The Environmental Law Program:
A Special Program in a Spectacular Setting

THE DRAMATICALLY BEAUTIFUL HAWAIIAN ARCHIPELAGO is one of the most isolated places in the world. Its special geographic location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has contributed to the evolution of spectacular and unique island ecosystems that are particularly vulnerable to disruption. Population growth in Hawai‘i has brought important economic development, but it also has created significant stresses on the environment. Although Hawai‘i represents less than one percent of the land mass of the United States, Hawai‘i has 80 percent of its coral reefs and approximately 75 percent of the nation’s listed endangered species. Conflicts over use and management of the state’s limited natural resources, particularly developments along the coastline, constantly challenge the abilities of Hawai‘i’s political-legal system.

Recognizing the challenges that Hawai‘i faces in maintaining an environmentally sustainable economy, the School of Law has developed a vibrant and diverse Environmental Law Program (ELP). Since its inception in 1988, the ELP has been a leading specialty program at the School of Law, and we are ranked among the top 25 schools in the nation for studying environmental law. In training future environmental lawyers, the ELP contributes to the advancement of environmental law doctrine, scholarship, and practice locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

The ELP offers a significant number of exciting and varied courses in environmental law and related fields. The cornerstone of the program, the Certificate in Environmental Law, recognizes the strong student interest in this area, the expertise of our faculty, and the diverse job opportunities in this dynamic field of law. In addition to coursework, opportunities for students to develop their real-world legal skills include our environmental law moot court teams, a wide variety of environmental law externships, pro bono projects, the Environmental Law Clinic, and summer jobs. ELP students have worked for private law firms both in Hawai‘i and on the mainland, Hawai‘i government offices (such as the Office of the Attorney General and the Legislature), public interest law firms and organizations (ranging from Earthjustice to the Pacific Legal Foundation), federal agencies (including the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard), Native Hawaiian interests (from the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation to an indigenous resource management organization on the mainland), and at all levels of the judiciary.

rainforest picture The cliff's of Mt. Ka'ala, O'ahu, feature native Hawaiian rainforest.

Della Au Belatti, class of 2003, who clerked with Hawai‘i Supreme Court Justice Simeon Acoba, comments: “The faculty, visiting scholars, and students of the School of Law’s ELP gave me a uniquely valuable law school experience. There were always exciting programs and speakers on campus, and the challenging coursework presented the wide range of environmental law issues facing lawyers and society at large. I was equally impressed with and grateful for the numerous opportunities for students to learn and interact with practicing attorneys, travel to out-of-state conferences to enhance our learning, and get involved with the community through pro bono projects or clean-ups. Put simply, the ELP provided a rich learning environment!”