Long-time Legal Aid donor Susan Ichinose has a legitimate reason to believe that she is investing in something worthwhile – she has seen the organization up close and personal as a member of its Board of Directors.
Susan served on the Board from 2005 to 2017, holding several positions such as President (2013-2014 and 2014-2015), Vice-President (2007-2008, 2008-2009 and 2012-2013) and VP-Secretary (2011-2012). She described fellow members as “effective, socially conscious, and sincere.” And that’s everyone, she says, not only lawyers but community directors who represented the clients.
“I believe strongly in Legal Aid,” says Susan, who saw the organization transition through leadership, including the rise and growth of Nalani Fujimori Kaina, Legal Aid’s Executive Director.
“Nalani is a dynamo and a game-changer. She is a strong administrator, but more importantly, she is a visionary. She sees things and people not just as they are but as what they can be. Beyond the bounds of Legal Aid, she can be a future leader of Hawaii if she so chooses. Getting to work with her, and to know her, has been a privilege that I may not have experienced but for my service on the Board.”
Susan is a former career commercial litigator who now concentrates entirely on neutral work – as an arbitrator, mediator, independent factfinder and workplace investigator, and expert witness. For public service, she was elected by members of the Bar to sit on the Judicial Selection Commission (2008-2014), and served as its Chair (2012-2014). She recently served as a member of the Judiciary's Civil Justice Improvements Task Force, and has been a Board member of the Mediation Center of the Pacific since 2018.
How did you find out about Legal Aid?
It’s a renowned national organization with a long history of providing free legal services to needy persons in the community. So I've known about Legal Aid for a long time, even before I became a lawyer.
Why did you decide to become a Board member?
Like many lawyers, I believe strongly in community service. Legal Aid is definitely in the forefront of that. And so when the HSBA called for nominees to serve on the Legal Aid board, I was happy to volunteer and honored to be selected.
Describe your experience serving on the Board.
It was a tremendously rewarding experience to serve on the Board. I got a chance to contribute to Legal Aid's meaningful community service, and was rewarded also by getting to know other Board members who served with me. Wonderful people like Howard Luke, Joe Boivin, Jodi Yamamoto, Lowell Chun Hoon, Robin Kobayashi, and others became my lifelong friends. I was honored to work with Legal Aid’s wonderful staff members, not to speak of the lay Board members like the late, great community activist Alice Greenwood. I believe I got more out of my serving on the Board than Legal Aid ever did.
What makes Legal Aid worthy of your support?
Legal Aid is the only non-judicial organization I know of that has its own staff lawyers and permanent professional support staff providing free legal services day in and day out. It's always there, ready to be counted on to assist with legal advice. This includes representation in social service agency proceedings, and, in appropriate cases, court representation. Even if you can't contribute time, every dollar you can spare uplifts someone's hopes, and the community as a whole.