The Young Lawyers Division of the Hawaii State Bar Association has elected Peter V. Lee to president for 2004.

Lee to spearhead
community outreach
for attorneys

Peter V. Lee

>> Board post: President of the Young Lawyers Division of the Hawaii State Bar Association
>> Day job: Senior associate, Stanton Clay Chapman Crumpton & Iwamura
>> Age: 35
>> Admitted to Hawaii bar: 1998
>> Education: Willamette University, J.D., 1993; Lewis & Clark College, B.S., 1990
>> Biography: Deputy Corporate Counsel, Maui County, 1998-99
>> Military: U.S. Army Reserve, 1993-1998; First lieutenant
>> Born: Honolulu, July 15, 1968

What does the division do?

The Young Lawyers Division consists of members of the Hawaii bar age 36 and under, or in their first 3 years of practice. There's about 800 members. The Young Lawyers Division is a public service arm of the Hawaii State Bar Association. It's our job to go and to coordinate projects for the bar to deliver legal services to the community as well as sponsor and organize projects that benefit the membership of the Young Lawyers Division, and those are mostly education type projects. We put on probably a dozen seminars during the year for our members on topics of interest as well as practice tips to help young lawyers become better lawyers. We do a lot of projects in the schools. For example, we have coming up in February a "Ready for the World" project where volunteer attorneys talk to high school seniors about the rights and responsibilities of coming adults from a legal perspective. We have a Junior Judges Program, which is year round where we talk to elementary school students about ethics and making right choices. We have a We the Jury Program, which is a mock trial. We discuss the civic responsibility of serving on a jury and put on a mini mock trial for grade school kids. We've also got a law week, which is in the first week of May, where we put on a series of projects. We have walk-in legal clinics at shopping centers around the state. Under leadership of the previous President Kristie Cruz Chang we won a national award for this particular walk-in clinic. The award being presented in San Antonio next week. Basically members of the community can walk in and get free legal advice or referrals ... as well as handouts. We also will appear in public schools for college and career fairs. We're on call for that. Every Wednesday we put on a legal line for members of the public to call in for one hour. We put on law student orientation for the University of Hawaii. We also sponsor various manuals. It's encouraging and exciting to see a lot of school kids that we meet say they want to become lawyer and say they want more information from us.

What are the most promising areas of law for young people?

Litigation is a growth area. There's no shortage of work for litigators. I think in general society's just becoming more litigious. Another hot growth area is alternative dispute resolution. It's usually done at an hourly rate, just like litigation. The clients are very much interested in ADR, because it usually saves them fees as opposed to going to trial.

Is it tough for young people to start a law career here? Is it better to start on the mainland?

One interesting trend that I've noticed is that in late '90s and early 2000s the number of new lawyers entering the bar dropped by about one-third as opposed to the '80s and early 1990s. I think a lot of that had to do with the economic climate through the early '90s. The pay here was just not keeping up with the mainland. The dot-com boom really drove up the salaries on the mainland and Hawaii's salaries just weren't comparable. But the good effect of that is that with less new lawyers coming in it's easier for the lawyers who do decide to practice here to find employment, and then the economy improved. I think the climate for new lawyers coming in is better, but salaries here are still not on par with what mainland lawyers get. I think we have seen a lot of the top UH graduates are deciding to go to the mainland to practice, and a lot of Hawaii law students that go to the mainland are not coming back, but I don't think it's a huge, dramatic trend. A lot of that's demographic too. We're in what's called the baby bust generation.

Is Hawaii still a good place to start?

Absolutely it's a great place to learn and practice law.

What is your practice?

General civil litigation, business litigation and collections are the big part of my practice. It's more of a personality preference. There's transactional people and then there's litigators. I tried transaction work and I found it kind of boring. One of the really good things about practicing law here, I think we're much more collegial than our mainland counterparts precisely because Hawaii is so small. It engenders a kind of cooperative atmosphere. You can burn your bridges really fast here by being adversarial.

What did you do in the reserves?

I'm a captain in the JAG Corps (judge advocate general corps). It's representing soldiers in disciplinary and criminal actions. I've got a couple cases for nonjudicial punishment type cases -- some soldier flunked a drug test or something like that and they're trying to keep the guy out. I volunteered after 9/11. I just wanted to do something to help.

Inside Hawaii Inc. is a conversation with a member of the Hawaii business community who has changed jobs, been elected to a board or been recognized for accomplishments. Send questions and comments to


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