William S. Richardson School of Law
For many, spending three years in Honolulu would be dream come true; it behooves future law students to remember, however, that the majority of their time will be spent in the library, not at the beach. And so, prospective students should look beyond the University Of Hawaii Richardson School Of Law's picturesque location when deciding whether to attend. It is likely that they will not be disappointed with what they find-though job-placement statistics will undoubtedly serve as cause for concern.
Admissions & tuition
Admissions at Hawaii are more competitive than the raw numbers suggest. The Princeton Review gives the school an "Admissions Selectivity Rating" of 87 out of a possible 100. This seems high given the 25th to 75th percentile ranges for GPA and LSAT (3.21-3.68 and 155-160 for full time). A closer look, however, shows that Hawaii selects only 20% of applicants (224 out of 1,098). This can most reasonably be taken to indicate that the admissions committee at Hawaii looks beyond the numbers, searching for soft-factors would add that "something extra" to the entering class, and in-state status is one of those. Numbers are still important, however, so applicants above Hawaii's full time program medians of 3.51 and 157 will stand a better chance of admission.
Hawaii also accepts applicants on a part-time basis. Here, we find the admissions process to be competitive as well. 14% of applicants were accepted to the part time program last year. Those admitted had GPA's ranging from 3.02 to 3.61 for the 25th to 75th percentiles, and LSAT scores which ranged from 147 to 154. The part time program's medians were 3.43 and 151.
Hands down, Hawaii is one of the cheapest tier-2/tier-3 law schools in the country. In-state students pay an uncommonly low $15,581 per year in tuition, while out-of-staters pay a still decent $28,565. With all other expenses (room & board, books, misc. fees) totaling only around $16,000, in-state students enjoy an annual cost of attendance just over $30,000, which is what tuition alone costs at many U.S. law schools.
Perhaps because of the low cost of attendance, the financial aid office at Hawaii has become slightly stingier recently. Only 6% of students receive grants totaling more than half the cost of tuition; and the median grant is $5,223, though this is still good relative to the school's costs. The strength of the school's financial aid program (combined with the cheap tuition, of course) is best evidenced by graduates' low average indebtedness: only $53,569 per student (USNews).
Employment prospects for Hawaii grads do not provide quite as much hope for one's financial future as the school's low tuition does. Hawaii employs about 70% of students upon graduation, leaving 30% to search for jobs after that. Hawaii grads do fare better, however, with time. According to USNews, 100% of graduates secured employment within nine months of graduation, though Brian Leiter of the Leiter Rankings casts doubt on that number.
For those who do find jobs, the private sector is the most common. 37% of graduates entered this field, according to US News, with salaries ranging from $55,000 to $80,000. Those who entered the public sector earned less money with a median of $55,200 (though it should be noted that this number is high when compared to schools across the country).
Most students- around 85%-stay in Hawaii after graduation; and those who do leave the state generally do not go far, with most finding work in the Pacific states. US News reports that 3% found work abroad and 6% in other parts of the country. It is possible, then, for Hawaii grads to find work outside of the pacific states.
Overall, Hawaii does not shine academically. The school ranks 72nd among 195 law schools in the country. This is a solid ranking, but it will do little to give the school national recognition. As the school's Dean correctly points out, however, the school's "face-to-face culture and the extraordinary ways in which our students look out for one another cannot be easily measured. In addition, these rankings are skewed against smaller schools like us"
More narrowly, students praise the school's program in environmental law. A search on the school's website reveals that the course offerings in the field are strong; but the school does fail to place in the top-20 on USNews' ranking of Environmental Law programs (not that this is sufficient in determining the worth of the program).
Hawaii does stand out with its focus on Pacific-Asian Legal Studies, for which it has a very strong clinic and a strategic location for studying. Other clinics include: the Native Hawaiian Rights Clinic, the Family Law Clinic, and the Prosecution Clinic, among others.
Quality of life
While some students complain about job placement, or grumble on about the school's facilities, few will complain about the quality of life at Hawaii Law.
With a total enrollment around 300, Hawaii students enjoy a small and reportedly tight-knit community. Competition is said to be rare, as "[t]he culture and values of Hawaii permeate the school and administration," as one student interviewed by the Princeton Review puts it. Also likely to contribute to the non-competitive atmosphere is the school's location. Yes, downtime is a rarity any law student; but those who can find some during their time at Hawaii have seemingly limitless options for de-stressing. It is Hawaii, after all. There are a wide variety of academic and social clubs (including a Surf Club) that allow students to enjoy each other's company, and Hawaii's unique environment, outside of the classroom.
Also notable as influential on quality of life at Hawaii are the school's efforts to build a diverse faculty and student-body. A testament to the success of such efforts is the Princeton Review's ranking of Hawaii as #3 on a list of schools providing the "Best Environment for Minority Students" and #5 on a list of schools with the "Most Diverse Faculty."
Hawaii's quality of life is tough to beat, as is the school's low cost of attendance; but many Hawaii graduates struggle to find work, and those that do are often limited geographically. These are all factors, among many others, that any prospective student should keep in mind when evaluating the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law.
U.S. News Ranking: 95; 26th Part-Time Program
LSAT Median: 157 (FT), 153 (PT)
GPA Median: 3.37 (FT), 3.32 (PT)
Multiple LSAT scores: Higher score accepted
Application Deadlines: 02/01
Application fee: $75
Entering class size: 88 (FT), 28 (PT)
2009-2010 Tuition: $8,364 (In-State), $15,936 (Out-of-State)
Bar passage rate: 75% (First-Time Hawai'i Bar)
Graduates employed or seeking graduate degrees 9 months after graduation: 92%
Median private sector starting salary: $55,000 (88 graduates reporting from the class of 2009)