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School of Law

General Information

Since admitting its first class of students in 1973, the William S. Richardson School of Law has graduated more than 2,000 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, and prosecuting attorney offices.

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 a satisfying career in legal and related fields. The school also offers an LL.M. for international students.

Student Body

Many of the over 300 students in the law school either were born in Hawai'i or have other ties to the state or region. We also welcome students from the continental U.S., Asia, and the Pacific. Many students from out-of-state express an interest in the school's exceptional Pacific-Asian or environmental areas of emphasis. Each entering class (approximately 90 in number) typically reflects the ethnic diversity of Hawai'i and includes individuals of African American, Caucasian, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, and Pacific Island ancestry. Currently enrolled 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 mission of the William S. Richardson School of Law is to provide formal legal education, encourage and support scholarly legal research, and promote justice in our society and professional responsibility and public service within our profession. We share the goals of the State of Hawai'i and UH Manoa to provide educational opportunities for the people of this state and to be leaders in environmental law, Pacific and Asian legal studies, and the law of the sea.

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 graduate degrees at UH Manoa while undertaking the JD program.


The accreditation process of the American Bar Association (ABA) is designed to ensure that approved law schools have adequate facilities and adhere to sound educational policies. The School of Law has been fully approved by the ABA; this enables its 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), LL.M.


Students have access to academic, personal, and career counseling at any time during the program. Academic counseling is intended to assist the student 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.

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