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Governor announces $1 million in legal services contribution in public-private partnership

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Contact: Sara Wurfel
Office: 517-335-6397

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (for Varnum)
Office: 517-316-0210

LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder today announced that Varnum LLP, a Michigan-based law firm, will donate $1 million in legal services to targeted state-based startups, early stage and growing businesses in a coordinated effort to help spark Michigan's economy.

The statewide initiative provides free legal services associated with starting a business, capital formation and other legal needs, helping Michigan entrepreneurs put their bright ideas to work quickly and achieve their objectives.  The program will make its debut this month.

"Varnum's generous donation is an impressive commitment to Michigan's long-term future," Snyder said. "The firm is taking a proactive approach by rolling up its sleeves and partnering with us to create a positive climate that keeps our economy moving forward. This investment in Michigan will fuel our state's drive to be a leader in the 21st century economy."

The program will be offered in conjunction with Pure Michigan Business Connect, a new website hosted by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) that will provide Michigan businesses with new ways to buy and sell, raise capital, obtain legal advice and connect with each other.  The web address is

Varnum will work with business and economic development organizations throughout Michigan to identify Michigan-based startups, mid-stage entrepreneurs and growing companies that have a need for legal services.  The minimum dollar value of services provided to each identified business will be $2,500. The maximum amount will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

"Built on Michigan's broad asset base of strong corporate enterprises, innovative entrepreneurs and rich technology resources, this toolkit for growth will enable increased in-state sales and opportunities for Michigan businesses," said MEDC CEO Mike Finney. "What makes this particular program so powerful is that it removes an obstacle for dozens of startup and early stage Michigan businesses. Entrepreneurs can invest the dollars they would normally set aside for legal work into company infrastructure and jobs."

Announced by Snyder on June 2, Pure Michigan Business Connect also offers purchasing programs, loans, and other business incentives from the State of Michigan, the MEDC, Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, Huntington Bank, Stage 2 Innovations, Automation Alley and Export Import Bank.

Varnum, which has offices in Grand Haven, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Novi, estimates that it will cover the costs associated with providing legal and business advisory services for about 60 Michigan businesses a year for the next five years.

"This program is Varnum's commitment to take positive action to advance Michigan's economy," said Lawrence J. Murphy, managing partner. "We are pleased to play a small role in helping to grow Michigan's economy and get our state on its feet again. We're very proud to stand side by side with Michigan businesses eager to grow our economy and put our state back to work."

The program criteria are straightforward - statewide referral organizations will identify entrepreneurs and small businesses that need assistance. Candidates must have a written business plan and a demonstrated need for legal support. Annually, the firm will contribute about $200,000 in legal services in partnership with economic development offices throughout the state over a five-year period, up to $1 million in total.

Varnum will offer complimentary legal services and counsel in several arenas, which may include:
 Business entity selection and formation
 Preparing and reviewing contracts
 Debt and equity financing agreements
 Protecting intellectual property
 Complying with industry regulations
 Employment law, benefits and immigration matters
 Website review, software licensing, and IT contracts
 State and federal tax issues