Mark R. Daniel is Vice President and Group Managing Counsel – Patents at Merck. He was instrumental in establishing the pro bono program at Merck in 1994 and currently serves as the Chair of the Merck Pro Bono Committee. He received the Equal Justice Medal from Legal Services of New Jersey in 1997 in recognition of his assistance in providing legal services to the poor and disadvantaged. Mr. Daniel has been a guest lecturer on providing pro bono services from a corporate perspective at the American Bar Association, Pro Bono Institute and NJSBA Conferences. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Volunteer Lawyers for Justice and the New Jersey State Bar Association Pro Bono Committee. Mr. Daniel also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees at Marian University
The Merck Pro Bono Program began in 1994 when Mary McDonald, former senior vice president and general counsel at Merck, challenged the attorneys within the Office of General Counsel to meet their professional obligation to ensure “equal justice” through the pro bono representation of the poor and disadvantaged. In response, seven volunteer patent attorneys and three administrative associates based in Rahway, NJ, joined representatives from Legal Services of New Jersey and Central Jersey Legal Services to form a groundbreaking alliance to provide direct legal assistance to low-income individuals in the areas of bankruptcy and family law matters.
More than 18 years later, the company’s pro bono program has grown substantially, and today, includes approximately 175 attorneys, paralegals and administrative associates providing pro bono legal services to residents and nonprofit companies at our sites in Rahway, NJ; Whitehouse Station, NJ; Upper Gwynedd, PA; and San Francisco, CA. In 2010, we expanded our pro bono program by providing international pro bono opportunities for our staff throughout the world.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is our unwavering focus on helping those without access to legal representation obtain “equal justice” under the law. More than ever, we’re committed to expanding our pro bono efforts so we can assist even more people in need.
During the past year, Merck, led by current Executive Vice President and General Counsel Bruce Kuhlik, in collaboration with Pro Bono Institute and the Deloitte consulting firm, has pioneered a unique metric tool that will improve our understanding of the benefits our pro bono program offers our clients, pro bono partners, and Merck’s attorney and non-attorney volunteers.
The tool is a simple one-page document that contains information about the volunteer, the type of matter handled and its outcome. It also contains an assessment by volunteers of the impact of the matter on their development, engagement and satisfaction participating in our pro bono program.
We hope this tool will assist us in determining the impact our pro bono program is having on the community and on the development of our volunteers. Ultimately, the feedback we obtain will help us further improve our pro bono program over time.
It is my belief that our pro bono program may look much different, in terms of projects and scope, in the next few years. I believe signature projects — where departments dedicate a substantial amount of time and resources to address a particular issue, such as the legal rights of women and children, or serve an identified community, like veterans — will ultimately replace the model of one client and one attorney, which in many ways, has been the staple of our program.
A call to join!
Merck’s employees are committed to improving their communities and enhancing their neighbors’ well being. We are proud to have provided pro bono legal assistance to the poor and disadvantaged, but our work has really just begun. The need for pro bono services is growing by the day. More people are falling deeper into poverty, and there are fewer resources available to help them cope with the legal challenges they face. It is important that we continuously evaluate our pro bono program to determine if there are better ways to use our resources more effectively and efficiently.
It is imperative that additional corporations join the effort to provide pro bono legal assistance to help the poor and disadvantaged. Merck is a Charter Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM. The Challenge encourages corporate legal departments to use their best efforts to urge at least one-half of their legal staff to support and participate in pro bono service. We strongly encourage other companies to join the Challenge. We need you more than ever!