The Best Lawyers in Hawaii 2007

This year, we present our largest pool of lawyers ever, with 222 individual attorneys in 38 specialties.

Over the past 10 years, HONOLULU Magazine’s biennial Best Lawyers list, a partnership with research firm Woodward/White, has been a valued resource for our readers. Here are the best counselors the Islands have to offer, whether you need to write a will, review a contract or recover damages. This year, the list has the largest pool of lawyers ever, with 222 individual attorneys in 38 specialties. While several lawyers earned distinction in more than one category, congratulations are especially due to Jeffrey Portnoy, of Cades Schutte, who was voted Best Lawyer in five specialties (including first amendment law, for which we retain his services).

We also asked four of Hawaii’s best lawyers for tips on avoiding legal trouble. While some attorneys have dealt with the high-profile cases you find splashed across the front page, others conduct most of their practice without setting foot in a courtroom.

L. Richard Fried, Jr.
Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury
Cronin Fried Sekiya Kekina and Fairbanks

Honolulu attorney L. Richard Fried, Jr. has a national reputation in the fields of medical malpractice and aviation law.

Photo by Olivier Koning

When Island residents recall last spring’s 40 days of rain, they remember the victims of the Kaloko Dam breach. When the Peterson family’s story unfolded—a local hospital gave a newborn baby carbon dioxide instead of oxygen—people’s worst medical fears were realized. L. Richard Fried, Jr., was at the helm of both of these high-profile cases. Over the years he has helped his firm win more than a billion dollars for its clients. In the Peterson case, the parents received the highest single personal-injury settlement in Hawaii’s history, $16.5 million.

It may seem like common sense to do so, but many people fail to check if their doctor is insured and board-certified. A doctor needs to be both to earn active hospital privileges. “I would never get surgery from someone without active hospital privileges,” Fried says.

“It’s important to speak to a doctor who can give you good advice,” Fried suggests. “I can’t tell you how many cases I hear where the client says, ‘Betty said this doctor would do a good job; how would I know if he was unqualified?’” Fried advises seeking referrals from a trusted medical professional, such as your family doctor.


Crystal Rose
Commercial litigation
Bays Deaver Lung Rose & Holma

Crystal Rose helps settle disputes.

Photo by Olivier Koning

“When a dispute arises, seek advice early,” says attorney Crystal Rose. “Don’t wait until the problem is insurmountable. The sooner we’re consulted, the more options there are for us to work with.”

A founding partner of her law firm, Rose has chaired and sat on various law and business committees, volunteered time for community service and taught law classes and seminars. Her involvement in headlining cases such as the legal reform of the multibillion-dollar Bishop Estate in the 1990s—and her 25 years of law practice—made her a top choice to defend Kamehameha Schools’ admissions policy.

While you may never be involved in a case as large as that one, one thing will make any court trial easier, and hopefully faster: Proof. Save and back up documents, including electronic correspondence, such as e-mails. “In this age of technology,” Rose says, “documentation must be kept so when a dispute arises, it will assist your case.”


Leighton Yuen
Real Estate Law
Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel

From luxury condos to big-box retailers, Leighton Yuen lends a hand to local industries.

Photo by Olivier Koning

Leighton Yuen’s success is tangible: Concrete examples—literally—of his work in real estate law are scattered throughout the state. From a mirrored high-rise building that visually dominates the developing Kakaako area to the classrooms of Kapolei High School, Yuen can drive around town and say, “I had a part in that.”

His field of legal expertise allows Yuen to stay active in several industries, making his own career as varied as the companies he represents.

His client roster contains some of the biggest names in the state’s developers, including the McNaughton Group, the Kobayashi Group and Castle and Cooke Resorts.

Of one McNaughton group project, for example, the arrival of the Bougainville Costco, Yuen notes that it “changed the way retail is done in Hawaii.” It was the state’s first Costco, and “it broke the mold of conventional thinking and now everyone shops there.”

His philosophy about his work in real estate law? “A good lawyer takes an interest in his clients and becomes, in effect, almost like a business partner,” he says.


Ruth Oh
Immigration Law
Kobayashi Sugita and Goda

Watch out for immigration urban legends and Internet advice, says Ruth Oh.

Photo by Olivier Koning

You’ve heard the story before—the one about your friend’s uncle’s sister who received a green card after marrying a United States citizen. Attorney Ruth Oh warns against believing this urban legend. Throughout her 14-year career in immigration law, representing individuals, healthcare providers, hotels and nonprofit organizations, Oh has often run into clients who have tried to self-assess their legal situations. “People hear stories about what someone else did and follow the same steps, not realizing their situation is different,” Oh says.

Although we live in the age of technology, Oh also cautions against following advice found on the Internet. “There are few situations where one size fits all. Every case should be reviewed on its own merits.”

In an area where a legal misstep could lead to deportation or denial of citizenship, Oh stresses the importance of obtaining a qualified lawyer. “Many families have been nearly destroyed as a result of the harsh consequence of removal from the U.S.,” she says. Oh recommends finding a lawyer who stays current on trends in the field, as immigration law is an area under constant remodel.


Frequently Asked Questions

In publishing six editions of the Best Lawyers list, we have found that certain reader questions often arise. Here are some answers to these common concerns:

Q: Who creates the list?
A: The national legal search firm Woodward/White attempts to find the best of the legal profession by asking lawyers themselves who they would turn to with a problem. According to the firm’s Web site: “We poll only a select group of prominent and respected attorneys. Our belief has always been that the quality of a peer-review survey is no better than the quality of its voting pool.”

Q: Who gets to vote?
A: Except for newly added specialties, such as land-use and zoning law, medical malpractice law and white-collar criminal defense, all of the voting for Best Lawyers is done by lawyers in the previous edition. According to Best Lawyers, this creates a level of transparency in the polling process.

Q: Can a lawyer buy his or her way onto the list?
A: Lawyers cannot pay to be listed. Furthermore, attorneys who advertise are not shown any special treatment or given higher prominence within the list.