Law skills go beyond the cloth

Sister Jennifer Raimo worked as a criminal defense attorney before joining the Sisters of Saint Dominic. On September 20, she’ll take her first vows, as she awaits the results from her recent bar exam, which will allow her to again practice law. Photo by Victor Chu

From the Bar to the Bible, Jennifer Raimo will soon utilize her love of the law with her passion for God as a religious sister taking up residence at St. Dominic’s Convent in Van Nest before taking vows later this month.

The former criminal defense lawyer, who practiced out of state, will take her first vows as a member of the Sisters of St. John the Baptist on Saturday, September 20, just two months before she learns the results of her recent New York bar exam.

“I gave up my dream job to come here and that was very difficult,” Sister Raimo explained, “but I know it’s what was desperately needed for me to get closer to God and my vocation.”

Though she worked as a lawyer for four years in Virginia, her home state, the 34-year-old religious said her first call to the cloth came years before while she was attending the George Mason School of Law in Virginia.

“During my first year of law school it just jumped in my head and it never really went away,” she said.

The previous corrections officer brushed the idea aside for two years until she made a trip that changed everything.

“Once I visited my first convent, I knew I had to be in religious life,” Sister Raimo explained.

With her mind made up, she then faced the realities of her decision – the need to eliminate all of her outstanding debts before entering the sisterhood, a requirement of the order.

A pile of college loans looming, she said she did the only thing she could.

“I gave up everything,” Sister Raimo recalled of her complete elimination of nights out, shopping trips and vacations of any kind. “Anything I could to get me $50 closer, I was there.”

Her hard work and dedication to follow her heart prevailed and on September 18, 2005, she joined the Sisters of St. John the Baptist.

While she deeply loved her new venture, Sister Raimo said a part of her continued to miss her work as a lawyer.

After several resulting communications among the order, Sister Raimo explained the Sisters gave their full support for her reentry into the workforce.

At the end of July, she took the New York and New Jersey bar exams.

“The Sisters are actually really excited to have a lawyer,” she said laughing.

Upon receipt of her license Raimo said she plans on providing legal assistance to the children and elderly involved with St. Dominic’s.

“It’s not criminals, but a lot of the work will transfer,” she commented, giggling about her unexpected course of events.

While she anxiously awaits the return of her test results, Raimo explained she’s focusing on the present.

“I’m excited about becoming a full-fledged Sister,” she said. “It’s just something I’ve wanted for so long. It’s like a dream come true.”

More from Around NYC