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A Day in the Life of a Varnum Summer Associate

Written by Ethan Beswick, Summer Associate Class of 2018, Incoming Associate in Fall 2019

No two days are ever the same as a Varnum Summer Associate.

Some days involve getting to the office "early" around 8 a.m. 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?

Our application process for the 2021 summer program is now closed. More information on the recruiting process for summer 2022 will be posted on this page in late spring/early summer of 2021.

2. Do you accept 1L applicants?

We typically hire 1L summer associates through a diversity clerkship program. However, we are always happy to connect with 1Ls who are interested in practicing law in Michigan.

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 initially reached out to 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.

Our candidates typically meet with 10-12 attorneys in our Grand Rapids office. We also conduct interviews via Zoom.

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 offices outside of Grand Rapids?

Yes. In addition to Grand Rapids, we typically host summer associates in our Southeast Michigan offices. Availability varies from year to year.

8. What training opportunities are available to summer associates?

The Summer Associate Program provides extensive development 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. Our enhanced lockstep system allows us to award bonuses to our top-performing Associates in the range of 30-40% of their base compensation. We are proud of our ability to acknowledge their contributions in this way.

In order to be eligible, Associates must meet our relatively reasonable 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.

We offer a comprehensive and competitive benefits package to our Associates. Highlights include medical, dental and vision insurance coverage, as well as a relocation expense allowance, paid parental leave, 401(k) plan, disability insurance, life insurance, paid parking, estate planning services, and continuing education, among others. We also offer a business casual dress code Monday – Thursday and the option to wear jeans every Friday.

In addition to the above, we are pleased to provide a vacation reimbursement incentive of up to $1,000 per fiscal year. This program was suggested to management by our Associates as a unique way to recognize and reward them for their efforts. Associates also receive a gift from Varnum each year on the anniversary of their first day with the firm.

Summer Associate Program

Meaningful Work

Summer Associates typically 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.

We work closely with our attorneys to provide a wide range of experiential learning opportunities during the program. In the past, our Summer Associates have had the opportunity to observe trials, hearings, depositions, and negotiations, as well as attend client meetings and practice team meetings.

Professional Development

To foster professional relationships and development, each Summer Associate is assigned two mentors to work with throughout the summer. Mentors act as sounding boards, workload advisors and sources of institutional knowledge.

Summer Associates receive both informal and formal feedback from assigning attorneys. We typically conduct individual mid-summer 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 the cities in which our offices are located, as well as the generosity of our attorneys who frequently host events at their homes and cottages. 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, exposing our Summer Associates to the collegial, mutually supportive atmosphere that differentiates Varnum from other firms. Working at Varnum is a unique career opportunity.

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

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