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CPBO Challenge® 100 Spotlight On: Merck & Co., Inc.

Merck - Bruce KuhlikMerck & Co., Inc.’s corporate mission is to help society, which it accomplishes in part through its participation in pro bono legal activities. With support from general counsel Bruce Kuhlik, Merck’s pro bono program enables its lawyers and staff to help those in need in the communities in which Merck operates to enforce their legal rights and to obtain equal justice and help build a more diverse and inclusive pipeline. Merck’s pro bono program has served as a model for pro bono programs at other corporations.

A Charter Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge®, Merck is among a select group of legal departments that have had a formal in-house pro bono program for more than 15 years. Since 1994, Merck attorneys, paralegals and administrative associates have devoted thousands of hours of time to provide equal justice to those in need in communities across the United States and abroad. The program began with a small group of attorneys and support staff who piloted a program to assist low-income individuals in obtaining free legal services. The program has grown to more than 150 members participating in pro bono legal work. Merck’s goals for 2010 have been to increase pro bono participation, integrate pro bono participants from legacy Schering-Plough, and establish an international program.

Merck’s pro bono program has engaged in several key projects this year:

• The “Bankruptcy in a Box” clinic handles all Volunteer Lawyers for Justice bankruptcy clients;

• Merck’s volunteer lawyers and staff helped the disabled veterans living at Community Hope, an organization that offers transitional housing for veterans, with some of their legal needs;

• For the first time, Merck offered opportunities for its international colleagues:
-Merck has participated in the development of an international pro bono clearinghouse that will allow Merck attorneys to go online to locate the opportunities available in various countries through “Trust Law Connect;” and
-Merck has worked in partnership with the Public Interest Law Institute and several other legal departments and a global law firm and assist women with workplace issues in Nepal.

In recent years, Merck’s legal department has been the recipient of the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award, the Pro Bono Award from Union County Bar Association/Central Jersey Legal Services, the U.S. President’s Volunteer Service Award, and the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award.