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Remarks from David Ogden

David Ogden, partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, delivered introductory  remarks during the 2013 Annual Conference Reception.  See Ogden’s remarks below.

Thank you.  It’s a great privilege to be here tonight with these recipients and to be so inspired, reminded of what it is and should be to be a lawyer and what our obligations are.  It is also a great privilege to have the opportunity to present the 2013 Laurie D. Zelon Award to my friend Bruce Kuhlik and the law department of Merck & Co.

Bruce and his team join a very distinguished group of recipients including Ken Frazier, Merck’s CEO, who won the award in 2003 while serving as Bruce does today as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Merck.  As this remarkable second award surely shows, Merck is an exceptional company in its science and innovation and also in its broad commitment to the public good.  Pro bono legal services is a very significant, but by no means the only way in which Merck makes that kind of difference.  Such a company with that kind of excellence and that set of values is a perfect fit for a person with Bruce Kuhlik’s extraordinary professional standards and sense of professional responsibility.

Bruce and I met, I shudder to say more than 34 years ago as first year law students, and it was my astonishing good luck to find myself in a small study group with him.  As I learned then, Bruce has a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor that by example calls for a matching sort of humility from those of us not otherwise so inclined.  He’s a devoted husband and father and a great and loyal friend.  As I learned in law school and only learned more thoroughly in the years since, Bruce has a unique combination of a searing analytical ability, the willingness to see and considering all side of a problem, an indefatigable drive to get the answer right, and then once we knows what he knows, a steely commitment to see it through, come what may.

He also cares deeply about the less fortunate of us and throughout his career has devoted his time and talent to pro bono matters.  His first courtroom experience was on a pro bono case representing the families of the American hostages who had been held in Iran.  Bruce prepared wills for young men with AIDS in the early years of the epidemic.  He prepared amicus briefs, including in the Supreme Court as part of affirmative action for women in the workplace and in support of women’s right to choose.  At Merck, he has found the time to serve on teams representing pro bono clients.  With all that, he says that way he is proudest of is simply building on the pro bono traditions at Merck and encouraging everyone in the department to participate.  And he has done that.

Under Bruce’s leadership, Merck’s pro bono program has expanded to include more than 150 attorneys, paralegals, and administrative associates, providing pro bono services to individuals and nonprofit companies in the U.S. in the communities where Merck lives itself and internationally, providing that kind of service to people and companies that can’t afford it.

All of this is a model any lawyer and any company should want to emulate.  For all of those reasons, I am very proud to give this award to my friend Bruce Kuhlik and the terrific legal team at Merck.