Skip to content


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

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 are more than just lawyers; Varnum attorneys are leaders in the communities in which we live and work. Members of the firm serve as volunteers and in leadership roles in dozens of community organizations across the state.

Additionally, Varnum regularly supports a wide range of non-profit organizations each year, from public arts and cultural institutions to community health and service organizations. Among the recipients of recent contributions are the following:

  • American Cancer Society
  • Arbor Circle
  • Baxter Community Center
  • Bite Cancer Foundation
  • Catherine’s Health Center
  • Cherry Health Foundation
  • Citizen’s Research Council of Michigan
  • Corewell Health Foundation West Michigan
  • Detroit Institute of Arts
  • Detroit Symphony Orchestra
  • Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
  • Friends of the Grand Rapids Parks
  • Gilda’s Club
  • Gilmore Festival
  • Grand Rapids Art Museum
  • Grand Rapids Ballet
  • Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
  • Grand Rapids Community Foundation
  • Grand Rapids Public Museum
  • Grand Rapids Symphony
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Holland Home Foundation
  • Junior Achievement
  • Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
  • Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Michigan
  • Legal Assistance Center
  • Literacy Center of West Michigan
  • Love, Team Tessa
  • Mary Free Bed Hospital Foundation
  • Michigan United Conservation Clubs
  • Naples Zoo
  • Opera Grand Rapids
  • Plymouth Historical Museum
  • Protected Harbor, Inc.
  • Ronald McDonald House – Ann Arbor
  • Safe Haven Ministries
  • Senior Neighbors, Inc.
  • St. Cecilia Music Society
  • West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology
  • West Michigan Community Tennis
  • West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • West Michigan Trails and Greenway Coalition
  • WGVU
  • YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids
  • YWCA West Central Michigan

Buchanan Elementary School

Varnum’s Grand Rapids office initially began a holiday-sharing relationship with Buchanan Elementary School in 1989. Quickly realizing that the needs of Buchanan families are ongoing, the firmwide Seasons for Giving program was developed. The program provides for a yearlong commitment to the school and its students and families through a variety of seasonal activities:

  • January – Proceeds from our annual Chili Cook-off are used throughout the school year, to replenish the teachers’ lounge and their workroom with supplies, coffee and treats.
  • April – At conference time, Varnum provides a catered meal for teachers before they meet with parents and students.
  • May – An appreciation luncheon is hosted by Varnum at the school to thank teachers and staff for all they do for the students throughout the year.
  • June – Varnum staff and summer associates scoop, sprinkle and top ice cream for students and teachers at the annual celebration on the last day of school.
  • August/September – Teachers provide a class- and grade-specific wish list of school supplies that is fulfilled by Varnum volunteer shoppers. The Seasons for Giving program funds the purchase of these supplies.
  • November/December – Every student at Buchanan Elementary receives a gift.  Santa (and many of his elves) visits the children in grades Pre-K to 2nd to sing songs, read stories, share smiles.   The 3rd -5th grade students enjoy an afternoon of cookie decorating. Each classroom is presented with new board games, puzzles and additional school supplies to enjoy.  In addition, since 2006, a fourth-grade art student has created and designed the Varnum holiday card that is sent to over 10,000 recipients.

Varnum’s relationship with Buchanan Elementary is significant and is just one of many ways Varnum is honored to be 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 for 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 clerkships, a unique and positive aspect of our summer program, which 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. Gary Mouw, litigation partner, is our pro bono coordinator.

In 2023, the firm provided 1010 hours in pro bono services on files that met these criteria. The $382,721 in fees combined with a $50,000 cash contribution to the Pro Bono Program of Western Michigan brought Varnum’s total contribution to $432,721.

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.

Sign up to be the first to access our leading legal insights.

The link you have selected will redirect you to a third-party website located on another server. We are offering the link for your convenience. Varnum has no responsibility for any external websites and makes no express or implied warranties about any external websites.

Please be aware that contacting us via e-mail does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm. Do not send confidential information to the firm until you have spoken with one of our attorneys and receive authorization to send such materials.