GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Father and daughter attorneys Chester Kanai and Salina Kanai Althof talk in Courtroom 2 at Circuit Court.
Dad, daughter follow the law
Criminal defense is this family's specialty
Salina Kanai Althof had no intention of doing what her father does for a living.
While growing up, attending Iolani School and even during college she didn't even know what her father, longtime criminal defense attorney Chester Kanai, did, even though she had seen media coverage whenever he had a high profile case and had spent time in his office.
"It looked boring to be honest. I thought all he did was paperwork," she said.
And Kanai never tried to expose any of his children to his profession. Not to insulate them from his job but because that was just his personality. His own parents ran Kanai Tofu Factory.
Everything changed while Althof was completing her undergraduate studies at New York University. She majored in metropolitan studies and planned on a career in social work. One of the requirements to graduate is to complete an internship.
In her senior year Althof interned with the Legal Aid Society of the City of New York, Criminal Defense Division. It performs the same function as Hawaii's Office of the Public Defender. The experience convinced her to switch from social work to law.
"I tried to talk her out of it," Kanai said.
He told his daughter about how tough it is being a lawyer, that it may not be for her and thought about the high cost of law school.
"My pocketbook shivered," he said.
But Althof had her mind made up and enrolled in the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan.
It was only after her first year in law school that Althof saw her father in action in the courtroom.
"It was a little weird. His courtroom personality is different," she said.
But she said the experience opened her eyes.
"I saw him advocate for someone. That's what drew me to the profession," she said.
After getting her law degree in 2002, Althof passed New York's bar exam and got a job with the Office of the Appellate Defender.
She returned to Hawaii in 2004 and got a job with the state Office of the Public Defender. She has been doing trials for the past 3 1/2 years.
Kanai said he has sat in on a couple of his daughter's trials and believes she enjoys being a defense attorney more than he does. He talks with his daughter occasionally about work but he doesn't offer her advice.
"She thinks I'm too old," he said.
Kanai started practicing law in 1975, before his daughter was born.
Althof said she relies on the advice of her colleagues in the public defender's office.
When asked whether she would join her father's private practice, Althof said, "He hasn't asked me."
Kanai said working with his daughter would be weird. "It's like teaching your wife to drive."