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Pre-Law Center director greets BU

Even though she can’t move into her actual home yet, the new Pre-Law Center is up and running as of Monday when its new director, Maria Vertuno, started work.
Vertuno received her law degree from the University of Notre Dame, and for 15 years she was a partner at Cassiday Schade LLP, where she served in the civil litigation department, working mainly with medical malpractice suits.
But when she and her husband moved to Peoria last year, her interests turned toward education.
“I was always interested in teaching,” she said. “Bradley was my ideal choice.”
Before coming to Bradley, Vertuno taught a legal research and writing course at DePaul University’s law school and is currently teaching a similar course to undergraduates at Illinois State University.
But a job like the one here is something she said she’s always wanted.
“I don’t know if I could have written an ideal job description for myself that would have been better this,” she said.
Vertuno said she is excited to be in this position because it will allow her to “wear many different hats.”
One of those hats will be preparing students to take the Law School Admission Test.
While Vertuno said she wasn’t sure if Bradley’s test preparation would replace professional companies such as Kaplan, there will be offerings for students.
She said another goal for the center is to work with local law firms to get Bradley students field experience before they graduate.
“The nearest law school is 90 miles away,” she said. “I’m hoping to get Bradley students internships during the academic year because they won’t have to compete with law students.”
Vertuno also said she wants to help students see what law school is really like and show them the many different career paths a law degree offers because having a law degree isn’t just about making a lot of money and working for a big law firm.
“I really want to encourage students to consider the many different legal careers,” she said. “I want them to be professionally challenged and morally fulfilled.”
The growing environmental and alternative energy industries, as well as public interest law, can offer many students good career opportunities.
Another aspect of the center will be an introductory course of some sort, but Vertuno said there isn’t an exact plan for it yet.
“There are a lot of different opinions [about the class],” she said. “It will include an overview of the legal profession to show students what being a lawyer is really like.”
Vertuno said the class will also have outside speakers and current law students give presentations about lawyer life and law school life.
Because she worked in the legal field, Vertuno said she has a long list of contacts she can use to help Bradley students.
One of the reasons the center will eventually be located in Heitz Hall was a symbolic one.
“We want to show students that law school is open to everyone,” Vertuno said. “It’s not just for political science students.”
And as for moving into Heitz, Vertuno said she expects that to happen in the near future, but not for at least a few weeks.
The center’s office will have a conference room where students will be able to meet with her or each other.
She also said professors in several departments that have been advising students about law school will continue to do so, and that her role will mainly be a coordinator of all the different aspects of applying to law school.
“I think [the center] will give Bradley students an advantage in the market,” she said. “It makes sense for one person to coordinate it all.”
Any student interested in law school can contact Vertuno at mvertuno@bradley.edu to set up an appointment.