Varnum Riddering Adds Consulting Arm

May 28, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett has added a business-consulting subsidiary to its law practice in response to clients’ requests for expanded professional consulting services.

The new arm of the firm, Varnum Consulting LLC, provides consultation in the areas of human resources, risk management, strategic communications and trust administration.

Human resources will be handled by Grand Rapids-based HumancO Resources Inc., which Varnum acquired just for that purpose.

The law firm did some consulting work through Varnum Consulting earlier this year in the communications and risk management areas, said Randy Boileau, marketing director. The acquisition of HumancO two weeks ago put the final piece in place, and allowed the new subsidiary to go out and announce its service offering to the marketplace.

HumancO’s core team members are specialists with 15 to 25 years of experience in the field. The team has resource expertise in compensation and reward systems, employee support services, traditional consulting and special services.

The consulting arm of the firm currently has 20 employees, about 15 of them former HumancO staffers. Ardon Schambers, founder and executive principal of HumancO, now serves as director of human resources for Varnum Consulting.

John Reinartz, a licensed and certified insurance counselor with 21 years’ experience, is senior consultant in risk management and leads the risk management team of the consulting business.

Boileau said the plan is to consolidate Varnum Consulting at the law firm’s headquarters in Bridgewater Place downtown by the end of the year.

“Over the years, many of our clients have asked us for advice on areas of their businesses outside of their legal matters,” said William Lawrence, Varnum Riddering’s chairman. “I see Varnum Consulting as a tremendous opportunity to expand the services we provide to our clients. It’s a logical step for us.”

Boileau said that in recent years particularly, clients have requested these types of services more and more frequently. In the past, the law firm referred the work out. In establishing Varnum Consulting, he said, the firm was “trying to be responsive to what our client base has told us they want.”

The new subsidiary also provides clients with an integrated team, Boileau added.

“These areas are typically closely linked to legal matters,” he explained. “So if we have clients that are working on a matter that has implications for human resources or has implications for risks or communications or whatever the case might be, we’re able to pull very quickly an integrated team of very capable people that can provide an overall, integrated approach to the problem.”

There have been sporadic offerings of non-legal services by law firms over the years, but according to Boileau, the new venture represents a first in West Michigan, and one of the few instances in the country, where a law firm has pulled together so broad a range of services and put them together in an organized consulting firm that can work either independently of or closely with the firm.

Lawrence predicts the new consulting arm will represent a significant part of the law firm’s business by the end of this year.

The outlook is great simply because of the response the firm has had, Boileau said.

“We’ve already seen very warm client response to the concept and to the services we have to offer. With the ability now to bring the HumancO business in, that’s going to provide some critical mass that we think we’ll be able to build on very successfully between now and the end of the year.”

Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett LLP, established in Grand Rapids in 1888, has more than 140 attorneys in four offices in Michigan and one office in Milwaukee.

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