with skills in legal counseling, advocacy, and decision-making. Students are encouraged to study law and legal institutions as integral parts of larger social, political-economic, and ecological systems.

The Law School curriculum is rich and diverse. Classroom experiences include vigorous discussion in traditional Socratic classroom settings, as well as lectures, seminars, informal small group discussions and individually supervised field and library research projects. Writing skills are honed in small groups and on a one-to-one basis with experienced faculty and practitioners. Students participate in experiential clinical courses that provide a wide array of opportunities including real courtroom experience, simulation clinics and externship opportunities. All students in the full-time JD program must enroll for at least 12 credits during the three-year program. A normal semester course load is 14 to 16 credit hours. Through rigorous, stimulating, and challenging study, the Law School's graduates are well-prepared to work in any jurisdiction in the country.

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Student Life

Student Publications, Teams & Organizations

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.

Career Placement and Bar Passage

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.

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Tuition and Aid

Richardson Opportunity Grants
Our biggest source of financial aid is need-based funding in the form of Richardson Opportunity Grants. Richardson Opportunity Grants may be available to students who demonstrate financial need based on information provided on their FAFSA . The maximum annual UHM award for law students is $6,000. Students must be enrolled at least half-time to receive the Richardson Opportunity Grant. Funding is limited and as a result we encourage you to file your FAFSA as soon as possible during each year you will be enrolled.

Internal Scholarships
The Law School has a very limited merit scholarship budget. The largest merit scholarship award for an entering JD student is $10,000 per year.  Prospective JD students do not need to complete a separate scholarship application for merit scholarships.  JD scholarship recipients will be notified by the Admissions Office when they are admitted.  All entering JD merit scholarships require that students maintain a minimum GPA of 2.2. This requirement is outlined in the scholarship award email.  

External Scholarships
Both prospective and current students may explore links to external scholarships at Eligibility for these scholarships may be based on financial need, academic achievement, and extracurricular activities.

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Admission Decisions: Beyond the Numbers

JD Admissions

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 other accomplishments. The Graduate Record Examination(GRE) is also accepted in lieu of the LSAT. 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 Admissions

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

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.

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