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Bradley Hilltopics

Summer 2009 • Volume 15, Issue 3  



Looking toward a law career?

The trio discussed their experience of prosecuting former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Maria Vertuno (far left), director of Bradley’s new Pre-Law Center, meets with assistant House prosecutor Michael Kasper, House prosecutor David Ellis, and assistant House prosecutor Heather Weir Vaught before an on-campus panel discussion on April 30. The trio discussed their experience of prosecuting former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, leading to his removal from office. Visit for more on the prosecutors’ panel discussion. Photography by Duane Zehr.


GARRETT WILLIAMS ’92 was looking for advice when he came to Bradley interested in eventually obtaining a law degree and pursuing a political career. He wanted answers on what to study, how to prepare for law school and the LSAT, and where to find internships.

In February, Bradley opened the Pre-Law Center, a centralized location where students can retrieve such answers. Now a State Farm Insurance lawyer specializing in government affairs and lobbying, Williams was lucky to find a mentor in Sigma Phi Epsilon brother GARY PEPLOW ’62, a Bradley Centurion. “When I was at Bradley,” Williams said, “he was there to answer questions and helped me get an internship at a law firm.”

Located in Heitz Hall, the new Center already has offered panel discussions, including the Illinois General Assembly team that prosecuted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, drawing a crowd of about 100 on April 30. Earlier in the spring, five DePaul law students offered an account of their first-year experiences.

In addition to informative presentations, the Pre-Law Center offers:

    A formal pre-law academic program.

    Personalized and uniform pre-law advising.

    Enhanced preparation for the LSAT exam.

    Expanded mock trial opportunities.

The Pre-Law Center will have a Professional Advisory Council to advise the Center and strengthen the University’s ties to the legal community. Williams is one of many graduates working in law who has offered his time and expertise. Long-term plans include introducing high school students to legal careers.

Dr. Larry Aspin, chairman of the political science department, said one goal of the Center is to collaborate with each college to identify courses that would prepare students interested in a particular study of law, such as health care or environmental law. “Students have different interests in the types of law they may want to practice,” he said. “That may govern what their formal major is. We’re not trying to teach law.”

Even without a formal program, Bradley students interested in law have found ways to succeed. For example, a number of graduates have attended Ivy League law schools, including CHRISTOPHER ASSISE ’07, who was accepted into Harvard Law School for the 200708 term.

“What’s really neat about Bradley is we’ve had such great success placing our students in top-tier law schools,” said Williams, a 1995 graduate of the Washington University Law School. “Bradley has done a great job without a Pre-Law Center without a pre-law program preparing our students for law schools. What strikes me is this is a very aggressive step that will take us from preparing our students very well for law school to making them among the most well prepared first-year law students in the country.”

Attorney leads new Pre-Law Center

Maria Vertuno, the founding director of the Pre-Law Center

“Most schools have somebody who is involved in pre-law advising, but there aren’t many programs like Bradley’s that have a full-time director.”
—Maria Vertuno

Maria Vertuno, the founding director of the Pre-Law Center, has been a practicing attorney in Chicago for the last 15 years. She taught undergraduate and law school courses at DePaul University College of Law and Illinois State University. At DePaul, she counseled students, helped them with law school testing and preparation, and assisted them in securing internships and jobs.

According to Vertuno, the Heitz Hall location for the Pre-Law Center was a deliberate decision. “One reason we are located there rather than Bradley Hall is to send the message that law school is not just for liberal arts students or political science students,” said Vertuno, who is connecting with alumni in law professions to find additional internship opportunities and individuals who can provide student-advising assistance. “It’s open to everybody.”

Vertuno is a member of the American, Illinois State, Peoria County, and the Chicago Bar associations. She earned a juris doctor degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University, Chicago. She lives in Peoria Heights with her husband Paul Burmeister, who is a Peoria native and attorney, and their daughter.