Originally established in 1946, the Oklahoma Bar Foundation, Inc. (OBF) was officially incorporated in Oklahoma on May 9, 1949. The OBF is the third oldest state bar foundation in the United States. OBF membership is comprised of those persons duly licensed to practice law in the State of Oklahoma. The OBF is an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
The charitable purposes of the OBF are accomplished through annual grant awards that advance the science of jurisprudence and promote the administration of justice throughout Oklahoma. The stated mission of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation is “Lawyers Transforming Lives through the promotion of justice, funding of critical legal services, and advancement of knowledge of the law.”
A significant portion of funding for OBF grants is provided by donor gifts, the Fellows annual giving program, earnings on investments, affinity programs sponsored by the OBF, Cy Pres awards, and other miscellaneous sources. The remainder of OBF funding is derived from lawyer participation in the Oklahoma Interest On Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program.
The OBF provides grant funding for:
- free legal assistance to the poor and elderly;
- safe haven for the abused;
- protection and legal assistance to children;
- law-related education programs for the public (including Oklahoma school children);
- law student scholarships for those we expect to follow our charge;
- other activities that improve the quality of justice for all Oklahomans.
OBF Grants total more than $10 million since founding and some $5 million of that amount was within the last five years alone.
Where does the Oklahoma Bar Foundation obtain the money?
- Cy Pres Funds
- OBF Fellows Program
- Interest on investments of the above and other endowed funds
OBF FELLOWS PROGRAM
The OBF Fellows Program helps the OBF to assist Oklahomans throughout the State. The cost to become a Fellow is inexpensive – $100 upon signing and $100 per year for ten years (only $8.34 per month). OBF offers special discounts to newly admitted lawyers (within 3 years). Fellow contributions are tax deductible. Become a Fellow Now
OBA Executive Secretary John G. Hervey announced the creation of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation to the bar membership in September 1946.
“Our primary purpose is to improve the administration of Justice, to advance the general welfare of the constituent members and to conserve the interest of clients and of the public. The Oklahoma Bar Foundation will, therefore, be devoted to these ends.”
“Each lawyer is urged to give their support and cooperation. Announcement of initial plans will be made in the Journal in the near future. The glories of the possibilities are ours if we will but realize them.”
The primary founding mission of OBF was to build a home for Oklahoma lawyers. The Foundation accomplished this mission and went on to renovate and later work in concert with OBA to expand the Oklahoma Bar Center, which tripled in size. The Foundation has evolved into a charitable arm for all Oklahoma lawyers.
In its early years, the Foundation made sizeable awards to the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City University and University of Tulsa colleges of law. The Foundation also provided financial assistance to establish the OBA’s Continuing Legal Education program, funded updates of bench materials for Oklahoma judges, and funded other charitable projects.
In 1982, OBA President John L. Boyd learned of the Interest On Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA), a charitable program underway in Canada and Florida. A Board of Governors Special Committee on IOLTA chaired by Harry A. Woods, Jr. was immediately formed to study the IOLTA concept. Client funds too small in amount or deposited for too short a time to earn net income would earn interest income from the pooling of such funds. With the cooperation of banks, the income from the pooled accounts could then be periodically transferred to the Oklahoma Bar Foundation and could be devoted to charitable projects.
Upon recommendation of the Board of Governors in April of 1983, the Oklahoma Supreme Court amended DR 9-102, Oklahoma Code of Professional Responsibility, which permitted the Oklahoma Bar Foundation IOLTA program to be established. On July 1, 2004 significant changes to Rule 1.15 of the Oklahoma Rules of Professional Conduct, Safekeeping Property, became effective changing IOLTA to a requirement for OBA members who hold client funds in connection with legal representation. Prior to 1986, $513, 160 had been awarded to grant recipients. Since that time, more than $9.5 million has been awarded to advance the charitable mission of the OBF.