Switching Gears

Switching Gears

From law graduate to racing cyclist to ‘cyclist lawyer,’ Hottman follows her passion

By Amanda Brandt, BA’14

A passion for cycling and the law has led Megan Hottman, BA’01, JD’04, to a career representing bicyclists and advocating for safer cycling across the U.S.

Hottman, aptly nicknamed the “cyclist lawyer,” started her own law firm at the age of 29 in Golden, Colorado, where she specializes in cases involving cyclists. It’s a far leap from what she foresaw as her future as a Creighton School of Law student in the early 2000s.

“I thought, ‘Yes, this is my passion,’ but I thought ‘adulting’ had to look a certain way,” Hottman says. “Practicing law wasn’t going to be enjoyable, I thought, and I had to be responsible, but that wasn’t going to be much fun.”

When she first dabbled in cycling during law school, Hottman described it as a “distraction” from the rigorous coursework and schedule. Now, she’s a national advocate for biking, and has appeared in the national media for her prominence in the field of cycling law. She’s also cool. So cool, in fact, that she was named one of “Colorado’s top resident badasses” by Elevation Outdoors magazine.

But long before she caught the cycling bug or had even an inkling of opening her own law firm, Hottman was a graduate of Millard North High School in Omaha who decided last-minute to attend Creighton rather than a larger state school, a decision she is grateful for today.

“I had some molecule of maturity in me at that age,” Hottman says. “When you look back, you can see these inflection points where my future was affected by this small and spontaneous decision.”

She majored in communication studies, which sharpened her writing and public-speaking skills. During her sophomore year at Creighton, Hottman became “grossed out with myself” after going all-in on a not-so-healthy lifestyle, and pledged to make some changes. She gave up late-night fast-food runs and decided to get into shape. That willpower and determination made her fall in love with fitness, and Hottman began teaching group fitness classes and personal training as a part-time job.

After earning her undergraduate degree in 2001, law school seemed like a natural fit for Hottman, and following a “humbling” first semester, she stretched herself to succeed. She loved the close relationships students developed with the faculty, and one of her favorite law professors was G. Michael Fenner, who retired this year after 45 years at the law school.

Hottman first got into cycling her third year of law school, while she was training for a triathlon. “All those years of teaching spin class at the gym had helped me,” she says. And while many of her law school classmates were finding associate jobs at law firms, Hottman was looking for something different.

“I wasn’t motivated by money,” she says. “I was motivated by how I would have time to try bike racing.”

She ended up serving as a clerk for Judge Peggy Stevens McGraw, in the 16th Circuit Court in Missouri, which allowed weekends free to race. A few years later, she moved to Colorado with the hope of breaking into the professional cycling realm.

While working another judicial clerkship, this time with Judge Jack Berryhill in the 1st Judicial District in Colorado, Hottman continued to hone her cycling skills and improve her performance. She took the leap to full-time racing in 2008, but the financial crisis and recession meant money for sponsorships dried up. It was then that Hottman took an associate job at a law firm, trying to pursue her cycling passion on nights and weekends.

In early 2010, she decided to commit herself to training for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. “I knew it was a long shot, and I never thought it was realistic, but I wanted to see how far I could go,” Hottman says. She quit her job to train full time.

The 2010 season was one of her most successful racing campaigns. She raced all over the world and trained with someone who went on to compete in the Olympics. Hottman liked her underdog status and enjoyed figuring out the marketing angle of the sport. In 2011, she signed with a team, poised for more success. It didn’t come.

“The universe showed me that this was not where I was going to be,” she says. A handful of bad crashes sent her to the hospital.

“After the third one, I remember lying on the concrete, thinking, ‘OK, God, or the universe, it’s clear this is not what you have in mind for me,’” Hottman says.

After this tough decision to forego her cycling career, Hottman decided to once again practice law full time, but to do it on her own terms. While training and racing, she had sporadically agreed to represent fellow cyclists who had been hit by cars or involved in collisions.

Today, she focuses mainly on personal injury cases involving cyclists and bikes. Common situations include a cyclist hit by a car or attacked by a dog, issues with malfunctioning equipment, or street and construction-site problems.

“It’s been incredible,” Hottman says of growing the firm she started at age 29 to a successful business. “I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

She is passionate about cases involving motorist behavior — from distracted driving to impaired driving due to alcohol or drugs.

“Hit-and-run-type stuff, I really get fired up about that,” Hottman says. “We have a chance to make a statement and make a difference.”

Hottman also gives educational presentations to law enforcement about cycling and cyclists’ rights. She even co-authored a legal book about cycling and the law, titled Bicycle Accidents, Crashes, and Collisions: Biomechanical, Engineering, and Legal Aspects.

In 2015, Outside Magazine featured Hottman in an article in which she addressed the conflicts between bikes and cars on the road, and how cyclists have to be part of the solution. That led to being interviewed on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

“Life turns out in funny ways,” Hottman says. “I’m a lawyer from Omaha who wanted to race her bike, and I started my own firm, and the next thing you know, I’m in front of Bryant Gumbel.”

Hottman says there’s no doubt her experience at Creighton set her up with a good foundation to pursue the success she’s experiencing.

“It comes down to going to an institution that teaches you to be the right kind of person, an upstanding member of society. That helped reinforce what my parents taught me,” she says. “Seeing people you admire live out their principles and ethical standards, that makes sure your moral compass is pretty doggone strong. I would hope I’m a better person and lawyer for it, and I’m grateful for the experience I had at Creighton.”