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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Varnum is committed to leadership in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion. We are accountable to ourselves, our clients and the community for momentum and progress on these values

Varnum embraces the fundamental principle that not only are diversity and meaningful inclusion necessary components of the firm’s culture – they are essential to providing top-quality legal services to sophisticated consumers. This commitment is evident in the firm’s policies and widespread activities.

Each Varnum attorney, administrator and staff member is responsible for embodying, supporting and advancing the firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. The combined efforts in support of this commitment will benefit our clients, the communities in which we live and work, and all of us at Varnum.

Mansfield Rule Certified

The Mansfield Rule is a program for law firms designed to boost the representation of historically underrepresented lawyers in firm leadership. The program measures whether women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities have been considered for leadership opportunities, promotions, lateral positions, and career-enhancing work opportunities.

Firms that take part in the program are making notable gains across aspects of firm culture and leadership, in large part because the ongoing reporting requirements of the program keep DEI efforts top of mind.

Varnum first achieved Mansfield Rule certification in 2022. The firm recommitted to the year-long process and was again certified in 2023. Varnum has committed to participate in Mansfield Rule certification this year.


Recognizing the value of diversity in the workplace, Varnum actively strives to recruit women and diverse attorneys at all levels of the firm. Our commitment to recruiting and retaining such talent is evident throughout the firm, particularly in our hiring program.

Our Summer Associate Program serves as the primary source for hiring our new associates. To enhance outreach to diverse students, in addition to recruiting from law schools with varied student populations, Varnum has participated in the following initiatives over the years.

  • University of Michigan Black Law Students Association (BLSA) Alden J. “Butch” Carpenter Memorial Scholarship Gala, which raises money to award scholarships to three outstanding first-year BLSA member law students interested in business law and who demonstrate a commitment to community development.
  • University of Michigan Latino Law Student Association (LLSA) Juan Tienda Scholarship Banquet, which recognizes Michigan law students and alumni who have made significant contributions to the Latino community and raises money to award up to $10,000 in scholarships to exceptional first-year law students.
  • University of Michigan Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA) Origins Banquet, which raises money for public interest fellowships.
  • University of Michigan Student Funded Fellowship Auction, which raises money to fund Michigan law students who serve their communities by taking low-paying or unpaid public interest positions during their 1L summers.
  • The Kevin E. Kennedy Fellowship Gala, which supports Outlaws @ the University of Michigan Law School. Outlaws serves as an academic, social and political resource for students in the law school, welcoming all students who express an interest in issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community.
  • The Midwest BLSA Regional Convention (MWBLSA), which is the premier annual event, providing law students, legal practitioners, judges, and employers the opportunity to network and receive invaluable professional development opportunities.
  • The Wolverine Bar Association’s 1L summer clerkship program, designed to increase the number of minority attorneys employed within the legal community. The SCP places students in law firms and corporations in the metro Detroit community.
  • The University of Detroit Mercy Law’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) annual Vegas Night Scholarship Fundraiser, which raises funds to provide four scholarships to minority students each year in effort to increase diversity in the legal profession.


Varnum recognizes that each person is an individual with unique needs. Those might include raising children, caring for aging parents, participating in community activities, coping with illness and more. Varnum makes it possible for all its employees to address those issues while also being valued and successful employees in their chosen fields by offering flexible work arrangements, including part-time employment and the ability to work from home.

We believe this contributes to increased job satisfaction, which results in a high level of retention. Associate attorneys are able to accrue hours toward partnership status even while working part-time.

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Recent Initiatives

Varnum Celebrates Women's History Month

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In honor of Women’s History Month, Varnum celebrated the contributions and successes of women leaders across our firm and beyond.

Varnum in the Community

Varnum supports numerous organizations with volunteer efforts, monetary contributions and sponsorships. Of particular note is our long-standing relationship with Buchanan Elementary School in Grand Rapids. Recent support includes:

  • June 12, 2024 – Michigan Women Forward, Woman Up & Celebrate 
  • April 20, 2024 – Wolverine Bar Association, 62nd Annual Barristers’ Ball
  • March 14, 2024 – Women’s Resource Center, Pillar Awards
  • February 23, 2024 – WYCE Jammie Awards
  • February 10, 2024 – Grand Rapids Symphony, Celebration of Soul
  • February 24, 2023 – WYCE Jammie Awards
  • May 11, 2022 – A Creative Night Out to Support West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology

Opportunities for Students

Varnum Endowed Scholarship Fund at Davenport University

This scholarship, established in 1998, honors students of color who embody a commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion, both within the legal profession and the community, a strong tradition at Varnum LLP and a shared value with Davenport. The scholarship is awarded annually to students of color from Michigan with a 3.0 grade point average on a 4-point scale and with a preference for those interested in pursuing a law-related career, such as attorney, paralegal, legal assistant, legal secretary or law librarian in the state of Michigan.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee

Varnum’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee is made up of passionate, energetic and dedicated Varnum attorneys and staff members who recognize that an inclusive culture makes the firm a more interesting place to work and enables us to respond with greater flexibility to challenges faced by our clients in a diverse, multicultural world.

The DEI Committee is responsible for providing firm-wide DEI-related educational and training opportunities throughout the year. 

The DEI Committee works with the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council to provide programming for attorneys and staff and develop and advance the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

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