New Advanced JD Program Opens UH Law School to More International Attorneys

December 3, 2013

Applications are already being accepted at the William S. Richardson School of Law from foreign attorneys seeking an Advanced JD degree that will give them up to a year’s credit for their foreign law degree, and potentially speed up their course of study.

The newly launched Advanced JD program offers advanced standing to foreign-trained applicants, allowing them to earn the JD degree in as little as two years of study rather than three at the University of Hawai‘i, with the option of taking a U.S. bar exam at completion.

It provides yet another alternative for foreign-trained attorneys who want to study in the U.S., get a grounding in American law, and have the ability to practice anywhere within the U.S.

“This is really an extension of our LLM program [a one-year Masters of Law degree for foreign attorneys], which after 10 years, is now a mature program and has brought us wonderful students from 48 countries around the world,” said Prof. Alison Conner, director of International Programs at the Law School.

“We have found that many foreign-trained lawyers want to take a U.S. bar exam. While many don’t plan to practice in the U.S., they do want another credential. When they return to their countries, they can advise on U.S. law and they have a better chance to work for an international firm if they are admitted to the bar.”

While the new program gives foreign-trained lawyers up to a year of credit for their training in their home country, it also ensures that they can cover courses required by Richardson Law School for a JD degree.

 “The ABA permits U.S. law schools to accept up to one year’s worth of foreign study at an accredited law school,” said Conner. “If the credits are equivalent to ours, then those credits can transfer to the Law School.”

Conner said this new program should be especially attractive to mid-career professionals who may have been practicing for 10 or 15 years in their home countries, would like a U.S. JD, but can’t afford to take three years to pursue one.

“If they already have legal experience and a law degree, they can get advanced standing under this program,” said Conner.

Spencer Kimura, director of the LLM program at Richardson, said there is already interest from attorneys in China, Japan, Poland and Taiwan.

“It does give foreign law graduates an additional option to our one-year LLM program,” said Kimura, “and it does give them more time to prepare for the bar exam or to participate in one of our certificate programs, such as Environmental Law or Pacific Asian Legal Studies.”

Kimura said the two years are needed to cover all the required courses at Richardson so that foreign attorneys will have sufficient grounding in the American legal system. In the second year, a four-credit seminar writing project is required of all students. They also must fulfill the Law School’s requirement of a specified number of hours doing volunteer legal service in the community.

Minara Mordecai, Director of Special Projects at the Law School, notes that this new option will continue to enrich the diversity of the student body at Richardson and open up the school even more to international students.

“The Law School offers unique cross-cultural legal training,” said Mordecai, “and it’s a tremendous opportunity for foreign-trained attorneys to become well-versed in American law. It gives them the flexibility to remain here, or return to practicing law in their home country.”

Law School Dean Avi Soifer added, “We already have been greatly enriched by the presence of foreign-trained lawyers through the LLM program, and we are very pleased to offer this new opportunity to lawyers from around the globe who want to earn a regular American JD degree.”

Deadline for applications is May 1. Inquiries can be made to: AJD Program (Email: lawajd@hawaii.edu; Tel: 808-956-7966).