LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – Reed Smith, a top 15 international law firm, has awarded its annual Reed Smith Fellowship in Pittsburgh to University of Pittsburgh Law School student Robert D. Leonhard at a ceremony today at the firm’s Pittsburgh office. Established in 2002, the Reed Smith Fellowship Award is given annually to a first-year law student who demonstrates excellent scholarship while overcoming economic or social adversity in pursuit of a law degree.
After graduating from West Virginia University in December 2003 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Performing Arts, with an emphasis in Creative Writing, Mr. Leonhard, an enlisted member of the Army National Guard since 1999, was deployed to Iraq where he served 14 months commanding an up-armored gun truck while escorting civilian convoys through treacherous areas. Despite leading his troops through aggressive enemy assaults without any severe injury, Mr. Leonhard’s experiences while spending time with an Iraqi family are what shaped his career perspective and drove him to seek a degree in law.
“When I returned to America, I found it difficult to enjoy the accolades that were awarded to me. I earned many medals … but I felt that my work in Iraq was incomplete,” said Mr. Leonhard. “I was prompted to consider a career change. My determination to help people find justice, combined with my love of writing and performance, led me to law school.”
Mr. Leonhard, the son of an Army man, moved quite often as a youth. While serving in Iraq, he found a sense of community by volunteering his services on numerous humanitarian missions. He started his own humanitarian effort after observing the number of Iraqi children who were without shoes. He encouraged his team members to tell their families back home to send children’s shoes, which he and his troop members then handed out to the children. Having suffered through poverty himself, Mr. Leonhard understood all too well how having the little necessities in life, like a pair of shoes, can make a huge difference to one’s mental state.
In addition to his humanitarian efforts to help the children in Iraq, Mr. Leonhard has devoted his time to helping American soldiers currently deployed in Iraq. He started Outside the Lines Theater Company, based in Chicago. A nonprofit organization, it has collected donations and used the profits from its productions to aid U.S. military personnel in Iraq and elsewhere around the world. Drawing on his experiences during the war, Mr. Leonhard also wrote and produced the multi-media play, Infidel.
After his enlistment was up in early 2006, Mr. Leonhard volunteered to return to the Middle East as the Lead Recreation Specialist at Camp Arifjan military base, where he logged almost 80 hours a week scheduling and organizing events. He also translated portions of contracts and identification cards, and negotiated with local Arabic-speaking merchants.
“Reed Smith is pleased to be able to provide assistance to students like Robert who have worked hard to overcome significant odds in pursuit of a law degree,” said Gregory B. Jordan, firmwide managing partner of Reed Smith. “His diligence and determination have helped soldiers and disadvantaged children alike cope with life during wartime. We’re delighted to recognize his initiative and hope that the support this fellowship provides for the final two years of his legal education as well as his summer employment at Reed Smith will make a difference in his life.”
“The University of Pittsburgh School of Law is proud to have one of the world’s largest and most prestigious law firms recognize one of our students each year with this award,” said Mary Crossley, Dean of the School of Law. “Each year, we see first-year students like Robert who exemplify the characteristics that make a great lawyer – students who exhibit strong perseverance and ingenuity, in addition to an excellent academic track record. We are proud to have Robert in our ranks, and know he will make the most of this great opportunity.”
Reed Smith’s Fellowship was established in Pittsburgh in 2002. The firm’s New York office launched its Fellowship the next year. The firm now also has a similar Fellowship in Philadelphia.
To compete for the honor, law students must have at least a B average in their first year coursework and write an essay describing how they encountered and overcame economic or social adversity to qualify for law school admission. The winner must also demonstrate a commitment to his or her community and involvement in extracurricular activities to be competitive for the scholarship.
In addition to the offer of summer employment in Reed Smith’s Pittsburgh office following completion of the second year of law school, the Fellowship recipient receives full tuition reimbursement for the second and third year of law school.
“It is truly an honor to have been recognized with this award. I’d like to thank Reed Smith for its generosity and the opportunity to work for the firm,” said Mr. Leonhard.
While serving in Iraq, Mr. Leonhard was awarded several medals of honor for his service, including National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. He was also the winner of the Washington County Bar Association Scholarship.
About Reed Smith
Reed Smith is one of the 15 largest law firms in the world, with more than 1,500 lawyers in 21 offices throughout the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Founded in 1877, the firm represents leading international businesses from Fortune 100 corporations to mid-market and emerging enterprises. Its attorneys provide litigation services in multi-jurisdictional matters and other high stake disputes, deliver regulatory counsel, and execute the full range of strategic domestic and cross-border transactions. Reed Smith is a preeminent advisor to industries including financial services, life sciences, health care, advertising and media, shipping, international trade and commodities, real estate, manufacturing, and education. For more information, visit reedsmith.com
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