New advanced degree programs at UH Law School open to foreign and U.S. attorneys

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Jul 6, 2017

Tae-Ung Baik
Tae-Ung Baik

The UH William S. Richardson School of Law has established two new programs in advanced legal studies aimed primarily at foreign-trained attorneys. The doctoral program is also available to U.S. attorneys hoping to spend time in legal research projects.

The AJD, or Advanced or Accelerated Juris Doctor, offers advanced standing to foreign-trained applicants. It allows them to earn the JD degree in as little as two years of study rather than three, with the option of taking a U.S. bar exam after graduating, and being admitted to practice in the United States.

The SJD, or Doctor of Juridical Science, is primarily intended for those who have completed a JD or an LLM program, and who already teach or are preparing to teach law outside the United States. It is also designed for those involved in policy work in research institutes and government organizations.

Professor Tae-Ung Baik, director of the new SJD program and a member of the school committee that developed the new degree, called both advanced degree programs tremendous options for those seeking advanced legal training in order to further their legal careers virtually anywhere in the world.

“We are confident that the SJD program will provide a great opportunity for international legal practitioners who want to deepen their knowledge to pursue a teaching career in their home countries,” said Baik, a Korean law specialist who is also a member of the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.  "The program will also contribute to the already high quality of legal scholarship at the Law School.”

“These programs allow attorneys from all over the world to continue their legal training in Hawai‘i, and give them the flexibility to remain here or go back to practice law in their own countries,” said Minara Mordecai, director of Special Projects. “We are positioned at an intersection of cultures, and that offers a tremendous opportunity.”

The SJD requires only one year in residence at Richardson, 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.

“We have had people writing to ask if we offer the SJD because they’d like to do it with us,” noted Professor Alison Conner, a China law specialist and director of International Programs at the UH Law School. She chaired the seven-member Law School Planning Committee that developed the SJD program. 

Committee members included Pacific-Asian Legal Studies Professors Baik, David Cohen, Diane Desierto and Carole Petersen, as well as LLM Director Spencer Kimura ’96, law systems librarian Keiko Okuhara and Special Projects Director Mordecai.

“A number of LLMs have said they would like to do a research degree,” continued Connor, “but because we didn’t offer it they had to go somewhere else.”

While the SJD is particularly attractive to foreign-trained attorneys, Connor points out that it is not limited to those only from outside the U.S. but is also to those who earned their JD degrees in the U.S.

“We now offer three possible programs for residents – the LLM, and now the SJD and the AJD, which is really a JD degree doable in two years because it grants some credit for foreign law study,” said Connor.

These two new advanced law programs are ideal complements to Richardson Law School’s existing LLM program, which was launched in 2003 and has already attracted 143 attorneys from 52 countries. The program was recently recognized as one of the best in the nation in three categories by The International Jurist magazine.

The journal gave the Richardson LLM program an A+ for its Academic offerings, and an A for being among the schools offering the Best Law School Experience as well as Career Support. In each of the three categories, it was among the top 10 in the nation.

At its June 2017 meeting, the UH Board of Regents also agreed with the Law School’s request to reduce tuition for the LLM program by approximately one-third, making the program much more affordable. This makes the program more accessible for American as well as foreign attorneys, and will help to encourage students to continue their advanced law studies at Richardson.

A host of international legal academics have lauded the two new programs, with many calling the new SJD an innovation that establishes Richardson Law School as a desirable destination for attorneys seeking global credentials in Asia-Pacific law, indigenous rights, environmental law, and international law and comparative law and business law in particular.

Russell Leu, Vice Dean and Professor of Law at Beijing Foreign Studies University’s School of Law, notes that China’s government policy “favors and supports China’s law graduates to pursue SJD degrees at U.S. law schools,” pointing out that the government also makes funds available for study abroad to develop and increase the number of qualified law professors in China’s 624 law schools. Leu said the option of an SJD program at Richardson definitely increases the chances to attract students from China.

Hawai‘i Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald said the new programs will bolster Richardson Law School’s many strengths, including enhancing the LLM program. He also stressed that Hawai’i’s diversity makes it particularly attractive for foreign-trained lawyers.

Said Richardson Law Dean Avi Soifer, “By offering this degree, we join the most prestigious law schools while we also enhance the experience of all our students from across the globe. 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.”

The new SJD in a nutshell:
* Students who have completed either a JD or LLM may apply for this advanced degree.
* Offers the time for advanced legal research or research on policy issues.
* Cost is $1,200 per credit, with 16 credits the first year and 1 credit per semester in subsequent years.
* Offers an important credential for those who hope to teach law outside the U.S. for both foreign-trained attorneys and American citizens.
* Requires just a year in residence at Richardson, with the expectation that the dissertation will be completed in three years.

The new AJD in a nutshell:
* Provides another option for foreign-trained attorneys who want to get a grounding in American law, and then have the option of practicing law in the United States.
* Foreign-trained attorneys may receive up to a year’s credit toward a JD for their foreign law training.
* The degree enables foreign attorneys to write a U.S. bar exam and practice anywhere in the U.S.

Applications are being accepted for both the SJD and the AJD programs, as well as for the LLM program.

For the AJD, send an email to

For the SJD, send an email to

And for the LLM, send an email to

For more information, visit: