Law School's new Doctor of Laws degree garners strong international interest

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Jun 21, 2016

UH Law School SJD planning committee members, with Program Director/Professor Tae-Ung Baik, at left.
UH Law School SJD planning committee members, with Program Director/Professor Tae-Ung Baik, at left.

The UH Board of Regents has approved a new Doctor of Laws degree at the UH Law School, which is already accepting applications for Fall 2016 from students who have completed an LLM – Masters of Law – or JD degree.

The new SJD (Scientiae Juridicae Doctor) has been in development for several years at the William S. Richardson School of Law on the UH Mānoa campus, and has received broad international support. Korean legal scholar Professor Tae-Ung Baik has been named SJD Program Director.

The new SJD program calls for a year in residence at the Richardson Law School, with seminars and courses to support students in preparing their dissertation proposals and launching their research. The goal is for students to submit finished dissertations by the end of their third year of candidacy.

“By offering this degree, we join the most prestigious law schools while also enhancing the experience of all our students from across the globe," said Law School Dean Avi Soifer.  “We have a remarkably broad and deep faculty with particular expertise in international law, comparative law, indigenous law, environmental law, business law, and the law of countries in Asia and the Pacific -- all of which are of increasing importance throughout the world.”

While the SJD is primarily intended for those who teach or hope to teach law outside the U.S., it’s also aimed at those involved in policy work in research institutes and government organizations. It has often been requested by foreign-trained law scholars who are earning an LLM at the UH Law School, and who wish to continue their legal studies here.

“We have people writing us to ask if we offer the SJD because they’d like to do it with us,” said China specialist Professor Alison Conner, who chaired the seven-member Law School Planning Committee that developed the advanced program. “A number of LLMs have said they would like to do a research degree and, because we didn’t offer it, they had to go somewhere else.”

Director of Special Projects Minara Mordecai coordinated the SJD committee efforts.

LLM student interest, plus strong support from Law School faculty and from leading law schools throughout Asia, provided much of the impetus to develop the new program.

In writing to support the program, for instance, Russell Leu, Vice Dean and Professor of Law at Beijing Foreign Studies University’s School of Law, stated that “opportunities to attract more Chinese law graduates will significantly increase with your Law School’s establishment of an SJD program.”

Leu noted that China government policy “favors and supports China’s law graduates to pursue SJD degrees at U.S. law schools.” And he pointed out that the Chinese government makes funds available for study abroad “to develop and increase the number of qualified law professors in China’s 624 law schools.”

Law deans from 12 other schools in Asia and Australia similarly offered  strong letters of support.

In addition, Hawai‘i Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald offered major support for the new program, writing that the LLM program that has drawn students from more than 50 countries has already enhanced and helped educate the community about the global legal world. “I am confident that the proposed SJD degree will bolster the Law School’s many strengths,” including enhancing the LLM and the new Advanced JD program, said Recktenwald.

Richardson Law recently graduated its first AJD cohort, and the LLM program was recently expanded to include U.S.-trained lawyers. The AJD degree enables foreign-trained attorneys to spend two years at Richardson in specialized courses that enable them to take the bar exam and to practice law in the United States.

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