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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 5.0 Certified

Following an extensive year-long process, Varnum achieved Mansfield Rule 5.0 certification in the fall of 2022. 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 has committed to participate in Mansfield Rule certification in the coming year.


Recognizing the value of diversity in the workplace, Varnum has made a determined effort to recruit women and minorities at all levels of the firm. Recruiting and retaining women and minorities is a firm-wide commitment exemplified in our hiring program.

The majority of our new associates are hired from our Summer Associate Program. In addition to recruiting from law schools with diverse student populations, Varnum attempts to further reach minority students for this program by participating in the following:

  • 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.
  • 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.


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 and our more recent affiliation with Durfee Elementary School in Detroit.

  • February 24, 2023 – WYCE Jammie Awards
  • May 11, 2022 – A Creative Night Out to Support West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology
  • March 5, 2022 – Symphony With Soul, Grand Rapid Symphony
  • October 14, 2021 – Latina Network of West Michigan 7th Anniversary Celebration
  • September 2021 – Grand Haven Hispanic Heritage Fiesta, Greater Ottawa County United Way
  • July 16, 2021 – Young Professionals of Color Conference, Cascade Engineering
  • February 27, 2021 – Symphony With Soul, Grand Rapids Symphony

Click here for a complete list of diversity and inclusion organizations Varnum has recently supported.

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 20 passionate, energetic and dedicated Varnum partners, 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 numerous firm-wide DEI-related educational and training opportunities throughout the year. For example, the DEI Committee hosts an active book club that focuses on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion; and offers several in-person and virtual training opportunities where employees can learn about important topics, such as structural racism or implicit bias in the legal field.

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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