University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
J.D., cum laude, 1985
University of Washington
B.A., cum laude, Communications, 1980
Phi Beta Kappa
All Michigan state courts
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
United States Supreme Court
Insurance Claims and ERISA Litigation Attorney
Mark sues insurance companies when they fail to pay claims. Varnum represents only insureds in these matters. Mark has helped shape the landscape of Michigan insurance law since 1985. He is regularly asked to speak on insurance issues for continuing legal education programs and at other Bar-related activities.
Mark also handles litigation matters dealing with employee benefit issues under ERISA. He has handled all facets of employee benefit litigation, from benefit claims to multi-employer plan contribution issues. Mark has acted as benefit counsel for litigation matters on a national basis for a Big Three Auto Maker and a national food processor.
Mark was named Grand Rapids “Lawyer of the Year” for ERISA Litigation in the 2021 edition of The Best Lawyers in America©.
Mark’s practice has also allowed him to develop an extensive appellate practice. He has appeared at every level of state and federal court in the country, including the United States Supreme Court. His representation of the County of Kent in Northwest Airlines v The County of Kent, et al, 510 U.S. 355 (1994), culminated in a decision from the United States Supreme Court. Mark has also argued, en banc, before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Nixon v County of Kent, 76 F3d 1381 (6th Cir. 1996), en banc.
Mark coordinates Varnum’s Pro Bono Services Program, which he has handled for over fifteen years.
Honors and Recognitions
Best Lawyers in America® since 2013
Best Lawyers in America®, Lawyer of the Year, Litigation – ERISA, Grand Rapids, 2016, 2018, 2021, 2023
Grand Rapids Magazine’s Top Lawyers, Litigation – Insurance, since 2019
Leading Lawyers: Employee Benefits Law; Insurance Coverage Law: Consumer Insureds; Insurance, Insurance Coverage & Reinsurance Law
Martindale-Hubbell® AV Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated
Grand Rapids Bar Association: Pro Bono Committee, chair
State Bar of Michigan
American Cancer Society, Kent County unit, past president
Gerontology Network, Board
St. Thomas the Apostle School, Board
Women’s Resource Center, Board