February 27, 2018

SIU School of Law student recognized among the nation's elite

by Pete Rosenbery

Victor FeraruCARBONDALE, Ill. — A Southern Illinois University School of Law student whose work includes helping child abuse and neglect survivors, is being recognized by The National Jurist magazine as one of the nation’s 20 law students of the year

This is the second year in a row a student from the SIU School of Law earned the honor; Willie Lyles III, a then third-year student, was a 2017 selection. 

Helping others is Feraru’s goal

Victor Feraru, a third-year law student appointed in fall 2016 to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Children’s Justice Task Force, is recognized in the magazine’s spring issue. 

“I am surprised and honored. I really like helping others, so it’s humbling to think that outsiders think that the work is worthwhile,” said Feraru, who himself spent most of his first 17 years between 40 foster homes, three group homes and visits with biological family members. 

Honoring students who ‘push themselves’

In honoring 20 law students — five from each region of the United States — the magazine for a third year is recognizing students “who contributed the most to their schools or communities.” 

“The law students who grow the most tend to be the ones who stretch and push themselves,” the magazine states. “They push themselves to help better their law schools, to help better their communities and to help those in need.” 

Finding his niche on the DCFS Justice task force 

The 26-member DCFS Justice Task Force is a multidisciplinary, legislatively mandated advisory group comprised of child advocates, law enforcement, medical and mental health professionals, attorneys, judges, child and parent advocates and child abuse survivors. 

The group, which meets four times a year around the state, makes recommendations to DCFS on policy and practices “directed at improving investigative, prosecution and judicial handling of child abuse cases in a manner that limits additional trauma to the child victim.” 

“I really enjoy learning about projects that the task force has worked on and I’ve been finding my niche there, too,” Feraru said. “To that end, I’m starting to recommend our task force look into adding language to certain laws that are currently on the books in Illinois that are meant to protect youth, but fall short.” 

Non-traditional student finds solid footing

Feraru, 36, utilized his own strength, determination, and support of his adoptive family. At age 16, Feraru was in an adoption process when that couple, who lived in the Quad Cities area, died. He was emancipated and no longer a ward of the state a year later. 

Feraru earned a bachelor’s degree in English writing from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. A lady from High Point, N.C., and her family heard of Feraru’s story during an Air America radio broadcast when he was in his early 20s. The family legally adopted Feraru, who changed his last name, when he was 28.  

Learning about all aspects of law and preparing for bar exam

Feraru will graduate in May and prepare for the bar exam in July. His varied intern and extern experience includes working in the Carbondale City Attorney’s Office and also in the Union County State’s Attorney’s office. 

He is an extern for Staci M. Yandle, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Illinois in Benton, and worked last summer for J. Phil Gilbert, senior judge for the Southern District of Illinois. 

“I hope that whatever I do will also involve working toward improving current policies, across the board for many demographics, including juveniles, too,” he said. “No matter what I choose to do, I will always give my time, what talent I have, and efforts in representing and helping those with little to no access to representation.” 

Well-deserved award
Feraru has made the most of opportunities available to him at the law school, Christopher W. Behan, acting dean, said. Feraru is also a compassionate and empathetic person who cares deeply about his friends and would do anything to help someone in need.

“With the help of good mentors in the legal and judicial communities, he has actively looked for ways to make contributions as a law student,” Behan said.

Feraru’s social media work with the ABA Law Student Division includes writing “several meaningful pieces about how to succeed in law school and as a young lawyer,” Behan said. “He showed initiative and perseverance, landing an interview with one of the most influential federal judges in the country, Richard Posner (recently retired from the 7th Circuit). The article he wrote from that interview has been viewed thousands of times.”

Many SIU Law students earn national recognition
The national recognition that SIU School of Law students earn is a testament to the “soundness of our holistic admissions program and the community we have here,” Behan said. Behan said this approach is reinforced by a 35-hour pro bono documented service requirement for each student prior to graduation.

“Simply put, we attract good students who want to use their legal educations to make a difference in the world,” he said. “We also provide a supportive environment that encourages them to start serving while they are still students.”