people standing outside the U H law school clinical building

The William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa dedicated its new clinical building on Friday, September 6. The celebration capped a 15-year quest to provide an essential space for practical training for law students while simultaneously serving members of the community in need of access to justice.

Thousands of hours of free legal assistance are provided annually by the law school to some of the state’s most vulnerable people, including elders, veterans, youths, immigrants, prisoners and families living at or below poverty levels. The building will house many of the dozen clinics that provide direct service to clients in the community, with law faculty guiding students as they learn to work with real people on real problems.

people standing outside the U H law school clinical building

Dean Avi Soifer told the crowd at the dedication that the new building is a continuation of what law school has embodied from its start—commitment to the community and serving those who need it. “At the same time we’re serving, we’re teaching,” said Soifer.

The $9.3 million project—which included more than $2 million in philanthropic funds—was a combined effort of the law school, UH administrators, donors and the state Legislature. Julie Levine, the school’s executive director of development, organized the campaign chaired by Honolulu attorney Mark Davis.

The campaign raised more than $4 million from 120 donors, including 13 law firms and four foundations. Half of the funding was needed for the new building, with the remainder used to help refurbish areas in the adjoining law school building that are nearly 40 years old.

Two rooms on the second floor of the new building will house the Hawaiʻi Innocence Project, a student-staffed clinic with the mission of exonerating factually innocent incarcerated individuals. Another two rooms will provide space for the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, which offers free legal assistance through Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services.

Molly Olds, a student who works on Innocence Project cases, says the new building is important for their clients. “It will offer us more space, and privacy to work on their cases,” she said.

Denise Antolini, associate dean of academic affairs, told ceremony attendees, “Some of you may not know that CJ (former Chief Justice William) Richardson was personally involved in the early planning phase. He quietly told Avi and me that he had always envisioned a third law school building on this very spot. Dean Soifer and I might have been a little slow in catching up with CJ’s clear vision, but we are finally here, thanks to him, and all of you.”

For more on the dedication, read the full story on the law school website.

Learn more about the UH law school at UH News.