If you ask our attorneys, Varnum is…
- "all about passionate representation of our clients."
- "the ideal work environment. I'm challenged every day, but I always have the positive support of my colleagues."
- "filled with people who are always available and willing to answer my questions."
- "family, without the awkward Thanksgiving Dinner."
- "a great firm with great people."
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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What Sets Us Apart from the Competition?
- Lots of friendly faces. Our attorneys and staff know each other and work together to provide the best possible service and advice to our clients.
- The firm is committed to being a leader in the area of diversity and inclusion. Visit the Diversity section of our website to learn more.
- The firm understands that you can't get full value from life without both achievement and enjoyment in all important areas, whether at work or at home. Work/life integration is valued here. No one will ask you how your family will feel about you missing major holidays.
- We feel strongly about serving the cities where we live and work. Visit the Community Involvement section of our website to learn more.
- Even the most junior associates are given meaningful work early in their careers. We want our associates to make partner and provide them with the tools and guidance to get there, including mentors, professional development opportunities, regular evaluations and other resources.
See Yourself Here
Check us out if you want to work at a firm that…
- Trusts you with important tasks early in your career – and provides you with appropriate guidance and training every step of the way.
Our remarkably low billable hours requirement affords our associates the flexibility to join other attorneys in court hearings, trials, client conferences and depositions until they feel confident in doing it on their own - whether it's arguing in front of the Sixth Circuit, experiencing a jury trial, or playing an important role in complex restructuring negotiations.
- Wants you to be successful.
Many firms hire with attrition in mind, bringing on large numbers of associates with the expectation that the majority of them will leave sooner rather than later. Competition abounds amongst associates for hours and opportunities at these firms, and lateral moves are routine. At Varnum, we hire associates with the goal of shepherding them through their careers to become partners here. Our hope is that they will work at Varnum until they retire.
- Reflects your commitment to professional responsibility and community leadership.
Over the years, the Varnum family has helped shape not only the Michigan business world and a few skylines, but also our individual communities. Our associates can earn up to 50 hours of billable credit for pro bono hours each year. We take our commitment to Michigan seriously, and seek candidates who share the same dedication to their community. Learn more about Varnum's Commitment to Community
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:
- You will not go unfed.
- You will have the opportunity to meet incredibly helpful people who genuinely want to see you succeed.
- You will be treated with dignity and respect by each and every individual you encounter at the firm.
- 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:
- Cook County Bar Association Minority Law Student Job Fair: Tuesday, July 24
- Wayne State: Thursday, August 2
- Northwestern: Friday, August 3
- Notre Dame: Monday, August 6
- Detroit Mercy: Tuesday, August 7
- Chicago-area Law Schools: Thursday, August 9
- University of Michigan: Friday, August 10
- Michigan State: Wednesday, August 15
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?
We do, typically after candidates receive their first semester grades. An application link will be posted on this page when we are ready to begin our 1L candidate evaluation process. Please check back for updates in the fall!
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:
- A comprehensive orientation program
- Mentoring relationships
- Access to any associate development training offered at the firm during the summer
- Weekly summer associate luncheons. Past topics include:
- Visits to client offices and networking opportunities
- 60 minutes with firm management - ask any question you want!
- Research/Legal Writing
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:
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Summer Associate 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:
- Cook County Bar Association Minority Job Fair
- University of Detroit Mercy
- University of Michigan
- Michigan State University
- University of Notre Dame
- Northwestern University
- Wayne State University
Our 2L recruiting process for the summer class of 2019 is now complete. We look forward to welcoming our class in May 2019.
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:
- Client meetings
- Practice Team meetings
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.
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:
- Sporting events
- Cooking class
- Visits to client sites
- Community service opportunities
- Cultural events such as the Picnic Pops, Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts and touring Broadway musicals and concerts
- Summer Associate-only social outings, allowing our classes to bond as a group
- Golf outings
- Dinners at partners' homes
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.