After joining Watanabe Ing LLP in 1995, Jonathan W.Y. Lai became a partner in 2003.  He currently leads the Creditors’ Rights and Business Law Group and serves as the firm’s Marketing Partner.  Mr. Lai’s practice focuses on creditors’ rights, business law, foreclosure, bankruptcy, collections and loan workouts.  He also practices in the area of real estate and handles non-profit matters.  Mr. Lai has represented the five largest banks in Hawaii in some capacity.  Currently, he represents five of the ten largest federal credit unions based on Oahu as well as a number of other financial institutions.  His diverse client base also includes non-profit organizations and businesses ranging from single member LLCs to foreign corporations.  Mr. Lai recently represented an international syndicate of lenders in the $300+ million foreclosure of the former Ritz Carlton Residences at Kapalua Bay.  He has also represented non-Hawaii lenders in shopping center, commercial, and hotel foreclosures throughout the state.  Mr. Lai has recently represented Hawaii-based financial institutions in key transactions, including the foreclosure of a hotel on Oahu and an intervening Chapter 11 bankruptcy action of the hotel owner.  He also represented a Hawaii single-purpose entity in the foreclosure of a former racetrack on Oahu.

Recent Representative Matters:

Represented an Arizona bank on a number of commercial real estate workouts.

Represented Hawaii corporations in the acquisitions of competing businesses in the service and retail industries.

Represented a number of shopping centers in commercial lessor-lessee disputes.

Represented Hawaii lender in the receivership of a shopping center.

Represented a number of start-up LLCs, joint ventures and other business entities.

Represented business entities in the wind down of operations in Hawaii.

Represented a number of non-Hawaii companies in the exemplification and/or collection of out-of-state judgments.

By gubernatorial appointment in 2004, Mr. Lai became a member of the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA). The HCDA is a state agency established to supplement traditional community renewal methods by promoting and coordinating public and private sector community development. The state legislature has designated the Kakaako, Kalaeloa and Heeia areas as community development districts under HCDA control. Mr. Lai served as the Chair of HCDA from 2007 to 2009 and completed two terms on the HCDA in 2012. He has previously on several non-profit organizations and is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii Foundation, Inc.

Mr. Lai has also served as a volunteer educator at Punahou School and has spoken to a number of professional organizations on issues related to creditors’ rights such as the Hawaii Credit Union League, the Mortgage Bankers Association of Hawaii and the Bankruptcy and the Collection Law Sections of the Hawaii State Bar Association (HSBA). He previously served as the President and Treasurer of the Bankruptcy Law Section and has been a director of the Collection Law and Bankruptcy Law Sections of the HSBA. He is currently the firm’s representative to LEGUS, an international network of law firms, and a member of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association.  He is also a member of the American Bar Association, HSBA and Hawaii Executive Conference.

Practice Areas


  • University of Southern California Law Center, Juris Doctor, 1995
  • American Jurisprudence Awards: Criminal Procedure and Gifts, Wills & Trusts
  • University of Southern California, M.B.A. (Concentrations: Finance, Business Affairs), 1995
  • Member of Beta Gamma Sigma (National Honor Society for Business and Management)
  • Claremont McKenna College, B.A., cum laude, Double Departmental Honors in Economics and Government, 1991
  • Pacific Asian Management Institute Certificate Program (summer), University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1989
  • Punahou School (with Honors), 1988

Bar Admissions

  • Hawaii