Born with cerebral palsy, a condition affecting her fine motor function and speech, Janae Hofer grew up finding ways to make certain her agile intellect, unquenchable optimism and desire to help others were her most discernible characteristics.
“I knew that I would have to be hired for my mind because of my physical limitations,” said Hofer, who will graduate from the Creighton University School of Law in December. “But I also knew I wanted to help people. I thought that law was the best way to do that.”
In a wheelchair and reliant on assistants to help convey some of her speech, Hofer graduated summa cum laude in business administration from Grace University in Omaha in 2013, also serving as an officer in the school’s student government. A week after completing her undergraduate degree, Hofer entered the School of Law’s Accelerated Juris Doctor (AJD) program, a year-round curriculum graduating students in two years instead of the customary three.
As far back as her freshman year at Grace, Hofer had been corresponding with Creighton law school administrators, letting them know she was interested in attending the school and embarking upon a legal education and career.
“I didn’t even know if it was an option,” she said. “But they told me that I could definitely achieve a law degree and they helped me all the way through the process.”
Not only was attending Creighton an option for Hofer, but the law school also offered her the Frances M. Ryan Diversity Endowed Scholarship and the Don Scott Greene Endowed Scholarship to cover the full cost of her tuition. The day her acceptance letter arrived in the mail, she said, both she and her parents were overcome with emotion.
Still, Hofer wondered what that first year, with its attendant challenges in nearly round-the-clock studying and the Socratic classroom, would look like.
Rising early every morning, studying late into the night, keenly navigating the classroom discussion, Hofer quickly distinguished herself and now ranks in the top 15 percent of her graduating class. She’s no longer in Creighton’s AJD program — she earned a coveted clerkship with Union Pacific last summer and decided to forgo the summer sessions — but she’s still on track to complete her law degree in December. She has received an offer to work as an associate attorney at Lamson, Dugan & Murray in Omaha upon passing the February bar exam.
“She’s been an inspiration to many of our students and faculty,” said Craig Dallon, one of Hofer’s first-year law professors and, as an associate dean when she was exploring the admissions process, an early and vocal champion of her efforts. “I ask myself, ‘Could I have done that?’ I think it’s a reaffirmation every time we see Janae and see her succeeding: ‘Look at what Janae has accomplished with all the challenges she’s faced.’ It gives you strength to do what you have to do too. I admire her.”
Hofer said she likes the idea of inspiring others around her and she also wants to give back in other ways too.
In her clerkship at Union Pacific, she said she’s been exposed to several different areas of the law. The assignments she loves the most are the ones where she can find some tangible, realizable good in helping other people, knowing what help she’s received in her lifetime.
“I want to help people,” she said. “That’s what motivates me. I don’t want my life to be about me. I want it to be about others and pointing them to God. Law school has been harder than I ever imagined, but I would not even be here in the first place if not for the grace of God. I owe so much to Creighton and to so many people who have encouraged me, and I feel it’s only right that I make every effort to give back.”
To learn more about how you can provide opportunities for law students like Janae Hofer, please contact Chris Bauer at 402.280.3884 or ChrisBauer [at] creighton [dot] edu.