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A Better Partnership

Jennifer Watkins

Partner | Email

  • Detroit

    t. +1.313.546.6192

    f. +1.248.603.9792


Jennifer Watkins advises employers on the design and operation of their retirement and executive compensation. She also represents employers with matters before the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.


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  • University of Toledo J.D. 2003 magna cum laude
  • University of Toledo B.B.A. 1999 Information Systems


  • 2003, Michigan

Bar Associations

  • American Bar Association
    Taxation and Labor and Employment Sections
  • State Bar of Michigan
    Taxation Section; Governing Council, 2021 Membership & Student Outreach Chair; Employee Benefits Committee


  • Managed qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) approval process for a defined benefit plan with more than 80,000 participants and a 401(k) plan with more than 20,000 participants
  • Prepared new plan document that merged a client’s 401(k), after tax and profit sharing plans and designed a comprehensive package of administrative forms and processes for the merged plan, including election forms, beneficiary forms, QDRO forms and procedures and distribution forms; then designed a system for administering and reporting rollovers and distributions
  • Performed a comprehensive operational audit of a client’s qualified retirement and welfare plans, prepared an audit report of findings and recommendations and helped design a strategy to address resulting issues
  • Managed termination process for several pension plans, including a cash balance plan and two plans of nonprofit clients
  • Handled complicated correction process for required minimum distribution failures spanning many years and involving a defined benefit plan recently converted to cash balance
  • Prepared retroactive amendments and voluntary correction program (VCP) submission for nonprofit client whose defined benefit plan was missing five required interim amendments
  • Designed comprehensive distribution form packages for several defined benefit and 401(k) plans
  • Prepared VCP submissions and assisted in successful negotiations with IRS regarding numerous loan failures involving a client’s four 401(k) plans
  • Designed and implemented process and standard documents for client who regularly acquired companies with their own 401(k) plans and sold subsidiaries who participated in the client’s 401(k) plan
  • Prepared complete set of documents to implement new governance structure for client’s defined benefit, 401(k), executive compensation and welfare benefit plans

Honors & Awards

  • Named a Top Lawyer in Employee Benefits Law by DBusiness, 2020-2021
  • Named as a Michigan Super Lawyer Rising Star, 2012-2015
  • Order of the Coif
  • Managing Editor, University of Toledo Law Review


  • "Employee Student Loan Burden - 4 Ways to Help," Plan Sponsor News, DiMeo Schneider & Associates, L.L.C., publication, April 2019
  • "13 Things You Need to Know About Compensation," Journal of Pension Benefits, Summer 2012
  • Contributing Author, Employee Benefits Law (Second Edition), Cumulative Supplement, 2006
  • Contributing Author, Employee Benefits Law (Second Edition), Cumulative Supplement, 2005
  • Coauthor, "Division of Retirement Benefits," Michigan Family Law (8th ed.), Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education


Professional Affiliations

  • Inforum - A Professional Women's Alliance
    2011 Class

Community Affiliations

  • Shelter to Home, Inc.
    Board Marketing & Development Director, October 2019 - Present; Board Secretary, June 2013 - October 2019
  • Wyandotte Animal Shelter
    Animal Photographer, November 2012 - Present
  • Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary, Inc.
    Board Member, June 2006 - December 2011

Speaking Engagements

  • "Employee Benefits Webinar Series: Part 1 - Retirement Plans: Preparing Your Plan for the New Normal, Year-End, and Beyond," Warner Webinar, October 27, 2020
  • "The New Normal and What’s Next for Retirement Plans," Warner Webinar, June 11, 2020
  • "Employee Benefits Panel," Warner 2019 HR Executive Panels, October 16, 2019, Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • "Tips and Traps: Executive Compensation and the Tangled Web of 409A," FEI Detroit, October 8, 2019
  • "Crafting Deferred Compensation Solutions," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 7, 2019, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Employee Benefits Panel," Warner 2018 HR Executive Panels, October 12, 2018, Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • "The Who, What, When and How of ERISA's Reporting and Disclosure Requirements for Retirement Plans," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 3, 2018, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "401(k) Withdrawal Dos and Don'ts," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 23, 2017, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "How Does Compensation Affect Your Benefit Plan? 10 Things You Need to Know," Warner Human Resources Seminar (2012)
  • "Retirement Plan Issues in Uncertain Times," Warner Human Resources Seminar (March 2010)

NOTICE. Although we would like to hear from you, we cannot represent you until we know that doing so will not create a conflict of interest. Also, we cannot treat unsolicited information as confidential. Accordingly, please do not send us any information about any matter that may involve you until you receive a written statement from us that we represent you.

By clicking the ‘ACCEPT’ button, you agree that we may review any information you transmit to us. You recognize that our review of your information, even if you submitted it in a good faith effort to retain us, and even if you consider it confidential, does not preclude us from representing another client directly adverse to you, even in a matter where that information could and will be used against you.

Please click the ‘ACCEPT’ button if you understand and accept the foregoing statement and wish to proceed.



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