University of Hawaii dedicates new clinical building

They just do things differently — and much cooler — in Hawaii.

In the mainland, when you dedicate a new law school buiding, you cut a ribbon.  

When a new clincial building was dedicated recently at the Univesity of Hawaii at Manoa - William S. Richardson School of Law, the ceremony came with an Hawaiian blessing, a traditional maile lei cutting and words of hope and gratitude.

As said, that's just much cooler. 

The celebration ended a 15-year quest for much-needed space to provide practical training for law students while simultaneously serving members of the community in need of access to justice.

UH President David Lassner called the new building yet another important way the law school is committed to community service and embedded in the community. “It will help us serve the people of Hawai‘i,” Lassner told a crowd of several hundred filling two classrooms. 

Dean Avi Soifer and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Denise Antolini expressed their thanks to all those who had a part in the project, from its beginning more than a decade ago. “It takes a bazillion people to say ‘yes’ to build a building,” said Antolini. “And it took all of them to say ‘yes’ thousands of times.”

Antolini guided the clinical building through numerous phases, and Honolulu attorney Mark Davis led the campaign to raise necessary funds from private donors and his Davis Levin Livingston law firm and foundation provided a $1 million leadership gift.

Davis stressed the unprecedented generosity of the legal community and he emphasized that the new building will be a place “where students learn to be lawyers – courtroom lawyers.”

“The justice system is going to depend on things like this for students to learn how to deliver justice, and learn how to use the justice system,” he said. Within the pillars of our democracy, added Davis, “our law schools have a special responsibility … The courtroom remains a venue for civil discourse. To maintain a viable civil justice system this building is important.”

The $9.3 million project – which included over $2 million in philanthropic funds that paid for things like moveable partition walls, flooring, ‘white boards,’ an advanced IT system, and sustainable features like the PV units on the roof - was a combined effort of the law school, UH administrators, and the state legislature, whcih  approved $500,000 in planning funds in 2006 and then provided funding and the authorization of revenue bonds in 2013.

The legislative package included $3.5 million in general obligation bonds backed by the state, and the authorization of $3.5 million provided by the law school through a combination of tuition and philanthropy.

Two rooms on the second floor of the new building will house the Hawaiʻi Innocence Project, a student-staffed clinic with the mission of exonerating factually innocent incarcerated individuals. Another two rooms will provide space for the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, which offers free legal assistance through Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services.

Molly Olds, a student who works on Innocence Project cases, says the new building is important for their clients. “It will offer us more space, and privacy to work on their cases,” she said.


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