Keone J. Nakoa

Hometown: Honolulu, HI

Degree: BA, Biological Anthropology, Harvard University

Why did you choose UH Law?
I wanted to study at a smaller school where the professors were active and engaged with their students. I also chose UH Law because I want to practice in Hawai‘i, so UH Law offered a unique perspective to gain access to and learn about Hawaiʻi's legal system.

What were you doing before you started Law School?
For nearly the last four years, I have been a member of U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka's staff in both his Washington, D.C. and Honolulu offices. I performed several different roles, including being a staff assistant, caseworker, new media specialist, and speechwriter.

Where are you headed after you graduate?
I'm interested in serving the public and helping our Native Hawaiian community, however I'm not certain where my study of law will lead me immediately after graduating from Richardson. I'm open to a variety of specialties and am looking forward to trying on different jobs through the various internship, externship, and pro bono opportunities available to students at Richardson.

Describe a highlight of your law school experience.
Meeting and getting to know the other students in my law school class has been one of the biggest highlights for me so far. Students have come from such a wide range of backgrounds and experiences and each gives a unique perspective, both in and out of the classroom.

Describe a fellow student or professor or mentor who has inspired you.
Kirk Caldwell, an alumnus of the UH Law School, has been a mentor and an inspiration to me for years. While volunteering in his office as an undergraduate, he showed me that lawyers can be wise and effective advocates for the people. I have always admired him for his honesty, motivation, and genuine concern for doing what's best for Hawaiʻi and its people. After beginning my studies at Richardson, I can see how this environment nurtured the same values in its students that I admire most in him.

Describe your favorite organization and some activities related to that organization.
Although I haven't had very much experience with the different organizations around campus yet, I have enjoyed every minute I've spent coaching the Ete team (women's flag football team). Whether at practices or fundraisers on campus, I love the team spirit and drive that the other coaches and players have shared with me. I'm looking forward to my first Ete bowl this fall and helping the Law School women beat the alumnae.

Describe your UH law school experience in 3 words.
Challenging. Fun. Community.

What advice would you give to an entering law student?
Don't take things too seriously; make friends with everyone; and get involved.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started law school?
Settle down and enjoy the experience. It's been great so far, and I'm finding the activities available to me out of the classroom as interesting and useful as the ones inside. 

What law school organizations/activities are you involved in?   
I'm involved in coaching Ete, representing the 1L class in the SBA (our student government), the UH Law School ambassadors, a community service legal society, the Native Hawaiian students organization, and I hope to get involved with the moot court teams more next year.

Which professor has most inspired you the most?  How?
I have really enjoyed learning from my Legal Practice professor, Mark Pettit. He told us his story about how he represented some of the richest bankers in the world at a big law firm in Connecticut, as well as some of the poorest people in the country in urban Chicago before becoming a law professor. I appreciate that he's gotten the chance to do a little bit of everything, and that he really cares about his students, which comes through in his class. He has shown me that the law is just a tool. It simply grants us access to our legal system. It's up to each lawyer to uphold justice through their ethical, correct, and fair practice of it.

Where can we find you when you're not in class?
When I'm not in class, I can most likely be found in the library, it's the best place to study that I know. However if I'm not on campus, I'm usually spending time with friends or family around town, especially trying out the latest restaurants!

What do you like most about UH Law?
My favorite thing about the law school are my classmates. Because the size of the class is so small, it allows us to get to know everyone. I've enjoyed making friends, sharing my experiences with them, and learning about theirs too. It makes for a less competitive environment where everyone helps each other out, instead of showing each other up.

How would you describe your classmates?
Unique, fun, and involved. Since we have almost every class together as 1Ls, I really enjoyed seeing how our classmate's personalities, including their senses of humor, often come out in class. Everyone has their own very unique back stories, why they're here, how they got here, and where they want to go. I'm happy to have the chance to learn from my classmates, and hopefully help them out as well wherever I can.

Students Speak

  • I was working at the Al Lawati law firm which provides legal service to Oman Oil in Oman. I had previously practiced law in Iran since 2001.”
  • Hawai‘i is home, and the William S. Richardson School of Law is Hawai‘i’s law school. UH Law School alumni include successful practitioners and valuable contributors to Hawai‘i in a variety of other roles.”
  • 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.”
  • Before I started Law School I taught high school English at my alma mater for a few years. After teaching, I worked with the local organization that managed AmeriCorps programs in American Sāmoa.”
  • It's the total package for me. I am able to attend law school at home, be around my family and friends, watch my nephew grow, dance hula, and be a part of a really special community at Richardson.”
  • I consider the program as a pioneer on the frontier of legal education. One gets to experience the best of legal education while maintaining a critical eye on the process as a whole.”
  • 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.”
  • The UH Law community exemplifies the Hawaiian word “ohana.” Students, faculty, and other staff are very friendly and welcoming. There is no aggressive competition between the students, and the professors are welcoming and accessible.”
  • There are a lot of fun events, panels, and speakers. These events help you learn more about the law profession and also help you get to know your classmates. While you will need time to study, make some time for these events too.””
  • I would describe my law school classmates as “social characters.” Everyone came to this law school from many different places, financial backgrounds, and ethnicities.”