Christopher Pollack Joins Varnum’s Litigation Team  

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Varnum is pleased to announce that Christopher Pollack has joined Varnum’s Litigation and Trial Team. He is based in the firm’s Grand Rapids office.

Pollack’s practice includes both the defense and prosecution of complex civil matters involving an array of contract, tort, and statutory claims. He represents clients throughout the litigation process, including at hearings, depositions, trial and appellate proceedings.

He joins the firm from the Washington, D.C. office of McDermott Will & Emery.

Pollack is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan Law School where he was a contributing editor for the Michigan Journal of Law Reform. He received his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Central Florida.

Following law school, Pollack served clerkships for the Hon. Jeffrey J. Helmick in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and for the Hon. Robin S. Rosenbaum in U.S. Circuit Court for the Eleventh Circuit.

Rana Eid Joins Varnum’s Corporate Team  

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Varnum is pleased to announce that Rana Eid has joined Varnum’s Corporate Practice Team. She is based in the firm’s Birmingham office.

Eid focuses her practice on mergers and acquisitions, representing private equity firms and strategic acquirers across industries including health care, technology, automotive, metals, manufacturing, real estate and energy.

She joins the firm from the San Francisco office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

Eid is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, where she participated in numerous law student organizations and the Michigan Law Transactional Competition. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science and International Studies from the University of Michigan.

Charles Russman Joins Varnum Employee Benefits Practice

Varnum is pleased to announce that Charles Russman has joined the firm’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Practice. He is based in the Ann Arbor office.

Russman is an experienced attorney whose practice is focused on employee benefits, executive compensation, tax and data privacy matters. He helps clients design and implement benefits plans including wrap plans, cafeteria plans, health and welfare plans, 401(k)s, pension plans, 457 plans and 403 (b) plans, and provides guidance and counsel on employer fiduciary matters. He regularly assists employers with income tax withholding and unemployment tax questions. Russman also provides counsel and expertise to financial institutions and other businesses regarding IRAs, Health Savings Accounts and Educational Savings Accounts.

With a strong background in data privacy matters, Russman counsels clients on policies and procedures, assistance with regulatory compliance, risk assessment and data breach prevention and response. He is an IAPP-certified information privacy professional (CIPP/US and CIPP/E) and certified information program manager (CIPM).

Russman is a writer and speaker on a variety of workplace matters including employee benefits, executive compensation, withholding, unemployment and data privacy issues.  

Russman is a graduate of Wayne State University Law School and earned an LL.M. in Taxation and Employee Benefits Certificate with distinction from Georgetown University Law Center. He received his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University.

Matthew Bailey Joins Varnum Family Law Practice

Varnum is pleased to announce that Matthew Bailey has joined Varnum’s Family Law Practice. He is based in the firm’s Grand Rapids office.

Bailey is an experienced family law attorney with a background in litigation and appellate law. He counsels clients in divorce, custody, alimony and guardianship matters. He is a skillful negotiator with extensive experience mediating creative solutions for clients.

In addition to his private practice experience, Bailey formerly served the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance for Michigan State University, representing respondents under the jurisdiction of the school’s Policy on Relationship Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors. He conducted evidentiary hearings pertaining to alleged violations of sexual assault and misconduct and was retained by the Office of Institutional Equality to litigate contested claims.

Following law school, Bailey served a clerkship with the Michigan Court of Appeals for the Honorable Stephen Borrello. He served as an extern for the Eaton County Prosecutor’s Office while earning his law degree.

Baily graduated cum laude from Michigan State University College of Law and received his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University Eli Broad College of Business.

Varnum Elects Six Attorneys to Partnership

Six Varnum attorneys have been elected to the partnership, reflecting growth in key practices and markets. The new partners are Regan A. Gibson, Timothy A. Gordon, Herman D. Hofman, Robert M. Huff, William L. Thompson and Rebecca K. Wrock.

“We are very proud to welcome each of these attorneys to the partnership,” said Varnum Chair Ron DeWaard. “In addition to their proven legal ability, each of them brings a unique background and experience to their practice as well as to the larger firm.”

Varnum Executive Partner Scott Hill noted that each of new partners took a different path to their legal career.

“Our newest partners bring perspectives informed by their diverse backgrounds, including military service and government experience,” Hill said. “We are pleased to welcome this talented group with their distinctive skills to the firm.”

Regan Gibson is a litigation attorney, representing clients in a variety of civil and criminal litigation matters and internal investigations. She has further represented companies and individuals in civil and criminal investigations by the United States Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and numerous other state and federal agencies. Prior to receiving her law degree, Gibson was a paralegal specialist in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, where she served in the Violent Crime and Narcotics Trafficking Section. She is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and received her undergraduate degree from Smith College. Gibson joined the firm in 2019.

Tim Gordon is a corporate attorney focused on mergers and acquisitions and general corporate counseling. He represents public and private companies and private equity, venture and angel capital firms in a variety of domestic and cross-border mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and other strategic investment transactions. During law school, he served as an intern with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the Division of Corporation Finance. He joined Varnum in 2021 from the Chicago office of a global law firm. Gordon graduated from the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University. He earned both a Master of Business Administration degree and undergraduate degree from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

Herman Hofman is a litigation attorney. He has extensive courtroom experience and advises companies in a variety of industries on legal matters in both individual and class action contexts. Hofman has also successfully handled appeals spanning a broad range of subject matters in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth and Seventh Circuits, the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals.  Before joining Varnum in 2017, Hofman served as a law clerk for Chief Judge Robert Jonker of the District Court for the Western District of Michigan. He additionally lived in a rural village in Bolivia, South America, for nine years and is fluent in Spanish and Dutch, as well as English. Hofman is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Law and received his undergraduate degree from Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa.

Rob Huff is a member of Varnum’s Estate Planning Practice Team. He is experienced with all facets of advanced planning techniques, including the use of various trusts and entity structures utilized in gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer tax planning. He further maintains a particular focus on the intersection of business matters and personal estate planning. Huff joined Varnum in 2017 after practicing in Florida for several years and frequently counsels clients who own property or relocate to Florida. Huff received his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School and attended the University of Chicago for his undergraduate degree.

Will Thompson is a member of the Litigation Team. His practice is primarily focused on complex commercial, tax and insolvency litigation. He also has substantial first chair trial experience litigating civil and criminal tax issues arising under state and federal law. Thompson served as a judicial intern for the Honorable Sean F. Cox of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Prior to his legal career, Thompson served with the United States Marine Corps as a Staff Sergeant from 2004 to 2008, during which time he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Thompson joined Varnum in 2015 upon graduating from Wayne State University Law School. He earned his undergraduate degree at Wayne State University School of Business Administration.

Rebecca Wrock is a member of Varnum’s Estate Planning Practice Team. Her practice includes all aspects of estate planning and estate settlement, including advanced planning techniques for estate, gift, income and generation-skipping transfer tax planning, cottage planning, business succession planning, planning for the care of animal companions with pet trusts, planning for charitable giving and long-term care and estate and trust administration services. Wrock joined Varnum in 2019 and is licensed in both Michigan and Florida. She holds an LLM in taxation from the University of Alabama Law School in addition to her law degree from Wayne State University Law School and undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan.

Chelsea Everson Joins Varnum’s Intellectual Property Team

Varnum is pleased to announce that Chelsea Everson has joined the firm’s Intellectual Property Team. She is based in Varnum’s Novi office.

Everson has a wide range of IP experience in patent prosecution, trademark and copyright protection, trade secret law and preparation and review of IP agreements. She has prepared and prosecuted numerous domestic and foreign patent applications within the biological, chemical and mechanical arts. She regularly prepares prior art searches, freedom-to-operate analyses and infringement and invalidity opinions. She is also experienced in IP litigation involving patent and trademark infringement, trade secret misappropriation and unfair competition.

During law school, Everson served an extensive, 10-week externship with the USPTO’s Patent Experience Extern Program and Patent Training Academy at the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. She worked alongside patent examiners in a unit that oversees various biotech, chemical and pharmaceutical technologies to review patent applications for grant consideration and conduct prior art searches. Everson also delivered presentations on patent and trademark matters to small business owners and aspiring inventors at USPTO informational events.

Everson is a cum laude graduate of Wayne State University Law School. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in honors psychology with a minor in biological sciences and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Michigan – Dearborn, graduating with High Distinction.

Varnum Office Renovation Driven by Commitment to Collaboration

Varnum is pleased to announce the completion of an extensive renovation of its Grand Rapids office. The makeover, which began in September 2021 following remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, is designed to create an inviting and collaborative environment that takes advantage of natural light, in addition to extensive technology advancements.

“As we made the transition back to in-office work, we wanted to create a first-class environment to help facilitate collaboration,” said Varnum Chair Ron DeWaard. “The renovation addresses the new work arrangements that evolved during COVID, as well as creating a comfortable and inviting office atmosphere.”

The makeover included significant renovation of approximately 64,000 square feet on four floors. Among the features of the project are the addition of nine team rooms, all equipped with monitors and technology for remote meetings and a “plug and play” environment for anyone with a laptop. Streamlined furnishings reflect the adaptability of the modern work space, with sit/stand workstations for everyone in the office and the ability to easily transition from office to remote work options. New lighting, color and art provide a warm and inviting ambience, and the overall design maximizes the expansive views from Bridgewater Place.

Varnum’s large reception floor at the top of the building features iconic West Michigan furnishings as well as a renovated outdoor deck with soft seating, decorative built-in planters and a pergola. With one of largest outdoor decks overlooking the city, the firm frequently hosts client and organizational gatherings throughout the summer months. The office space was revealed at the firm’s annual Top of the Terrace party in September.

In addition to a putting green and shuffleboard table, social spaces on each floor include television monitors and a variety of gourmet coffee, tea and soft drink options.

In addition to the Grand Rapids renovation, several of Varnum’s other offices have received technology upgrades in the past year. The firm also completed a move of its Birmingham office in June, more than doubling the size of that office.

“Our new office spaces in Birmingham and Grand Rapids are reflections of our commitment to providing an inviting atmosphere that supports collaboration between offices and with clients,” said firm Executive Partner Scott Hill. “Coming on the heels of our expansion in Ann Arbor and Florida, we are excited to have vibrant, bustling offices where we can come together and build momentum.”

Attorneys Robert Kass, Kathleen Cieslik Join Varnum

Varnum is pleased to announce that Robert Kass and Kathleen Cieslik have joined the firm’s Estate Planning Team. Both will be based in the firm’s Birmingham office.

“We are pleased to welcome Bob and Kathleen to the firm as part of the strategic expansion of our team in Birmingham,” said Varnum Chair Ron DeWaard. “They bring a wealth of knowledge in their areas of legal expertise as well as strong ties to the community.”

Kass and Cieslik join Varnum from Barris Sott Denn Driker PLLC.

Kass is a veteran estate planner with deep ties to the southeast Michigan community. His practice focuses on estate planning, tax counseling, wealth preservation and planned giving. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) and has been recognized by numerous attorney ranking organizations throughout his career.

Regarded as an expert in topics related to estate planning, charitable giving and taxation, Kass is a frequent speaker and presenter on those topics for the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE), Michigan Association of CPAs and numerous other organizations.

Kass serves on the professional advisory committees for the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Foundation, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Institute of Arts and other major charities.

Cieslik is a trusts and estates attorney focused on creating customized estate plans for a wide range of individuals and multi-generational families, which achieve goals such as tax avoidance, business succession planning and charitable giving. She also provides counsel to individual and corporate fiduciaries regarding the timely and efficient management of trusts and estates, including probate administration when necessary. An experienced litigator, Cieslik also handles controversies and frequently appears in Probate Court to handle both routine and contested matters throughout Southeast Michigan.

Cieslik is a frequent presenter on probate and estate planning matters for ICLE and the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan. She recently provided an in-depth look at charitable giving for the Planned Giving Roundtable of Southeast Michigan.

Banking and finance attorney Michael Romaya, who serves as the lead partner of the Birmingham office, lauded the expanding headcount in the office, which moved to a new location in June after doubling in size over the past three years.

“It’s gratifying to have these renowned professionals join our team,” Romaya said. “We are delighted to welcome great professionals committed to excellence and unwavering client service.”

Varnum’s Estate Planning Team is one of the largest in the state, experienced in the most sophisticated tax and planning techniques. Varnum is one of the few Michigan firms to be ranked by Chambers HNW, which highlights leading professionals in private wealth management in key jurisdictions around the world.

Michael Stroup Joins Varnum’s Real Estate Team

Varnum is pleased to announce that Michael Stroup has joined the firm’s real estate practice. He is based in Varnum’s Grand Rapids office.

Stroup assists clients with sales and acquisitions, development, leasing and construction matters related to commercial, industrial and residential properties. In addition to his real estate focus, he has broad experience advising closely-held businesses on entity formation, succession planning, transactions and tax matters.

Prior to joining Varnum, Stroup worked for a real estate law boutique firm in Grand Rapids, where he assisted clients in both transactional and litigation real estate matters. While in law school, Stroup completed internships with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and a global asset management company in Seoul, Korea.

Stroup is a 2019 graduate of Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where he served as Notes Editor for the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies and participated in Jeffrey G. Miller National Environmental Law Moot Court. He received his undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University, graduating summa cum laude with a double major in economics and political science.

Varnum Achieves Mansfield Rule 5.0 Certification

Varnum is pleased to announce that the firm has achieved Mansfield Rule Certification 5.0, following an extensive, year-long process.

The Mansfield Rule is a program for law firms designed to boost the representation of historically underrepresented lawyers in firm leadership. The program measures whether women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities have been considered for leadership opportunities, promotions, lateral positions and career-enhancing work opportunities.

“We’re very pleased to be among the 160 law firms across the country who achieved certification this year,” said Varnum Chair Ron DeWaard. “We understand the value of the program and we will continue to participate in the coming year.”

DeWaard noted that the process was intensive and worthwhile.

“This isn’t a ‘check the box’ exercise; it’s an ongoing process throughout the year with the intended result of broadening awareness of everything from how we staff matters to who we promote for leadership and recognition,” DeWaard said.

To achieve Mansfield Rule Certification, law firms are required to demonstrate year-long progress in increasing diversity in senior recruitment and leadership decisions and consider a minimum of 30% diverse candidates for these roles. Based on the premise that “you get what you measure,” the process includes establishing and tracking certain data points in more than a dozen areas which are evaluated and discussed at regular intervals throughout the year.

The Mansfield Certification program is administered by Diversity Lab, an incubator for innovative ideas and solutions that boost diversity and inclusion in law. The inaugural version of the Mansfield Rule began in 2017 with fewer than 50 law firms. Participation has increased in subsequent years and the program continues to evolve in order to better meet its goal of boosting and sustaining diversity in leadership and the pipeline to leadership.

Varnum Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee Chair Luis Avila said he is excited about the firm’s continued participation in the program.

“Because of the certification requirements, firms that take part in the program are making notable gains across aspects of firm culture and leadership,” Avila said. “I’m pleased with our certification this year and proud that the firm is continuing its commitment to this measurement of our diversity efforts.”

The Mansfield Rule is named after Arabella Mansfield, the first female lawyer in the US, and was inspired by the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires every NFL team to interview at least one minority candidate for head coach vacancies. Mansfield Rule raised the bar on expectations, having learned from the Rooney Rule outcomes, by requiring law firms to consider diverse lawyers for all leadership roles, lateral hiring, promotions to partner, participation in client pitch meetings and other tracked data points.