UH Law School's master's degree for foreign attorneys earns high marks, becomes more affordable

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Jun 7, 2017

LLM graduates and visiting international professionals with LLM Director Spencer Kimura '96 at the 2017 May graduation.
LLM graduates and visiting international professionals with LLM Director Spencer Kimura '96 at the 2017 May graduation.

The UH Law School’s Masters Degree program for foreign attorneys – the LLM – has been named one of the best in the nation by The International Jurist magazine, which evaluated 450 programs at 153 law schools in its latest issue.

The program at the William S. Richardson School of Law earned an A+ for its academic offerings, and an A both for being among the schools offering the "Best Law School Experience" as well as for career support.

Its high scores placed the Richardson Law School among the top 10 schools in the U.S. cited for academics, top 14 for best experience, and top 11 for career support.

Program director Spencer Kimura ’96 said that LLM graduates are so pleased with the program that they often hate to leave at the end of the year.

“I am constantly amazed by the wealth of experience and diversity that the LLM students bring to the Law School,” said Kimura. “We do our best to integrate them with our students, faculty and staff as part of our Law School 'ohana. Because they have already studied law in their home countries, they are a great resource for us to learn about how the study and practice of law in foreign countries compares to what we do in the United States.” 

The program has attracted 143 students from 52 countries since it was founded in 2003 under the leadership of Professor Alison Conner, a Chinese Law scholar who is the director of international programs at Richardson. The Law School offers more courses on Asian law than any other law school, and it is the only law school in the nation offering courses on Pacific Island and Native Hawaiian law.

The LLM program recently was permitted to be open to United States residents with a JD, said Conner. “And it’s possible to specialize and earn a certificate, perhaps pursue an interest that graduates didn’t have a chance to focus on when they were JD students.”

Said Dean Avi Soifer, “We are extremely proud of our LLM program. Professor Conner’s founding vision has been realized as LLM students from a multitude of different countries have taught us a great deal and enlivened life at the Law School in the process. We also very pleased to announce that the UH Board of Regents has just permitted the Law School to make the LLM program more affordable by allowing us to lower the tuition for both foreign and domestic students.”

The LLM program offers seven specialization certificates: Criminal Law, International Human Rights, Business and Commercial Law, Conflict Resolution, Environmental Law, International and Comparative Law, and Ocean Law and Policy.

Last year the Law School also launched an SJD program – the equivalent of a PhD in law – at the urging of LLM graduates who wanted to remain at Richardson to continue their studies. “We had people writing to us to ask if we offer the SJD because they’d like to do it with us,” said Conner. The SJD is primarily intended for those who teach or hope to teach law outside the U.S., but also for those involved in policy work in research institutes and government organizations. It, too, is open to attorneys from the U.S. continent and local residents with their JDs.

In citing the UH Law School’s LLM program among the best in the country, The International Jurist evaluated a broad number of attributes. In assessing academics, for example, it looked at the percentage of LLM courses taught by tenured law faculty (70-85% at UH Law), the percentage of faculty who studied or worked internationally (90 percent at UH Law), and the typical foreign student enrollment (10-15 at UH Law).

Eight factors were used to evaluate the "Best Law School Experience," with four involving participation in activities such as clinics, law journals, extracurricular offerings and excursions; three involving efforts to help students transition, including helping students adjust, providing mentors and offering opportunities to meet U.S. students; and, finally, whether there was a dedicated office and staff for LLM students.

Criteria for Career Support included the opportunity for counseling, the percentage of graduates with legal jobs one and five years after graduation, and the experiential learning opportunities during the program. International Jurist noted that “two characteristics that several of the top schools share is small class size and tailored career guidance.”

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