Our vision is to enrich lives, eliminate obstacles and ensure justice by partnering with our community through law-related grants and philanthropy. We are a nonprofit organization founded in 1946 by members of the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA). Through our grants and awards programs, we provide annual funding for law-related nonprofits, court improvements, law school scholarships and court reporter rural service grants.
We are the third oldest state bar foundation in the U.S. and our membership is comprised of those persons duly licensed to practice law in the State of Oklahoma. Grant funding is provided by donor gifts, the Partners Giving Programs, earnings on investments & endowed funds, Cy Pres Awards and lawyer participation in the Oklahoma Interest On Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program. We are an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, so donations are tax deductible.
Oklahoma Bar Association’s 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 Oklahoma Bar Foundation was to build a home for Oklahoma lawyers. The Foundation accomplished this mission and went on to renovate and later work in concert with Oklahoma Bar Association to expand the Oklahoma Bar Center, which tripled in size.
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 Oklahoma Bar Association members who hold client funds in connection with legal representation.