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.
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:
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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:
- In May, Buchanan teachers provide a "wish list" of school needs. Items include everything from classroom supplies to sports equipment for the playground. Varnum employees shop over the summer months to provide the supplies in August before school begins.
- We provide warm outdoor clothing in the winter, boxes of Valentines in February, and an end-of-school-year ice cream social for students. The firm also puts on an appreciation luncheon for school staff.
- For the past several years, Varnum has involved the school's fourth grade art students in the design of our holiday card.
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 a leader in the community is to provide free legal services to those in need. Varnum's exclusive vehicles for providing pro bono legal services are 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, and through the Mel Trotter Ministries Legal Clinic.
Varnum participates in these programs 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 files from Legal Aid of Western Michigan and the Mel Trotter Ministries Legal Clinic, assisting veterans and Kenyan refugees. 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.
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.
In 2017, the firm provided 1,333 hours in pro bono services on 76 files that meet 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 contribution to pro bono work. 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 of 30 hours or $500 per attorney average in financial donations. Varnum's pro bono contribution is well above that figure.
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:
|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|
|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.|
|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, GretchenMinnhaar.com.|
|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.|