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Varnum Celebrates 125th Anniversary in 2013

March 29, 2013

Tracing its roots to 1888, Varnum celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2013. From its humble beginnings as the two-man firm of Montgomery & Bundy, Varnum is currently one of Michigan's largest and most respected business law firms, serving clients with over 150 attorneys in five offices across the state.

The firm will celebrate throughout the year with client-centric events as well as internal efforts focused on the history and people of the firm.

"Looking back on the firm's history allows us to reflect on how our past has shaped where we are today," said Executive Partner Tom Kyros. "As we celebrate this significant milestone, we are grateful for a culture that has allowed us to grow and serve the community for 125 years. Not many organizations can say that."

Varnum's roots begin in 1888 when former 17th Circuit Judge Robert Montgomery joined McGeorge Bundy (grandfather and namesake of President John Kennedy's National Security Advisor) in private practice in Grand Rapids. The firm was originally known as Montgomery & Bundy. The name of the firm evolved over the years as partners joined and left, culminating in the 1983 merger which created Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett.  While this is still the firm's legal name, today it is known simply as Varnum.

Varnum is aided in its recognition of the firm's long history by various written chronicles of the early days of the firm. Most notable of these is "A History of Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett" by the late John L. Wierengo, a former name partner who compiled the history on the cusp of the firm's 100th anniversary.

In addition to standard research documents, Wierengo had access to some of the firm's early partners who were still alive at the time, including Laurent K. Varnum. The resulting story includes not only detailed facts of the early days and growth of the partnership, but also some fascinating and occasionally humorous stories about people, the practice of law, and the West Michigan community in general. Varnum himself left several volumes of miscellaneous writings which give insight into the development of Grand Rapids and the practice of law during the latter half of the 20th century. The 1983 merger with Schmidt, Howlett, Van't Hof, Snell and Vana factors significantly into the make-up and culture of the present day firm, and the history of that firm will also be drawn upon in recognition of the anniversary.

Throughout the year, the firm will share anecdotes and fun facts from its history on the website and through social media channels Twitter (@varnumlaw) and Facebook (


1888 - Montgomery & Bundy
1890 - Montgomery, Bundy & Travis
1911 - Bundy, Travis & Merrick
1912 - Travis, Merrick & Warner
1921 - Travis, Merrick, Warner & Johnson
1928 - Travis, Merrick, Johnson & Judd
1929 - Travis, Merrick, Johnson & McCobb
1930 - Travis Merrick & Johnson
1941 - Travis, Merrick, Varnum & Riddering
1948 - Varnum, Riddering, Wierengo & Christenson
1983 - Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett LLP

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