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WMU-Cooley Spotlight: Katrina Hofstetter

WMU-Cooley Law School alumna Katrina Hofstetter, who earned her undergrad degree in history, summa cum laude, from Ferris State University, spent 13 years as a legal assistant at Bossenbrook Williams PC in Lansing,  learning about the law, including the administrative and practical aspects, how to build lasting and trustworthy relationships with clients, and how to run a law practice.   

“Working full time while juggling undergrad and law school wasn’t necessarily enjoyable, but I did truly love my job,” she says. “What I enjoyed the most were the individual relationships I was able to build with every client and then being able to help them through whatever brought them to our office.   

“Estate planning clients typically just experienced a major milestone in their lives — such as the birth of a child, marriage, divorce, or even a death — and I loved being able to help them feel more secure. Probate and trust administration clients just experienced the death of a loved one and it was an honor to help them work through the complexities of administering an estate and give them some relief while they’re grieving.

Motivated by clients and professionals at the law firm, Hofstetter then decided to head to WMU-Cooley Law School in Lansing. 

“There were a few individuals we worked with long-term who would regularly question why I wasn’t taking the next step,” she says. “The field of law feels very natural to me and I love being able to help people.” 

Perfect Fit

As a non-traditional student, Hofstetter found Cooley to be a perfect fit, offering a flexible schedule every term that complemented her family responsibilities and work schedule, working full time for the past year at the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) as an executive management assistant, office of business development.

“The professors and staff at Cooley are so supportive, even beyond graduation. And I’ve had the opportunity to develop many professional relationships,” she says. “That being said, I think what I’ve enjoyed most is the opportunity to engage with other students and mentors to nurture and develop my love for the law and figure out what I want to do with the skills and knowledge that Cooley instilled in me.”

Passionate about writing, Hofstetter took Scholarly Writing as an elective because she wanted to join Law Review and learn how to write an article for publication. The article she wrote in Scholarly Writing was accepted for publication with the WMU Cooley Journal of Practical and Clinical Law. 

“What I enjoyed was the ability to see the quality of articles being submitted and having the opportunity to learn how to become a better writer by screening for high-quality articles,” she says.

Before changing her major to history during undergrad, Hofstetter had plans to become an elementary school teacher. The teaching bug was evidently still there and she worked as a Teaching Assistant at Cooley.     
“One thing I enjoyed the most about being a TA was that I was able to learn teaching skills, like building assessment questions and writing essays, creating rubrics, and learning to grade and provide feedback,” she says. “I spent six terms as TA for my mentor, Professor Emily Horvath, and I truly enjoyed learning from her and helping the students better understand the subject matter.” 

Since the firm Hofstetter had previously worked for focused on estate planning, Cooley’s Estate Planning Clinic was a natural fit. 

“In my first term with the clinic, I enjoyed being able to work directly with the clients as a student lawyer as opposed to being the legal assistant,” she says. “In my second term, the staff attorney taught us about Medicaid planning and we learned how to work through real-life scenarios. There is a big need for high-quality Medicaid planning attorneys and this complements estate planning well. 

“While I don’t feel I’ll continue on to the estate planning and Medicaid field, I’m still interested in both and I wanted to be diverse in my education.”

Skills Development

Serving as a Grade Appeals Board Magistrate gave Hofstetter the opportunity to develop advocacy skills. 

“My job was to thoroughly review the student’s work using the professor’s rubric and then, using my judgment, potentially advocate for a better grade,” she says.  “This position also gave me the opportunity to develop my essay writing skills by seeing how other students process fact patterns and produce an answer.”

With all this activity on her plate, it was no surprise that at her recent graduation, Hofstetter was honored with the Alumni Association Distinguished Student Award and Student Bar Association Fitzgerald Award. She also was an Academic Resource Center Dean’s Fellow.

“It’s been such an honor to receive awards, especially the Alumni Association Distinguished Student Award,” she says. “This award means a lot to me because it required nomination by someone who saw something in me during my time at Cooley and supporting letters of recommendation from my professors. Receiving this award and reading the letters really highlighted everything that I’ve accomplished. 

“But my accomplishments came with a price beyond student loans—late nights studying, weekends with babysitters, and lots of multi-tasking. This award is as much for my husband and boys as it is for me.” 

Hofstetter has not yet settled on a definitive career plan.

“I always thought I’d practice in the estate planning field, and maybe I still will. But so much has happened across the nation in the last four years that I’ve found myself pulled toward something bigger,” she says. “RBG was a big inspiration for me and I really want to make a lasting impact on society. Right now, I’m exploring federal civil litigation for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which allows for people to sue ‘bad actors’ under color of law.”

Jumping Hurdles

The biggest hurdle for Hofstetter during this pandemic was juggling care for her three sons — Rowen, 8, Carsten, 3-1/2, and 18-month-old Fallon — for a morning class, while her husband Ryan worked, when the boys would have normally been in daycare over the summer.

“Luckily, an amazing teen from church started spending two days a week with the boys so I could focus on class and study,” she says. “It’s also been difficult to study, even now as I get into bar prep, because I can’t take off and study at Starbucks or the library.

“Being so isolated at home has its own difficulties beyond the stressors of law school,” she adds. “I’ve been blessed with the ability to telecommute for work, but our oldest is in third grade and online learning has been an adjustment. One way we’ve dealt with this as a family has been to spend as much time outdoors as possible—neighborhood walks, bike rides, and backyard soccer. We hosted a birthday parade for our oldest when he turned 8 in April.” 

A native of Ithaca, 45 miles north of Lansing, Hofstetter and her family now make their home in the state capital, where she has “dabbled” in in many hobbies—gardening, macrame, quilting, knitting, and cross-stitching.

“I love to read, but my nose has been in casebooks for four years. I would love to get back to reading for pleasure,” she says. “I really love to write. I started a fiction novel about six years ago and I would love to pick that back up after I take the Bar Exam.”

Some years ago, she volunteered during outreach events for Ele’s Place, a healing center for grieving children, teens, young adults, and their families. She and her husband also served as directors for their church’s chapter of HopeWorldwide, an international nonprofit that fights poverty and provides disaster assistance. 

“Now, my husband and I lead one of many small groups at our church by keeping everyone connected and encouraged during this difficult time,” she says.

This article about WMU-Cooley student, Katrina Hofstetter, was written by Legal News writer Sheila Pursglove originally published by the Legal News on Oct. 7, 2020. Reprinted with permission of The Detroit Legal News. 

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