Orientation for incoming UH Law School class builds new bonds and commitments

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Aug 25, 2016

Students in the incoming UH Law School class take the Student Pledge at the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Students in the incoming UH Law School class take the Student Pledge at the Hawaii Supreme Court.

What does it mean to be a new Richardson Law School student? A great deal.

During a week of Orientation activities before classes began on Monday, August 22, the incoming class heard about careers from practicing attorneys, had a rapid-fire tour of the Hawai‘i Supreme Court and its environs, were warned about dangers of unguarded Facebook pages, listened to stories about daily life in the law, and heard what it means to become a “Richardson lawyer” and to carry on the work of the Law School’s inspiring namesake whose life was dedicated to seeking justice and to public service.

As the week was coming to an end, the students raised their right hands and took the Law Student Pledge administered by Hawai‘i Supreme Court Associate Justice Paula Nakayama, joined by Associate Justices Sabrina McKenna and Michael Wilson. The students committed themselves, among other things, to guard legal, civil and human rights zealously, “and above all to endeavor always to seek justice.” The pledge, written by the late Professir Chris Iijima, is part of the traditional entry to Richardson Law School for each incoming class.

The new students also heard from former Governor John D. Waiheʻe III, a graduate of the first Richardson class in 1976; Supreme Court Associate Justice McKenna, a 1982 Richardson graduate; three Hawai‘i judges; an Assistant U.S. Attorney; a daughter and son of the late Chief Justice William S. Richardson; the Dean and Associate Deans; Law School faculty and staff members; and from key UH Mānoa campus service providers, including the Title IX Office, Public Safety and the Counseling Center.

And in a “pass the mic” exercise in which incoming class members introduced themselves and heard introductions by faculty and staff, they began to bond into the ‘ohana for which Richardson Law School is well known. Faculty and staff members joined more experienced students in recounting how this Law School stands out because it nurtures its students and endeavors to ensure that all are successful.

“It’s different than when we went to law school when no one cared what happened to you,” Chief Deputy District Judge Barbara Richardson, the daughter of Chief Justice Richardson told the students, speaking of her experience years ago at a law school on the continent. “When we went to law school it was miserable,” she said. But at UH, said Richardson, “the staff and administration are trying to create an ‘ohana. The mission is to thrive and succeed here.”

The 83 incoming day and evening students also were strongly cautioned to care about themselves – and each other – and to start by ensuring that their Facebook pages were scrubbed.

“What is your Facebook page saying about you?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Johnson ’87. “Is it something you would want your employer to see?”

Johnson went on to tell the incoming class that most employers now Google prospective employees. More than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies report that they Google prospective employees, he said, and about one-third of all job seekers are passed over because of what their Facebook pages show.

“Think about where you are headed,” Johnson told them. “It’s time to be professional.”

Bill Richardson, son of the Law School’s namesake, challenged the new students to learn the law and to carry it on with his father’s spirit, but with their own personal passion.

He quoted his father’s advice: “Find out what the backgrounds of your students are because that’s their passion. If you find your passion (and pair it with the law), you will never waste your time.” 

The busy downtown day within the Orientation events included lunch at the Pacific Club hosted by the Starn, O’Toole, Marcus & Fisher law firm and discussions by the Honorable Michael Broderick (ret.), the Honorable Karen T. Nakasone and Stefan Reinke from Lyons, Brandt, Cook & Hiramatsu about their career pathways and the work/life balances they experienced.

The incoming class includes: 

  • 65 day full-time JD students.
  • 18 Part Time Evening Program JD students.
  • 3 transfer students.
  • 1 visiting student.
  • 1 exchange student.
  • 5 LLM students in the Masters degree program.
  • 4 AJD students who receive credit of up to one year for their foreign law training and can earn the JD in two or more years.
  • 2 visiting international professionals.
  • 1 student beginning the Law School’s new SJD program, which is the degree required to teach law in most countries.

Entering students range from a Finnish former pro tennis player to skydiving and skin-diving enthusiasts, three former school teachers, a government analyst, submariner, airline pilot, waitress, and a physicist who fell in love with law and switched disciplines. They are from Vancouver, Boston, Cuba, Portland, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Maui, Hilo. One suffered a near-death experience in the past year and is grateful to be alive.

For LLM student Hamzah Alzahrani from Saudi Arabia, the Orientation was impressive. “All the people are so humble,” he said. “It’s a motivation, a good start for Law School.” Alzahrani hopes to finish his Masters of Law at Richardson and then to join the new SJD program for a doctorate degree with a focus on Human Rights.

“Orientation has relieved a lot of anxiety,” noted Ui Tanigawa, a Trustee Aide at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, who is starting class as an Evening Part Time Program student. “I enjoyed meeting my classmates, and am excited to begin the journey.”

For more information, visit: https://www.law.hawaii.edu/