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Pro Bono Work
An important part of our overall responsibility as a leader in the community is to provide free legal services to those in need. Varnum's exclusive vehicle for providing pro bono legal services is its active participation in the Pro Bono Program of Western Michigan, a program established in 1982 by the Grand Rapids Bar Association and Legal Aid of Western Michigan.
Varnum participates in this program by providing legal services to individuals who are qualified to receive pro bono services by the Pro Bono Program of Western Michigan. Although Varnum provides free legal services to individuals and on behalf of various non-profit agencies, we take pro bono credit only for cases from Legal Aid of Western Michigan (1,535 hours) and the Mel Trotter Ministries Legal Clinic (135 hours). We treat time spent on these cases in the same manner as billable client time. Varnum also provides a financial contribution that far exceeds the Voluntary Standard established by the State Bar of Michigan. Varnum also pays all costs associated with each representation, and waives reimbursement for these expenses.
Our commitment to the Pro Bono Program begins with our summer associates, who are offered the opportunity to handle at least one referral case during their clerkship, a unique and positive aspect of our summer program, and continues with our associate level attorneys. Our partners also devote a significant amount of time to the program through supervising younger attorneys and summer clerks as well as through handling their own cases. Mark Allard, litigation partner, is our pro bono coordinator.
We are proud of our efforts in providing assistance to those in need, and we are recognized as a leader in Pro Bono efforts. In 2012, the firm provided 1,670 hours in pro bono services on 87 files from Legal Aid. The $426,588.15 in fees and $8,184.16 in waived costs, combined with a $30,000 cash contribution to the Access to Justice Fund, brought Varnum’s total contribution to $464,772.91. The average contribution per active lawyer was $3,748.17 in 2012.