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Varnum Takes Top Honors for Innovation in Attracting and Retaining Young Talent in Michigan

October 9, 2008

Varnum has been selected as the recipient of the Michigan Lawyers Weekly 2008 21st Century Innovator award. Varnum received the top honor among 21 finalists.

On September 10, 2008, Michigan Lawyers Weekly and the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan honored 21 law firms that demonstrated innovative thinking in attracting and retaining the best and the brightest from among each new generation of lawyers.

Varnum managing partner Larry Murphy, Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell, and Varnum partner Susan Wyngaarden.

Of the 21 finalists, Varnum received the top award for the firm’s recognition that top-of-mind issues for the firm’s full-time and part-time young associates include meaningful work, opportunities to lead, being in a culture of inclusion, high-level support for initiatives, and having a seat at the table.

Lawrence J. Murphy, managing partner, explains how Varnum has gone about ensuring that the firm attracts and retains young talent. “In the 1990s, long before Grand Rapids became a Cool City, we formed a retention task force to ensure the success of our associates. Within each practice group, we added an ombudsman for associate retention and training who makes sure associates are receiving well-rounded training and education in the practice fields. Associates also have both a partner mentor and an associate mentor who act as advisors, confidants and advocates. Such relationships and career coaching are key to building solid foundations, and help integrate our associates into both the firm and community.”

Varnum’s recruiting strategy includes active sponsorship of targeted programs at Michigan law schools. Once associates are in place, interest-free loans are offered for down payments on homes, and bar exam and bar review costs. Additionally, moving expenses are fully covered by the firm, and bonuses based on billable hours and overall excellent work are awarded. Amenities that help create work-life balance for Varnum associates include flexible hours, an alternative work schedule program, and a concierge service that includes a meals-to-go program that brings ready-to-cook meals into the office, prescription and dry-cleaning delivery, and on-site exercise facilities and wellness classes. Varnum also provides technology that allows for working on- and off-site, including cell phone and laptop, 24-hour IT support, video conferencing capabilities, a virtual private network, and wireless remote Internet access.

Varnum associate Chris Caldwell has nothing but praise for Varnum’s innovative programs that allow him to be a father as well as an attorney. “With two young kids at home, I like having the option of working from home, and the technology Varnum provides allows me to do so. Instead of staying late at the office, I can go home to spend time with my family while still finishing my work.”

In 2008, Michigan State University College of Law Diversity Services Office and the Wolverine Student Bar Association/National Black Law Student’s Association named Varnum Law Firm of the Year.

Established in 1888, Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett LLP is a regional business law firm with more than 160 lawyers who serve clients in a full range of practice areas from offices in five locations. Varnum represents leading commercial and industrial companies, financial, health care and educational institutions, and public corporations throughout the United States and its territories. Clients include a world-leading office furniture company, a Big Three auto company, the world’s leading ready-to-eat-cereal producer, several of the world’s largest recreational boating companies, publicly traded Tier 1 automotive suppliers, transportation companies, regional banks, regional health care organizations, colleges and universities, and more than 200 municipalities.

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