"Don't let perfection be the enemy of the good."
That's been Carl Ver Beek's motto during a legal career spanning more than a half century at one law firm, Varnum LLP in Grand Rapids. And while he may not be completely perfect in his roles as an attorney, arbitrator, mediator, and volunteer, the many people he's encountered personally and professionally since returning to his native West Michigan after graduating from Indiana University School of Law in 1962 think he's pretty darn close.
One of the nation's preeminent labor lawyers, Ver Beek has represented public- and private-sector clients in collective bargaining. The numbers of union contracts he's negotiated, arbitration cases he's tried, National Labor Relations Board elections he's arranged, and disputes he's either mediated or arbitrated is staggering, and he's been a prominent member of numerous American Bar Association councils, committees, and task forces devoted to labor and employment and alternative dispute resolution.
Ver Beek's work in the labor arena alone makes him worthy of honor, but his career-long focus on ethics and discipline in the legal profession sets him apart. He chaired the State Bar of Michigan Committee on Character and Fitness for 10 years and twice has been tabbed by the state Supreme Court for service—he was part of the Attorney Grievance Commission from 1999-2005, including three years as its chair, and currently sits on the Attorney Discipline Board, a role he's held since 2007.
In spite of a full professional life, Ver Beek has maintained his commitment to the community. For more than four decades, he's volunteered for Bethany Christian Services, the nation's largest adoption agency. He was on the board of trustees for Jellema House, a Grand Rapids-based treatment program for men with chemical dependency problems, and was instrumental in the growth of Holland Home, a non-profit retirement community serving the needs of more than 4,000 senior citizens every day. Ver Beek is also a longtime member of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and Michigan Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
In a letter supporting Ver Beek's nomination, Dale Ann Iverson, who served with Ver Beek on the SBM Standing Committee on Character and Fitness, wrote, "Carl was a voice for fairness, compassion, and wise discernment. It has not been infrequent in my professional life that I have wondered, 'What would Carl do?'"
Story by Mike Eidelbes
Carl E. Ver Beek