STATE BAR APPROVES CLIENT PROTECTION MEASURE
(Nov. 6, 2015 – Oklahoma City) The Oklahoma Bar Association House of Delegates today approved a proposal to increase the dollar amount allocated to the association’s Clients’ Security Fund, a reserve of money dedicated to reimbursing victims of dishonest or deceased former attorneys. The program, previously capped at $100,000 annually, will increase yearly reimbursements as high as $175,000. The measure must now be approved by the state Supreme Court.
“This increase in the Clients’ Security Fund budget is a public protection measure,” said OBA President David A. Poarch of Norman. “These payments will be made to those who have suffered the loss of money or property through bad acts or outright theft committed by a few former attorneys. It is vitally important for the public to maintain confidence in the legal profession, and we must protect those who have been victimized by a very small handful of dishonest lawyers.”
Reimbursements from the fund are made at the end of each year. If the new cap is approved by the Supreme Court, the change will go into effect for reimbursements next month. Poarch said the change in budget comes after an increase in the number and amount of claims in recent years.
“On at least six occasions in the last 10 years, the total dollar amount of claims has exceeded the available funds when claims are considered by the OBA’s 17-member governing board,” Poarch said.
When this occurs, the fund’s rules require that payments to individual claimants be prorated and reduced accordingly. In some years, claimants have only received as little as 50 percent of the amount of their loss.
“The budgeted amount of $100,000 has not changed since 1980,” Poarch said. “Our Board of Governors strongly supports this increase in the funds dedicated to client protection, and we are pleased that our House of Delegates agreed.”
The OBA House of Delegates is composed of lawyers from across the state. County bar associations elect delegates in local elections. The House of Delegates meets once a year during the OBA Annual Meeting, and votes on topics pertaining to the practice of law and the legal profession in Oklahoma along with other bar business.
Attorney Micheal Salem of Norman serves as chair of the OBA Clients’ Security Fund Committee, which annually makes recommendations as to the merits of claims against the fund.
“Several additional proposals are being considered that would, it is hoped, have a preventive impact against claims to the fund,” said Salem. “Many times the attorneys whose bad acts lead to claims are suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues. If our profession becomes more proactive is assisting struggling attorneys, our hope is to set those lawyers on a different path before they spiral out of control. This will ultimately benefit the public as well.”
The 17,600-member Oklahoma Bar Association, headquartered in Oklahoma City, was created by the Oklahoma Supreme Court to advance the administration of justice and to foster and maintain learning, integrity, competence, public service and high standards of conduct among Oklahoma’s legal community.