The William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai‘i and the Faculty of Law and the Law School at Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU) in Tokyo recently signed a partnership agreement to facilitate the exchange of both professors and students.
The agreement will eventually enable students from the UH Law School to spend a semester abroad in Japan studying law in English. More immediately, however, it will bring students from Japan to Hawai‘i next spring for an intensive two-week workshop in American law.
Richardson Law Dean Avi Soifer said that the agreement underscores one of the great strengths of the Law School, which focuses on mutual understanding and enhancing professional relationships across the Pacific.
Soifer said, "We were pleased to have a whole delegation on the trip to Japan and our visit was greatly enhanced by the chance to meet many alumni and old friends who are working in Tokyo, as well as by the exceptionally gracious treatment we received at Aoyama Gakuin."
The Memorandum of Understanding establishes both an academic exchange and a cooperative agreement for research and education purposes. Both schools have agreed to facilitate faculty and student exchanges, with details still to be finalized.
"The first stage will be kind of a condensed study abroad program," said Spencer Kimura, who heads the LL.M. program at Richardson that brings foreign lawyers to the Law School for a year-long Masters degree program.
"It's a good opportunity for students from Japan to experience American-style Law School and all the different functions of law, whether it be the courts, a private law firm, or the penal system," said Kimura. "They'll get a training workshop that is a snapshot of different areas of law as practiced in the U.S."
The first group of around 20 students will come to Richardson March 4-15, 2013 for a workshop in the basic principles of American law. They will be joined by a similar group of students from the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa. The daily lecture series will be enhanced by visits to key legal arenas including the Hawai‘i Judiciary, a downtown Hawai‘i law firm, and a jail.
The workshops will be wide-ranging, covering: torts, contracts, criminal law, constitutional law, library research, human rights, Native Hawaiian rights, and legal ethics.
The partnership agreement was forged by Law Professor and Kudo Chairholder David Callies, who has had a long professional relationship with AGU Law Professor Yoshiaki Nakamura, who spent several years at the Richardson Law School as a visiting scholar. Nakamura is a leading scholar of tax law and public finance accounting In Japan.
It was made official this summer by Dean Soifer, assisted by Professor Mark Levin, the Richardson Law School’s Japanese law expert, and by Development Director Carrie Ogami Fuller, who spent time at AGU as an undergraduate exchange student.
Levin said: “We’ve a long history of wonderful friendships with law schools in Tokyo and several exchanges already running with law programs elsewhere in Japan. This is exciting as it formalizes one of those friendships to open up new opportunities to connect our students and faculty with one of Japan’s oldest and well-respected institutions in the heart of the nation’s capital.”
Kimura praised the UH Law School for making this prestigious agreement happen.
“This type of partnership plays to the strength of our Law School in Pacific-Asian legal studies. Partnering with a prestigious school like Aoyama Gakuin provides meaningful exposure for our Law School among the legal community in Tokyo, which is one of the most important locations for international lawyers. In the future, there is also the possibility of expanding this kind of partnership to law schools in other countries, such as China or Korea. It nicely complements our LL.M. program.”
This year there are 13 international lawyers studying for a LL.M. degree at Richardson. They’ve come from nine countries including: Vietnam, Switzerland, Algeria, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Palau, Iran, and the Philippines. They are fully integrated with the other law students, and contribute to the diversity of the Law School community.