Law School ranks among nation's best for experiential learning

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Apr 1, 2014

Richardson Law School students work with clients at an Elder Law Clinic.
Richardson Law School students work with clients at an Elder Law Clinic.

The UH Law School has again been ranked among the very top law schools in the nation for the opportunities it offers students to have real-life “hands-on” legal experience as part of their legal training.

In the February issue of Prelaw magazine, the William S. Richardson School of Law ranked 6th for offering clinics in which students help actual clients handle legal issues.  And now The National Jurist’s March issue includes Richardson Law School on its Honor Roll as one of the country’s Top 60 law schools delivering practical training.

In The National Jurist ranking, Richardson earned an A- for the variety of opportunities it provides students, including externships, clinics and pro bono work in the community. The story notes that a 2012 survey of law school students by the Law School Survey of Student Engagement showed that clinics, pro bono work and field experience “offer students opportunities to fine-tune their thinking, to sift, sort and analyze information that likely will benefit them in future practice.”

Law Dean Avi Soifer said Richardson has long considered service to the community as one of the most important elements of the legal training it provides.  “We are extremely fortunate to have a faculty very much engaged in the community,” Soifer explained, “and we are small enough that our students get individualized attention and first-rate training from these terrific, caring mentors.”

Richardson was one of the first Law Schools in the country to add a pro bono requirement for graduation, first suggested by students themselves in the early 1990s. Students are required to provide 60 hours of free legal help to the community. This has totaled thousands of hours of legal assistance over the past two decades for some of the most needy and vulnerable people in Hawai’i.

For instance, the Elder Law Clinic founded by Professor James Pietsch has served more than 10,000 clients in its two and a half decades at the Law School. “We were one of the first law schools in the nation to have a mandatory pro bono program,” noted Pietsch in a recent article, adding that the pro bono requirement was suggested by some of the same students who started in his Elder Law Clinic.

A number of students explain that the main reason they chose Richardson Law School was because of its enthusiastic and extensive outreach, and the opportunity to learn in real-life settings. And Hawai‘i Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald has called the UH Law School “a vital partner” in addressing community needs.

In giving Richardson an A- as one of the “Best Schools for Practical Training,” National Jurist ranked schools for their overall comprehensive programs. Richardson was one of 15 schools to receive an A- among the top 93 schools in the country. Of those 93 schools, only 60 made the magazine’s Honor Roll.

In February, when Prelaw ranked Richardson 6th in the nation for the opportunity it offers students to learn real-world skills, the magazine noted that with “experiential learning still a buzzword in legal education, the number of clinical opportunities at law schools continues to grow.”

The magazine ranked the Top 20 schools for clinical opportunities; Yale Law School was ranked first.