Amanda Jenssen

Hometown: Kailua, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i

Degree: B.A. in Political Science, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, 2006

Why did you choose UH Law?
For an aspiring family law attorney like myself, UH Law offers an exciting array of courses, clinics and opportunities in family law and child welfare. This unique, Hawai‘i-specific curriculum not only provides excellent legal training but also addresses the needs and aims to improve the lives of court-involved or at-risk children and parents. After my first year, I had the great privilege of studying under Professor Calvin G. C. Pang, participating in the Child Welfare Clinic, interning at the family law firm Hartley & McGehee LLP, externing as a law clerk for two Family Court judges and receiving professional advice from Dean Laurie A. Tochiki (“the mother of family law in Hawai‘i”). These formative experiences linked me to the most amazing mentors and deepened my commitment to serving Hawai‘i’s families. Ultimately, I am so thankful that UH Law chose me.

Describe a highlight of your law school experience.
Among the many highlights of my law school days, like “talking story” with the late CJ Richardson in the courtyard or touring around prospective law students, I will always treasure my involvement in the Child Welfare Clinic—a groundbreaking collaboration among professors and students from the Schools of Law, Social Work, Education, Public Health and Nursing. During our semester-long project, my team of law and social work students helped Farrington High School’s Teen Center to promote its student-led peer mediation program. These empowered teens became a major source of inspiration for me and I truly believe that we made a positive impact on the Kalihi community.

Describe a professor or mentor who has inspired you.
The one professor who pushed me past my limits and allowed me to redefine myself is the incomparable Professor Eric K. Yamamoto. While he is an internationally-recognized law professor and social justice icon, Professor Yamamoto remains the most humble, kind, generous, attentive and nurturing mentor. In addition to taking his outstanding courses, including Civil Procedure, Complex Public Litigation, and Race, Culture and the Law, I had the great honor of serving a two-year term as his Research Assistant for scholarship on racial justice and social healing. In 2010, Professor Yamamoto and Professor Susan Serrano selected me as their Equal Justice Society Scholar Advocate and trained me to do complex legal work on reconciliation, reparations, civil and human rights and national security and civil liberties. The Scholar Advocacy program gave me the knowledge, skills and awareness that continues to advance every aspect of my work. Professor Yamamoto is a gifted healer, a talented musician, an influential humanitarian and a true educator who leads by example and inspires his students to always practice pono.

What have you most appreciated about being an Ulu Lehua Scholar?
Entering law school as an Ulu Lehua Scholar was the greatest gift. Our program is a symbol of Richardson’s commitment to social change in Hawai‘i. We, Lehua, have a very strong, special kinship among our students and alumni. We have a deep understanding of our responsibility to serve our communities and protect those most vulnerable to injustice. We collectively strive to honor the social justice trailblazers, including our late former Directors Chris Iijima and Judy Weightman, who have sustained this extraordinary program. I am so proud to call myself a Lehua and eternally grateful for the academic, emotional and spiritual support from Professor Linda Hamilton Krieger (aka “Aunty Linda”) and my classmates.

What advice would you give to an entering law student?
Like my Dad always tells me, “Pour yourself into it.” And to our incoming Lehua, mālama kekahi I kekahi (take care of one another).

Students Speak

  • As a practicing attorney in Environmental Law in Japan, I was drawn to the strength of the Environmental Law Program at UH. I am striving to earn a specialization in Environmental Law.”
  • I chose UH Law because Hawai'i is my home and I plan on staying here to practice. Also, as a Hawaiian, I am interested in Native Hawaiian Rights under the law, thus, the program here allows me to explore this interest in great depth.”
  • There is a feeling of being one family. Everyone is working to help us to succeed.”
  • Keep the balance and communication open with your loved ones. You'll hear this 1000 times but it really is important.”
  • I knew my family and I would be happy here, and I've always wanted to live in Hawaiʻi. I was also attracted by WSRSL's small size compared to other Tier One law schools.”
  • A highlight for me was volunteering to be a bailiff at the Susan B. McKay competition. I saw upperclassman compete orally in front of real lawyers and judges from our community. I was amazed at the professionalism and skill that the competitors showed.”
  • I chose UH because they offer a specialization in Criminal law. The other reason is the fact that I wanted to live in Hawai'i.”
  • The student body has been gracious and keeps a good balance between academics and social engagements.”
  • After reading about law school, I was expecting the professors to publically humiliate the students with the socratic method but it turns out they are quite friendly and even humorous at times.”
  • I would describe my law school classmates as “social characters.” Everyone came to this law school from many different places, financial backgrounds, and ethnicities.”