Ellen Kawashima


Ellen is the Chair of the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Practice Group at Cades Schutte.

Her practice areas include qualified retirement plans, employee benefits, deferred compensation arrangements, executive compensation and corporate law.

Ellen received her Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics-Applied Science in Physics from the University of California at Los Angeles, and her Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University Law Center. She was a member of the American Inns of Court and a law fellow in Legal Research and Writing during law school.

Ellen is a member of the Business Law and Tax Law Sections of both the American Bar Association and the Hawaii State Bar Association. She also previously served as the Treasurer of the Tax Law Section of the Hawaii State Bar Association. Ellen was selected by her peers to be included in Best Lawyers in America since 2010 and was named Lawyer of the Year in Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law – Honolulu by Best Lawyers in American for 2014. She has also been named by Chambers & Partners USA: as one of America’s leading lawyers for Labor & Employment: Employee Benefits & Compensation. She has also lectured in Hawaii on both pension and welfare benefits.

Qualified Retirement Plans – Advise clients on all aspects of qualified retirement plans, including:

  • Designing, drafting and implementing plans
  • Obtaining rulings and determination letters on plan qualification and other issues from the IRS, DOL and PBGC
  • Plan administration, compliance and fiduciary issues
  • Correcting various plan errors, including correction under IRS and DOL correction programs
  • Advising on plan issues in the context of mergers and acquisitions
  • Representation in plan audits and other IRS or DOL investigations
  • Types of qualified retirement plans include: 401(k), profit sharing, defined benefit, cash balance, money purchase pension, 403(b), 457, and ESOPs

Executive Compensation and Nonqualified Retirement Plans – Advise private companies on nonqualified deferred compensation plans and executive compensation, including supplemental executive retirement plans (SERPs), stock appreciation rights, phantom stock, rabbi trusts, and excess benefit plans.

Exempt Organizations – Advise tax-exempt organizations on their 403(b) and 457 arrangements, including drafting plan documents, assisting with compliance and fiduciary issues, assisting in IRS audits, plan terminations and correcting errors.

Health and Welfare Benefit Plans – Assist clients with their welfare benefit plans, including cafeteria plans, premium conversion plans, flexible spending arrangements, and dependent care assistance programs.

Awards and Honors

  • Named in The Best Lawyers in America in Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law since 2010 and named Lawyer of the Year 2014, Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law – Honolulu
  • Recognized by Chambers & Partners as one of America’s leading lawyers for Labor & Employment: Employee Benefits & Compensation


  • J.D., Georgetown University Law Center
  • B.S. Mathematics – Applied Science in Physics, University of California, Los Angeles


  • Hawaii State Bar (1995)
  • United States District Court for the District of Hawaii