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A Better Partnership

Justin W. Stemple

Partner | Email

  • Grand Rapids

    t. +1.616.752.2375

    f. +1.616.222.2375

    m. +1.616.822.6923


Justin Stemple focuses his practice on qualified retirement plans, non-qualified deferred compensation plans and executive compensation, with an emphasis on employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), incentive programs and equity compensation. "Employee benefit regulations are very complex," he says. "I strive to communicate those complex rules to my clients in ways that are easy to understand and apply practically." To gain insight into the field, Justin has taught a certification course for employee benefits specialists and taught the basics of employee benefits law to master’s degree candidates at the Seidman College of Business, Grand Valley State University. Justin also serves as Chairperson to the firm's Employee Benefits/Executive Compensation Practice Group.



  • William & Mary J.D. 2004
  • Alma College B.A. 2001 magna cum laude


  • 2005, Michigan

Bar Associations

  • State Bar of Michigan

Teaching and Lecturing

  • Adjunct Faculty Member, Western Michigan University (Certified Employee Benefits Specialist Program), 2006-Present


Tax-Qualified Retirement Plans

  • Drafting plan documents, summary plan descriptions and amendments for qualified retirement plans, including 401(k) plans, defined benefit pension plans, profit-sharing plans, ESOPs and union multiemployer pension plans
  • Successfully negotiating contract dispute with third-party administrator regarding qualified retirement plan distribution issues
  • Counseling employers regarding the impact of mergers and acquisitions on their retirement plans
  • Assisting employers with submissions to correct retirement plan operational errors under Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor correction procedures
  • Implementing the freeze and termination of defined benefit pension plans with the PBGC in both standard and distress terminations
  • Assisting employers to successfully resolve issues raised in Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service audits
  • Assisting employers with reviewing and challenging multimillion dollar withdrawal liability claims by union multiemployer pension funds
  • Conducting RFP process and negotiating vendor agreements for retirement plan service providers
  • Representing employers and trustees with respect to transactions involving an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)
  • Assisting corporate counsel regarding the sale of a $100 million+ ESOP-owned company

Executive Compensation

  • Counseling employers and compensation consultants in regard to the design and implementation of equity incentive programs, including stock options, stock appreciations rights, restricted stock and stock awards
  • Designing and drafting early retirement incentive programs
  • Drafting and conducting Internal Revenue Code Section 409A reviews of deferred compensation plans, including phantom stock plans, individual account balance plans, non-account balance plans, incentive based plans and severance agreements
  • Assisting publicly traded companies to structure their non-qualified deferred compensation plans to achieve their original business purpose and retain flexibility while bringing the plans into compliance with Section 409A

Honors & Awards

  • Best Lawyers in America, Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law, 2013-Present
  • Top Lawyer in Employee Benefits Law, Grand Rapids Magazine, 2021
  • Michigan Super Lawyer Rising Star, 2012-19
  • Rated a leader in the field of employee benefits and executive compensation law in Michigan by Chambers USA, 2021
  • Order of the Coif
  • Phi Beta Kappa



  • Editor of HR Focus, the firm's quarterly newsletter


Professional Affiliations

  • NIA Centre, Board of Directors (2021-Present)
  • National Center for Employee Ownership
  • The ESOP Association

Speaking Engagements

  • "The New Normal and What’s Next for Retirement Plans," Warner Webinar, June 11, 2020
  • "What Is an ESOP and Why Should I Care?," ESOP Quarterly Meet-Up, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, March 10, 2020, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "MBA Retirement Trust Committee SECURE Act" Webinar, December 20, 2019
  • "Employee Benefits Update," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 7, 2019, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Equity Compensation for Startups," WMU Innovation Lunch-and-Learn Series, September 20, 2018, Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • "Benefit Plan Nondiscrimination Testing," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 3, 2018, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "ESOP Administration Horror Stories," National Center for Employee Ownership Annual Conference, April 19, 2018, Atlanta, Georgia
  • "Fueling Growth Through Acquisitions," Michigan Chapter of the ESOP Association Spring Conference, April 11, 2018, Lansing, Michigan
  • "Myth or Truth: Employee Benefits Panel," Warner Labor & Benefits Executive Panels, November 17, 2017, Traverse City, Michigan
  • "401(k) Wthdrawal Dos and Don'ts" and "Incentivizing Your Employees," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 23, 2017, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Managing an Evolving Workforce" and "Attracting and Retaining Millennials," Warner Labor & Benefits Executive Panel, October 18, 2016, Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • 2016 West Michigan Fiduciary Forum, June 28, 2016, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • ESOP Ownership Transition, June 21, 2016, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Correction Programs," Warner Human Resources Seminar, June 9, 2016, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Labor & Benefits Executive Panel, Warner Seminar, October 5, 2015, Traverse City, Michigan
  • "Retirement Plans, Benefit Plans in Mergers and Acquisitions, ACA Update and Requirements," Radiology Business Managers of Michigan Spring Conference 2015, May 1, 2015, Traverse City, Michigan
  • "What to Do When a Client Wants Out," co-presented with Scott Eisenberg, John Carter and Jeffrey Groen, The Michigan Association of Public Accountants Anti-Fraud Issues, Litigation & Business Valuation, and Mergers & Acquisitions Conference, May 19, 2015, Livonia, Michigan
  • "Retirement Plan Panel Discussion" and "Benefit Plans in Mergers and Acquisitions," Warner Human Resources Seminar, April 20, 2015, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "GreatBank/DOL Settlement:  What Should You Know," Michigan Chapter of The ESOP Association, co-presented with Nick Adamy, Adamy Valuation Advisors, March 30, 2015, Lansing, Michigan,
  • Employee Benefits/Executive Compensation Panel, Labor and Benefits Executive Panel-Government Enforcement Initiatives, October 23, 2014, Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • "ESOP Features You May Not Have Considered," Michigan Chapter of The ESOP Association Annual Conference, September 25, 2014
  • "Hot Topics in Retirement Plans," Warner Human Resources Seminar, April 22, 2014, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • “Best Practices in Retirement Plan Governance,” presented to Advantage Benefits Group client seminar and separately at a Principal Financial Group client seminar, both held at Frederick Meijer Gardens, September 11, 2013, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Retirement Plan RFPs" and "Roadmap to Designing Compensation Plans," Warner Human Resources Seminar, April 29, 2013, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • “New Fiduciary Liabilities for Retirement Plans," Healthcare Financial Management Association (West MI Chapter) Spring Conference, March 20, 2013, Caledonia, Michigan
  • "A Legislative Update on Retirement Plans," West Michigan Chapter of International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists, Nov. 15, 2012, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Boatload of Ideas on ESOP Communication," ESOP Association Michigan Chapter Fall Conference, October 23, 2012, Lansing, Michigan
  • Regular speaker with The ESOP Association
  • "The Perfect Retirement Plan for Small Businesses?," and "DOL's New Fee Disclosure Rules:  Are You in Compliance?," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 2, 2012, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Are You Ready for New DOL Fee Disclosure Rules?," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 25, 2011, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Plan Mechanics," ESOP Association Michigan Chapter Meeting, October 27, 2010
  • 2010 Legislative Update, West Michigan Chapter of ISCEBS, November 17, 2010
  • "Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Plans:  What and Why?," Warner Human Resources Seminar, March 23, 2010, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Last Call for 409A," Warner Human Resources Seminar, September 11, 2008, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Generational Differences in the Workplace," ESOP Association Michigan Chapter Meeting, October 23, 2007
  • "Electronic SPDs, Notices and Consents:  What You Need to Know," Warner Human Resources Seminar, May 10, 2007, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • "Structuring Equity Compensation in ESOP Companies," ESOP Association Michigan Chapter Meeting, March 28, 2007

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