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Local Law Firm Helps Entrepreneurs Through 'MiSpringboard'

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With more than 125 years in business and eight offices, the Varnum law firm (Varnum) knows what it takes to succeed in business. Through the firm's MiSpringboard program, Varnum attorneys are sharing that expertise with business startups all over Michigan.

MiSpringboard is Varnum's statewide initiative designed to remove some of the barriers associated with starting and growing a business by providing free legal services.

Originally launched in 2011 as a $1 million give over the course of five years, the program's success led to a renewed commitment to donate a second $1 million in free legal services beginning in 2016.

Fred L. Schubkegel, a partner at Varnum, (pictured below) shared that the program was well received by the organizations receiving their legal services as well as the attorneys working with clients in the program.

MiSpringboard Fred L. Schubkegel

"It worked so well for the first five years that we renewed the program for a second five years," Schubkegel said. "We are currently in our seventh year of MiSpringboard."

To date, Varnum has helped more than 400 companies across Michigan, including more than 50 from Southwest Michigan.

Referral partners, including Southwest Michigan First, refer qualified companies and organizations to Varnum for consideration. Once selected, the base gift is typically $2,500 in legal services per organization.

Past MiSpringboard clients based in Kalamazoo include Confections with Convictions (a past KzooConnect blog feature) and Kalamazoo Candle Company.

Adam McFarlin, owner of Kalamazoo Candle Company, said his business connected with MiSpringboard through Catalyst University.

"Our company received an award of $2,500 in-kind legal fees. We used the gift to help us create some legal documents that included contracts and payment terms, for our vendors as well as contracts for our independent sales representatives.

"When you are a startup and your capital resources are scarce, your first responsibility is people and machinery," said McFarlin. "The gift of legal counsel was much needed and very helpful."

Beyond the organizations Varnum has worked with, participation in the MiSpringboard program has benefited the firm and its employees, too.

"We've made a statement together as an organization about what we value. This is something that has really resonated within our firm," Schubkegel said.

Attorneys of various ages and experience levels have enjoyed working with clients in the MiSpringboard program, Schubkegel noted. "It's inspiring to work with talented entrepreneurs. Their enthusiasm and optimism are contagious."

Elliott Berlin, an attorney in Varnum's Kalamazoo office and resident of St. Joseph, agreed.

"I enjoy seeing the entrepreneurial spirit of the organizations we work with," Berlin said. "We started this program at a time when Michigan's economy wasn't doing so well. It's very gratifying to know that we helped a lot of businesses get started during that time, and to see the growing entrepreneur economy in Michigan today."

If you know of an organization that could use Varnum's expertise through the MiSpringboard program, contact one of the referral organizations found on the MiSpringboard page linked above or contact Joan M. Andrew.

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