University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law
Academics & Programs: Nestled at the “crossroads of the Pacific,” the University of Hawaii—Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law offers local, national, and International Students an equal opportunity to get a law degree while enjoying a little piece of heaven on earth. Don’t be fooled by the laid-back nature of the students and faculty—academics here are plenty “rigorous,” particularly in the school’s strong Pacific Island law and environmental law programs. Fortunately, it’s easy to wind down from a long day of hitting the books when you’re surrounded by beaches and happy fellow students. As a second-year student eloquently observes: “Just the right mix of aloha and Socratic thrashing yields capable, happy lawyers.”
Richardson’s “first-rate” faculty has a reputation for being “very accessible and easy to work with,” and it’s obvious to students that “they take pride in teaching.” Even the handful of students who aren’t raving about their instructors can only offer up the mildest criticism, as one second-year demonstrates: “A few I’ve encountered are just okay.” Abiding by an open-door policy and demonstrating an openness “to discussing topics at most anytime,” Richardson professors take the time to make sure that everyone understands the concepts, while at the same time being “very supportive of independent research.” “I generally feel that I am able to explore my intellectual pursuits as I deem fit, with guidance and support from the faculty,” states a 2L.
The “very friendly” administration is certainly accessible; the Richardson School of Law is “the kind of school where the dean is seen in the halls everyday and says hello to you by name,” and administrators are often spotted participating in school activities. In return, they ask for student input on many school matters, such as the hiring of professors, expansion of the school library, and improving student services. Richardson students speak very highly of the regard shown by the entire campus community for the well-being of first-year students, from the “truly concerned” deans to “supportive” upperclassmen. The island is a magnet for a great deal of “very impressive” adjunct faculty and visiting lecturers. “Professors from top law schools are always looking for an excuse to spend a semester or a year in paradise,” surmises a 2L. “[During] my 1L year, I had two visiting professors from Georgetown and one from Duke, in addition to the excellent professors tenured at UH.” Networking opportunities are “exceptional if you’re staying in Hawaii,” although some students seeking employment in the continental United States wish they had more assistance in their job search.
Both the facilities and the library are “useful” and sufficient for the typical student’s needs, and include “access to up-to-date online sources, as well some print materials.” Unsurprisingly, students prefer to congregate outside whenever possible, and a “courtyard where students can relax or talk” is usually where you’ll find them. Even so, students clamor for more study and meeting rooms, and complain about the state of the library and the “very cold” air conditioning levels in classrooms. Luckily, the law school facilities are up for renovation within the next few years.
Campus Life/Facilities: A good mix of students fresh out of undergrad and those with more life experience bring diversity to Richardson’ student population. Some students say that the school is “trying too hard to get diversity,” which results in the enrollment of “lots of mainland people who will get their degree and bolt back.” “Diversity of opinion and views is important, but not at the expense of the community at large,” says a student. Still, there’s not many downsides to life at Richardson. As one can imagine, “It’s a very tightly knit community.” Most students agree that competition at this “small, intimate” school is present and “healthy,” but it takes a back seat to “learning how to be both a zealous advocate for clients and a responsible officer of the court.” Classmates definitely “don’t claw each other to get to the top of the class.” It’s hard to imagine all that much backstabbing going on when “The culture and values of Hawaii permeate the school and administration,” and the general happiness of students contributes to a “communal atmosphere” in which students “build ties and form lifelong bonds.” “You become ohana (family) when you attend the Richardson School of Law,” says one student. Still, there’s a bit of “Hawaiian/not Hawaiian, haole/not haole tension” present on the island, but “in general, it’s civil.” The options of things to do in your downtime are unrivaled. “How many schools have a Surf Club?” asks a first-year. There are a “wide variety” of student clubs and organizations on campus (it’s also easy to start one), and these groups do “a nice job” of promoting events such as guest speakers and symposiums.
* The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.