Pitt Law Graduate Padma Kolluru Wins Molly Award for Excellence
Reposted with the permission of Mike Jones, staff reporter and photographer for the Oberver-Reporter.com
Padma Kolluru admitted to being nervous talking to new family law clients and even getting “tongue-tied” when she made her first motion before a judge.
But those nervous moments became invaluable experiences for the recent University of Pittsburgh Law School grad as she and other students gained real-world legal knowledge in a clinic run through Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Aid Services, located in the shadow of the Washington County Courthouse.
Kolluru received the third annual “Molly Award for Excellence” after she spent the past year helping to represent family law clients with their divorce cases, custody battles and protection-from-abuse requests. The award was named after 2011 clinic participant Molly Campbell and is given to students who show exemplary work and dedication to their clients.
“We’re usually stuck in the classroom regurgitating law,” Kolluru said. “This allows you to experience what it’s like to be a lawyer.”
Rob Brenner, an adjunct Pitt Law professor and director of SPLAS, started the clinic 25 years ago after seeing recent graduates coming into law offices with an understanding of the law, but not as confident about how to apply it in the courtroom. Since then, he usually brings in about eight students per semester to learn while also offering free legal services to low-income residents in Washington, Greene, Fayette and Somerset counties.
They spend one day a week at the Washington location, helping local clients and also offering video-teleconferencing to people living in rural areas. Brenner said the clinic shows students there are “real consequences” in representing clients.
“They not only get to work with real clients, but take care of their needs,” Brenner said. “It’s real experience. I think what they do is absolutely tremendous.”
Kolluru and the other students primarily handle family law. They learn how to proceed with simple divorce cases while also informing the clients of their legal rights in custody or abuse cases. It’s an up-close look at the emotional side of the law.
“It is really heart-breaking,” Kolluru said of the cases she worked on and the clients she has met. “But it’s also really gratifying to help them.”
Kolluru, who grew up in Dallas, Texas, and graduated from Pitt earlier this month, is preparing to take the bar exam in July.