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Oregon Law Foundation History

The Oregon Law Foundation (OLF) was created in 1981 by Oregon State Bar (OSB) to generate funds for lawrelated charitable purposes. In the previous year, 1980, federal funding for civil legal services programs had been cut by 25%, resulting in an annual loss of $1 million for Oregon's legal aid programs. Like bar groups across the country, the OSB sought to develop alternative funding for these programs.

The IRS granted the Oregon Law Foundation 501 (c) (3) status in 1982. It was, and has remained, a legally separate entity from the Oregon State Bar.

In 1983, the Oregon Law Foundation initiated two major fundraising efforts. Through the Fellows Program, OLF asked Oregon lawyers to contribute to the Foundation's Endowment Fund, with the OLF to use interest on the Endowment for its mission: making grants funding legal aid programs, promoting diversity in the legal profession, and advancing public education about the law.

The other major fundraising effort of 1983 was Oregon's Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. IOLTA programs were originally started in Australia and Canada in the early 70's. The concept was simple. The Foundation asked members of the Bar to convert their non-interest bearing, pooled client trust funds into interest-bearing accounts, with the interest benefiting the OLF. The Foundation then uses that interest to advance its mission.

Oregon's voluntary IOLTA program was initiated at the request of the members of the Oregon State Bar and approved by the Oregon Supreme Court in March 1983.

By 1988, the OLF Board was convinced that continued development of the IOLTA program was key to meeting the ongoing funding needs of its grantees. With the support of the OSB, the Foundation began a campaign to make the IOLTA program mandatory. This change required the support of the members of the Oregon State Bar and its Board of Governors, as well as the assent of the state supreme court. In November 1988, a mail vote of the membership was conducted; Oregon lawyers approved the proposal by a 2-1 margin. The effective start date of the mandatory IOLTA program was May 1, 1989.

In partnership with Oregon Banks, the OLF started the Leadership Bank program in 2005 to highlight the generosity of banks that voluntarily pay above-market interest rates on IOLTA.

Oregon lawyers can take great pride in the creation of the Oregon Law Foundation and can continue to support the Foundation by using an OLF Leadership Bank.