Berkeley Today Stories

Jennifer Donnelly, Berkeley College alumna

Lawyer Goes From Overseeing Her Late Mother's Estate to Protecting Family Rights



Jennifer Donnelly, Berkeley College alumna


Jennifer Donnelly first became enamored with law after her mother passed away, leaving Ms. Donnelly to oversee legal matters pertaining to her estate. This unfortunate turn of events led to her enrollment at Berkeley College, where she graduated in 1997 with an AAS degree in Paralegal Studies. Two years later, she was named Berkeley College’s Paralegal of the Year, after being nominated by her mentor and former Berkeley College faculty member Richard Olivieri. “I was an ‘older’ student at the time, 23, and just starting college,” Ms. Donnelly said. “I really valued what Berkeley was providing in education, as well as in career guidance.”

Ms. Donnelly went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Kean University and a Juris Doctor degree from Seton Hall University School of Law. She then became partner at family law practice Brunetti, Donnelly & Gulczynski in Jersey City, NJ. In one particular case, Ms. Donnelly helped an 18-year-old Muslim woman win an appeal of a ruling that initially denied her request for a restraining order against her abusive husband. Currently, Ms. Donnelly resides in Hackensack, NJ, and works as a Staff Attorney at family law practice Weinberger Law Group, contributing to client outreach and development, writing, researching, blogging and marketing.

Up Close with Jennifer Donnelly

What does success mean to you?

Above and beyond anything else in life, success to me means being happy in all aspects of your life.

What initially inspired you to enroll in Berkeley College?

When my mom passed in 1995, I was thrust into the legal world regarding her estate. I found the law fascinating and wanted to pursue it as a career.

How did Berkeley College prepare you for success?

My mentor and friend, Richard Olivieri, encouraged and supported me. Professor Olivieri recognized potential in all of his students, and made sure that I was in a good internship with a good attorney who he knew would mentor me. He also continued to help me beyond Berkeley by writing a recommendation for me to enroll in law school, and offering me advice all through law school and my subsequent legal career.
Also, my internship attorney for whom I worked, advised me to go on to law school. Without that encouragement, I am not sure I would have considered becoming a lawyer.

You’ve mentioned in the past that your greatest achievement was the opportunity to represent a battered Muslim woman. What was it about this particular case that stood out to you?

This woman was only 18 years old and was in an arranged marriage. Her husband repeatedly attacked her and she was looking for a final restraining order. The court denied this, finding that because of the couple’s religion (they were Muslim), he was permitted to do these things to her. We obviously appealed, and thankfully, the appellate court got it right. I’m hoping that this ruling will help abused women and will not permit anyone to hide behind religion, no matter what religion it may be.

In which way(s) do you see yourself being successful in the future?

I have moved away from the stresses of formal practice, but continue to remain near the law in my current position. However, I would like to give back to students and hope to be successful working at a place like Berkeley!

What advice would you offer today’s college-bound students?

Enjoy it! The “real world” is nowhere near as fun as college. Learn all you can. No one can ever take your degree away from you.

What was your most memorable moment at Berkeley College?

I had already graduated, but being named Paralegal of the Year in 1999 was really special to me.