A Hawaii Attorney is a lawyer who is barred within the State of Hawaii, or has special permission from the Hawaii Supreme Court to practice within the State for a brief time, and permitted to practice within the Hawaii judicial system. Hawaii attorneys are required, by the Hawaii Bar Association, to maintain good standing with the Hawaii Bar Association, as well as maintain the ethical and moral standards of both The Hawaii Rules of Professional Conduct and the ABA model rules of professional conduct. Hawaii attorneys practice law in all different fields. Hawaii attorneys who practice in civil court handle cases for clients involving torts, contracts, real estate, and any other situation where the plaintiff is looking for a form of damages. Hawaii attorneys who practice in criminal law represent defendants who have been accused of a misdemeanor, felony, or other violation that can result in fines or imprisonment.
How does one become a Hawaii Attorney
To become a Hawaii Attorney an individual must complete years of education as well as pass a series of exams. Every Hawaii Attorney must possess a bachelor’s degree from a college or university recognized by the Hawaii Bar Association. Secondly, a Hawaii Attorney must be a graduate of an accredited law school that is recognized by the American Bar Association. There are alternatives to being a law school graduate that the Hawaii Bar Association will consider in lieu of going to law school. Any information about these alternatives can be gotten by contacting the Hawaii Bar Association.
In addition to graduating from law school, a Hawaii attorney must take, and pass, the Hawaii Bar Exam. The Hawaii Bar Exam is a 2 day comprehensive exam that is administered twice a year by the Hawaii Bar Examiners Office. The first day of the exam consists of 7 Multi-State Essay Exams and 2 Multi-State Performance Tests. The former are essay exams that test on federal substantive law. The latter are 90 minute tests that gauge the applicants ability to take and analyze evidence and substantive law to compose a persuasive and concise memo or brief. The second day is the Multi-State Bar Exam. In addition, on day one the applicant must also take an exam on Hawaii rules of professional conduct. The MBE is administered by the National Board of Bar Examiners and consists of 200 multiple choice questions. The passing rate for the Hawaii Bar Exam is around 71%.
Aside from the substantive knowledge that a Hawaii Attorney must have to practice within the State of Hawaii the applicant must also meet the ethical standards. The Hawaii Bar Association requires all candidates to become Hawaii Attorneys complete a character and fitness application that includes all information that could weigh on an individual’s ability to practice law with in the State. In addition, an individual must also take, and pass, the Multi-State Performance Test, or MPRE, with a score of 85. This exam must be taken either 2 years prior to, or 1 year after, passing the MBE.
Hawaii Court System
Hawaii Attorneys practice in one of many different courts within the State of Hawaii. Many times a client will have the option of litigating in Federal or State court. If you are litigating in federal court it is not enough for your attorney to be barred in the State of Hawaii; he, or she, must also be barred in the federal district where the case will be litigated. The State courts within Hawaii are the: District courts, Family Courts, Land Court, Tax Appeal Court, Circuit Courts, Intermediate Appellate Courts, and the Supreme Court
The District court is the lowest level trial court in the State. These courts handle traffic violations, landlord/tenant disputes, misdemeanors, non-jury civil cases where the amount in question is less than $10,000 and other civil cases where the amount in question is below $20,000.
The Circuit courts hear all probate matters, felonies, civil action involving more than $20,000, and also have concurrent jurisdiction with the District courts over civil non-jury matters where the amount in question is between $10,000 and $20,000.
The Appellate courts in the Hawaii judicial system are the Intermediate Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
If you have a problem with your Hawaii Attorney it is best that you first discuss the matter with your Hawaii attorney to come to an amicable decision. Many times the problem that you have with your Hawaii attorney is just a matter of miscommunication and often times what the Hawaii attorney has done is far being from unethical. However, your Hawaii attorney is under a legal obligation to uphold him, or herself, in a manner that is legal, ethical, and professional on a 24 hour a day basis. If you know of a violation of the Hawaii Rules of Professional Conduct or ABA model Rules of Professional Conduct by any Hawaii Lawyer than you should notify the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. You may download a complaint form at www.odchawaii.com, complete the form, and send the signed form to:
Office of Disciplinary Counsel
1132 Bishop St., Suite 300
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
The Hawaii Office of Disciplinary Counsel does not handle fee disputes. If you have a dispute about fees with your Hawaii Attorney then you should contact the Hawaii State Bar Association mediation and arbitration service at www.hsba.org/attorneyclienrelations to get in touch with a member of the Hawaii Bar Association who can help with free fee dispute arbitration.
Finding a Hawaii Attorney
If you need to find a Hawaii attorney then you may want to take advantage of the Hawaii Bar Associations Referral service at www.hawaiilawyerreferral.com or at 808-537-9140. The referral service will help you find a Hawaii attorney in the area of practice you seek who is close to you for a consultation. This referral service will put you in touch with a Hawaii attorney for one free 30 minute consultation. After the consultation it is up to you and the Hawaii attorney to agree on further representation.
If you cannot afford a Hawaii attorney you may take advantage of a number of legal aid services offered within the State of Hawaii. Legal Line is a legal resource where Hawaii attorneys will answer legal questions from 6 - 7pm on Wednesday nights by calling 808-537-1868. There are also a number of legal aid services where Hawaii attorneys offer pro bono services to individuals who cannot afford a lawyer. For a complete list of these services you may go to www.hsba.org.