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If you ask our attorneys, Varnum is…

If this sounds like the right place for you, we invite you to learn more about our Summer Associate program and what it means to be part of the Varnum family.

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A Day in The Life of a Varnum Summer Associate

No two days are ever the same as a Varnum summer associate.

Some days involve getting to the office "early" around 8 o'clock to get a head start on the day, while others involve leaving early to attend a special summer associate event, or networking reception in the community. Other days involve working on multiple projects to ensure each is advancing towards its own finish line, while still others are spent out of the office getting to know the people that comprise Varnum on a more personal level.

Project opportunities come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some of which require a few hours of research before an answer can be given, and others that stretch out over the course of the summer. Immigration research may take up a portion of your morning, followed by the drafting of a client alert regarding recent tax reforms. The afternoon may then consist of a client meeting, followed by continued work on that motion for summary disposition you have been entrusted to draft. Each project is unique, each timeline is different, and each presents a new opportunity to grow as a young legal professional.

Whether it be formal mentorship meetings with your Partner and Associate mentors, or informal lunches with attorneys at the firm, you will realize rather quickly that Varnum is a special place. Each day is its own adventure.

However, while no two days will ever be the same, we can promise you the following:

  1. You will not go unfed.
  2. You will have the opportunity to meet incredibly helpful people who genuinely want to see you succeed.
  3. You will be treated with dignity and respect by each and every individual you encounter at the firm.
  4. When the summer concludes, you will not want to leave.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I apply for Varnum's Summer Associate Program?

You can apply for Varnum's Summer Associate Program through an on-campus interview at your school. We will be interviewing at the following schools and job fairs for the 2019 Summer Associate Program:

Our 2L recruiting process for the summer class of 2019 is now complete. We look forward to welcoming our class in May 2019.

2. Do you accept 1L applicants?

Yes! There are a limited number of spots available. Applications can be submitted starting December 1. Please click on the following link to apply:

3. I was unable to secure a summer associate position at Varnum as a 1L. Should I bother reapplying as a 2L?

Yes! Varnum welcomes applications from students who interviewed with us as a 1L. Our decisions concerning 1L and 2L candidates are always exceptionally difficult, especially given the number of excellent applications that we receive.

4. I'm a 3L. Do I have a chance of securing a position with Varnum as an entry level attorney?

Yes. The number of anticipated position openings varies each year, but applications are always welcome.

5. Describe the interview process.

For 2Ls, most interviewing is done on campus in late July and early August. Shortly after OCI, you will be notified as to whether Varnum has extended you an offer for a callback interview. Our callback interview process consists of 2.5 hours of interviews at Varnum's Grand Rapids office, followed by a brief networking reception. All 2L callback interviews are conducted on the same day.

1L candidates will be contacted for additional interviews following the review of all write-in resumes the firm receives. The 1L callback interviews typically consist of a half-day of interviews at Varnum's Grand Rapids office.

6. Are split summers allowed?

Split summers are considered on a case-by-case basis. We generally discourage splitting the summer because it compromises the quality of your summer associate experience.

7. Does Varnum offer summer associate opportunities at their offices outside of Grand Rapids?

Yes. In addition to Grand Rapids, opportunities for summer associate projects may be available in our Detroit, Novi, Ann Arbor or Kalamazoo offices. Availability varies from year to year.

8. What training opportunities are there for summer associates?

The Summer Associate Program provides extensive training opportunities, including:

The success of our program is a direct result of the efforts we make to tailor our training and Summer Associate Program to meet the individual needs of the students who spend the summer with us. We work hard to give all of our summer associates the best opportunities to learn and to practice their legal skills.

Compensation and Benefits

Our Associates have tremendous potential to earn significant bonuses in recognition of their performance, rewarding the skills they will need to become partners at the firm. In order to be eligible, they must meet our minimum total hours requirement of 2,000 hours, including at least 1,700 billable hours. The remaining 300 hours can include time spent on business development, training, and/or marketing. Greater flexibility means that our Associates can work on the projects that mean the most to them, and they also receive credit for activities that enhance their professional lives.

Over the past several years, our best-performing Associates have been awarded bonuses exceeding 30% of their annual base compensation, with a top bonus of $38,000 in 2017. We are proud of our ability to acknowledge their contributions in this way.

We also offer a comprehensive and competitive benefits package to our associates. See below for highlights:

  • Business casual dress code
  • Free parking
  • Vacation incentive policy (up to $1,000 reimbursed per fiscal year)
  • Expense account for business development purposes
  • Gym reimbursement
  • Continuing legal education offered and bar association fees paid by the firm
  • Relocation expense allowance
  • Graduation bonus for first-year associates
  • Bar exam fee coverage
  • Medical, dental and vision insurance coverage (including coverage for domestic partners)
  • Flexible spending account
  • Retirement plan/401(k)
  • Birth/adoption leave
  • Family/dependent care leave
  • Employee assistance program
  • Estate planning services
  • Short-term/long-term disability insurance
  • Voluntary life insurance

The Summer Program

Spend the summer working in a vibrant, growing legal market!

Our Summer Associate Program is designed for law students who are interested in gaining valuable experience and learning about life as an attorney at Varnum.

We host on-campus interviews for 2Ls at the following law schools:

Our 2L recruiting process for the summer class of 2019 is now complete. We look forward to welcoming our class in May 2019.

Meaningful Work

Summer associates receive assignments directly from assigning attorneys and are encouraged to seek out projects independently as well. This approach provides summer associates with direct interaction with attorneys while learning prioritization and time management.

In the past, our summer associates have had the opportunity to observe:


To foster professional relationships and development, each summer associate has two mentors, including at least one member of our Associate Recruiting and Retention Committee. Mentors act as sounding boards, workload moderators and sources of institutional knowledge.

Summer associates receive both informal and formal feedback from assigning attorneys. We also conduct individual mid- and end-of-summer evaluations in which we discuss the summer associates' performance, listen to their feedback, confer about practice group interest, and develop strategies for future growth and development.

Pro Bono Focus

Summer associates are encouraged to handle pro bono files Varnum obtains through Legal Aid of Western Michigan. During orientation, the firm's Pro Bono Coordinator explains pro bono processes and available resources to support summer associates as they meet with clients, assess situations, strategize legal options and represent their clients. The Grand Rapids Bar Association and Legal Aid of Western Michigan both have recognized Varnum's unique program for providing equal access to justice for the elderly and underprivileged.

Social Activities

The Summer Associate Program also offers a balance of social events that takes full advantage of Grand Rapids, our thriving downtown, and its prime location near Lake Michigan. In any given year, our calendar will include some combination of the following:

These events allow professional and social relationship building with members of the firm to engender a collegial atmosphere which differentiates Varnum from other firms. The result is a truly unique career opportunity that fosters personal and professional growth.

Still have questions? Reach out to Katie Hoekstra, Director of Recruiting.

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