New clinic opens at William S. Richardson School of Law

  • 3 min to read
Law-15.JPG

William S. Richardson School of Law Dean Avi Soifer walks into the new clinical building as it officially opens on Sept. 6. 

A woman gently wiped her cheeks to catch the teardrop escaping her eyes as attorney and fundraising chair Mark S. Davis said, “It will be in this building that generations of future lawyers passing through these halls who learn the skills to enable them to use a jury system and be an active part in preserving that part of our system.”

The new law school clinical building first opened its doors on Sept. 6 with traditional Hawaiian ‘oli and a lei-cutting ceremony before the faculty, staff and students made their way through the corridors and into the new rooms to celebrate its completion and promise. 

“[This is] the place where we’ll be able to most directly connect with the community,” University of Hawai‘i President David Lassner said during the ceremony. “And that really is what is special about this law school as compared to most law schools around the country — is the way it is embedded into the community and supports the community. So the opportunity for the clinics and the public engagement will really help as a law school and a university to serve the people of Hawai‘i.”

The clinic will serve as a space for the school’s growing clinical programs, three of which are currently moving to the building with the other seven in the process of transferring. 

Professor and co-director of the Clinical Law Program John Barkai said that the clinical program has seen growth over the years with 10 clinics and 9 simulation courses presently. 

“It also provides a big physical statement of the importance of the clinics and letting people know what we are doing here at the university. For some clinics, our clients will be coming to the university but for a lot of the clinics we do work through agencies or in other different places,” Barkai said. 

Additionally, the interior design offers multifunctionality. The chairs and tables are mobile and the clinical work will involve roleplay and simulations, as well as a number of rooms that can be used for small legal functions such as depositions, interviews, negotiations and counseling sessions. 

 “I’ve been going here for three years now, and I always saw it in construction and basically from nothing to something, and seeing how it is now is really breathtaking actually,” Erika Ngo, a marketing and travel industry management student, said. 

Law-11.JPG

Members of the William S. Richardson School of Law stand outside of the new clinical building during its opening ceremony on Sept. 6. 

Daniel Hironaka, student services specialist at the law school since 2017, said that the last time he was in the clinical building was last year. 

“Dean (Denise) Antolini gave some of us a tour and the structure was complete but it was very bare-bones, there were no carpets here, exposed wires, the walls weren’t really complete,” Hironaka said. “So, from that point until now going here today, it’s very nice, it’s very modern in here. I saw the mock-ups and blueprint but seeing it in real life is fantastic.”

Antolini, associate dean of Academic Affairs, worked closely on this project from its inception to its existence, attending over 140 meetings with contractors and all partners involved in the production of this project. According to Antolini, it wouldn’t have been possible without the power of yes. 

Law-23.JPG

The interior of the new clinical building at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. 

“It takes a million, maybe a bazillion people, to say yes to build a building, right. All the details. There were some people who just spent years on this project. It took all of them to say yes thousands and thousands of times to build this project. And when people said no, we figured out a plan B, we figured a way around it, we figured out how to solve it; and that’s what we’re trying to convey to our students, faculty and staff at this new building: to be a good lawyer, to serve the community, you have to say yes and figure out how to problem-solve.”

Davis concluded, “It’s an ability for our students to learn how to deliver justice to our community and those individuals, rich or poor, weak or powerful, who depend on our judiciary through the access to justice that they desire and they deserve.” 

“This building will serve as this law school’s commitment to maintaining a viable and active judiciary system.”

Law-34.JPG

One of the office spaces in the new clinical building at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa.