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We encourage involvement and leadership in the communities in which we live.

The Varnum Team Promise

Varnum's commitment to the community includes significant financial contributions to a variety of organizations, from arts, education and health care agencies to social service, community and economic development endeavors. Our Contributions Committee meets monthly to review and evaluate requests.

Community Involvement

We’re more than just lawyers; Varnum attorneys are leaders in the communities in which we live and work. Our attorneys serve many community organizations, including the following:

  • AARP
  • Achieve Charter Academy
  • Alliance for Health
  • Alma College West Michigan Roundtable
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • American Red Cross
  • Aquinas College
  • Arthritis Foundation of West Michigan, Region
  • Association for Corporate Growth,West Michigan
  • Battle Creek Chamber of Commerce
  • Bethany Christian Services
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Bible Study Fellowship International
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters
  • Bluebird Cancer Retreat
  • Brookmoor Estates Neighborhood Association
  • Camp Roger
  • Chamber Music Society of Detroit
  • Children's Assessment Center
  • Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan
  • Christian Legal Services/Mel Trotter Clinic
  • Christian Living Services
  • Citizens Research Council of Michigan
  • City of Grand Haven Construction Board of Appeals
  • Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan
  • Community Rebuilders
  • Criminal Justice Chaplaincy
  • Davenport University
  • Degage Ministries
  • Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings
  • Detroit Christo Rey High School Leadership Board
  • Detroit Institute of Arts
  • Diocese of Grand Rapids
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids
  • East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation
  • Economic Club of Grand Rapids
  • Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan
  • Executive Women's Golf Association
  • Faith Hospice
  • Fifth Reformed Church
  • First United Methodist Church of Grand Rapids
  • First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo
  • Foundation for Catholic Secondary Education of Greater Grand Rapids
  • Fountain Street Church
  • Fountain Street Church Foundation
  • Fr. Gabriel Richard High School Athletic Booster Club
  • Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
  • Frederik Meijer Gardens Foundation
  • Fresh Start Church
  • Gerontology Network
  • Gilda's Club Grand Rapids
  • Golf Association of Michigan
  • Good Shepherd United Church of Christ (Sahuarita, AZ)
  • Grand Haven Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Grand Haven Area Community Foundation
  • Grand Haven Area Young Professionals
  • Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Grand Rapids Area Realtors
  • Grand Rapids Art Museum
  • Grand Rapids Ballet Company
  • Grand Rapids Children's Museum
  • Grand Rapids Community College Foundation
  • Grand Rapids Community Foundation
  • Grand Rapids Downtown Market
  • Grand Rapids Healthy Communities
  • Grand Rapids Metropolitan YMCA
  • Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation
  • Grand Rapids Public Museum Friends Foundation
  • Grand Rapids Public Schools
  • Grand Rapids Rotary Club
  • Grand Rapids Symphony
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities
  • Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association
  • Greater Ottawa County United Way
  • Guardian Angel Homes
  • GVSU Seidman School of Business
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Harvard Club of West Michigan
  • Heart of West Michigan United Way
  • Heartside Ministry
  • Helen DeVos Children's Hospital Foundation
  • Hello West Michigan
  • HHS Health Options
  • Hillman Advocacy Clinic
  • Holland Home
  • Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Endowment Fund
  • Home Repair Services Board of Directors
  • Hope College Alumni Association
  • Humane Society of West Michigan
  • Inforum of West Michigan
  • Inside Grand Rapids
  • International Centre for Healing and the Law, John Fetzer Foundation
  • Jennings Memorial Foundation (Genesee County)
  • John Ball Zoological Society
  • Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes Inc
  • Justice for our Neighbors
  • Kalamazoo Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Kalamazoo Area Labor Management Committee
  • Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
  • Kalastar
  • Kent County Unit of American Cancer Society
  • Kent District Library Fund Development Board
  • Kent Health Plan Corporation
  • LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church
  • Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance Council
  • Land Conservancy of West Michigan
  • LaughFest
  • Leadership Grand Rapids
  • Legacy Christian School'
  • Literacy Center of West Michigan
  • Long Lake Association Inc
  • Loutit District Library
  • Love Inc
  • March of Dimes
  • Mary Free bed Institutional Review Board
  • Mayflower Congregational Church Endowment fund board
  • Michigan Campus Compact
  • Michigan Chamber of Commerce
  • Michigan Chapter of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
  • Michigan Council for Economic Education
  • MOKA Corporation
  • MSU School of Law Low Income Taxpayer Clinic
  • National Justice for our Neighbors
  • New North Center
  • North Ottawa Rod & Gun Club
  • Northview Education Foundation
  • Northview Little League
  • Northville High school Football Association
  • Notre Dame Club of Grand Rapids
  • Novi Chamber of Commerce
  • Opera Grand Rapids
  • Partnership for Philanthropic Planning
  • Planetary Society
  • Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan
  • Portage Education Foundation
  • Porter Hills Retirement Communities and Services Inc
  • Pretty Lake Vacation Camp
  • Project Rehab
  • Public Museum of Grand Rapids
  • Richland Bible Church
  • Rotary Club
  • Salvation Army
  • Second Christian Reformed Church
  • Senior Neighbors
  • South Christian High school
  • Spring Lake Country Club
  • St. Andrews Cathedral
  • St. Cecilia Music Society
  • St. John's Home, D.A. Blodgett
  • St. Mary Magdalen Church
  • St. Mary's Doran Foundation
  • Saint Mary's Hospital Foundation
  • St. Patrick's Church Men's Group
  • Student Mentor Partners
  • Sweet House Foundation
  • The Right Place
  • Thornapple Valley Baseball League
  • United States Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship
  • University of Michigan Club of Grand Rapids
  • Urban Institute of Contemporary Art
  • Van Andel Institute
  • Vocaris of Grand Rapids
  • Volunteers in Service
  • Vriesland Reformed Church
  • VSA Arts of Michigan, Grand Rapids
  • Wayne State University Law School Board Visitors Committee
  • Well House Community
  • West Michigan Bio
  • West Michigan Christian Legal Ministries
  • West Michigan Energy
  • West Michigan Environmental Leadership Network
  • West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • West Michigan Land Conservancy
  • West Michigan New Horizons Music Ensembles
  • West Michigan Planned Giving Group
  • West Michigan Solar Supply Chain
  • West Michigan Sports Commission
  • West Michigan Strategic Alliance
  • West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition
  • West Michigan Wind Manufacturers Network
  • West Michigan World Affairs Council
  • Western Michigan University's Industry Advisory Board for Chemical Engineering
  • Whitewood Farms Neighborhood Association
  • YMCA

Buchanan Elementary School

The firm also has a strong relationship with Buchanan Elementary School. Several years ago, Varnum employees provided Christmas gifts and personal items for over 100 of Buchanan’s neediest students in a program called Seasons for Giving. We quickly realized that the needs of Buchanan School families do not end with the holiday season, however, and what began as a time of holiday sharing has developed into a year-round relationship. Some of our activities include:

Our Buchanan relationship is significant, but it is just one of many ways we are involved in the communities in which we live and work..

Pro Bono Work

An important part of our overall responsibility as attorneys is to provide free legal services to those in need. Varnum undertakes this duty by securing its pro bono files through referrals from the Pro Bono Program of Western Michigan (a program established in 1982 by the Grand Rapids Bar Association and Legal Aid of Western Michigan), the Mel Trotter Ministries Legal Clinic, and other entities that refer matters for veterans to us.

Varnum participates in these programs by providing legal services to individuals who are qualified to receive pro bono services. Although Varnum provides free legal services to other individuals and on behalf of various nonprofit agencies, we take pro bono credit only for files from Legal Aid of Western Michigan and the Mel Trotter Ministries Legal Clinic, and assisting veterans. We treat time spent on these cases in the same manner as billable client time. In addition, Varnum 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 from the referring entity.

Our commitment to pro bono representation 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 handling pro bono files, and supervising younger attorneys and summer clerks. Mark Allard, litigation partner, is our pro bono coordinator.

In 2017, the firm provided 1,333 hours in pro bono services on 76 files that met these criteria. The $425,225 in fees and $8,531 in waived costs, combined with a $40,000 cash contribution to the Access to Justice Fund, brought Varnum’s total contribution to $473,756.

Varnum is recognized by the State Bar of Michigan for its pro bono contributions. The firm is part of the State Bar's "Circle of Excellence" at the Leadership level, reserved for law firms with 100 percent aggregate contributions at the Pro Bono Voluntary Standard level (30 hours or $500 per attorney in financial donations).

Varnum is proud of its pro bono commitment. The support and participation by attorneys throughout the firm makes it clear that pro bono representation is part of the fabric of our firm.

About the Art

Varnum has been a supporter of the arts for many years, and our offices are virtual galleries of fine art by local and regional artists. Recently we began incorporating the works of some of these artists into our marketing materials, including this web site.

Throughout the site, you will see portions of works by the following artists:

John Baughman

Born in Grand Rapids, Baughman was interested in drawing at an early age. Talented in many areas, he was a successful advertising company owner but decided to pursue his career as an artist full time when he was approached by Rosenbaum Fine Art. Oils play a very important part in John's art, but he is continually experimenting using new mediums. He and his artist wife, Janet Richardson Baughman, have a studio in Ada and find inspiration all around them. Fishing, sports and raising horses are some of John's other pursuits, but "Art is the core of my life." His work is featured in collections around the country including IBM Corporation in New York and Pillsbury Corporation in Minneapolis

Linda LaFontsee

Using a variety of media including encaustic, oil and gouache, LaFontsee conveys the dance of life with an organic freedom, independent of representation. LaFontsee is inspired by color, movement and line, all of which she is continuously constructing and deconstructing through tones, varnishes, burns, molds, melts, and scratches into the surface of her paintings. "I am in love with the eloquence of sparseness and everything to do with the act of painting: the smell, the lushness of oil paint, color." LaFontsee attended Kendall College of Art and Design and has years of independent study and workshop experience.

Gretchen Minnhaar

A native of Argentina, Minnhaar is an architect and artist living in West Michigan. Her painting subjects are often a reflection of her architectural training. "It's the images of cities, roads, people and buildings that form my everyday vocabulary. This is what I paint." Minnhaar's work is featured in private collections in Argentina, Spain and Netherlands and at several corporate offices including Steelcase Corporation in Grand Rapids and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. A proponent of cultural activities, Minnhaar is also a founder of the film series, Chiaroscuro, featuring diverse, international films. A recently-published book of her art is available through her website,

Michael Schaeffer

Schaeffer sees creative expression as translating feelings into color texture, and form. With emphasis on these elements, he infuses intuitive and improvisational marking with order, balance and harmony. "Creating a balance between logic and feeling is essential to creating a successful work of art." Schaeffer attended the Royal college of Art in London and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Kendall College of Art & Design. His work is included in the collections of several prestigious museums and corporations, as well as hundreds of personal collections through the United States and Europe.
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