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150th Anniversary

Columbus Bar Association 150th Anniversary

A brief history of the Columbus Bar Association, 1869-2019

On April 20, 1869, 54 Columbus men adopt a constitution for the new Franklin County Bar Association. Judge J.W. Baldwin (pictured, right) is elected as the first president and County Commissioners agree to furnish the Association with a room in the courthouse for meetings. Dues are $5, paid in semi-annual installments of $2.50.

The courthouse, built in 1840, is destroyed by a fire.

A new courthouse is dedicated. The new structure cost $450,000. Also in 1887, the Columbus Electric Light Company brings electric light to the city.

Image courtesy

The Daily Reporter, Columbus's daily legal and business newspaper, is established.

Circa 1900
The Franklin County Bar Association becomes known as the Columbus Bar Association.

The first known Columbus Bar Association Directory is published.

The Columbus Bar organizes its first committees during this time.

First issue of Columbus Bar Briefs is published on September 24, 1945.

The Columbus Bar Association gets its first telephone number.

Margaret McNamara is hired as the first Executive Secretary of the Columbus Bar Association. The first CBA staff office is located at the Virginia Hotel at Third and Gay Streets.

The Lawyer Referral Service begins. Also in 1947, the CBA starts holding weekly luncheons for members on Wednesdays at the Virginia Hotel. Meals cost $1.15 (with tax and tip).

CBA produces weekly 15-minute radio broadcasts on WBNS called “Your Lawyer and You”.

A Handbook for Jurors is written by the CBA Common Pleas committee and distributed by the Court to people called for jury duty.

The Columbus Bar Foundation is organized for the purpose of “improving and facilitating the administration of justice and promoting the study of law and legal research and continuing education of lawyers.”

The Columbus Bar Association organizes the Legal Aid Society of Columbus with initial funding supplied by the United Appeal.

CBA women’s auxiliary is organized.

The CBA becomes one of the first bar associations in the country to hire a lawyer-investigator to work on ethics cases and unauthorized practice of law complaints.

First pictoral registry of central Ohio attorneys is published by the CBA.

The Columbus Bar Association and Capital University sponsor a pilot legal assistant program to provide paralegal training.

The Columbus Bar helps establish Settlement Week in local courts in an attempt to help mediate pending cases. The program becomes a model for courts throughout the nation.

The CBA develops the Minority Clerkship Program which places minority law students in paid summer clerk positions in law firms, government agencies and corporate staffs.

Community Mediation Services is spearheaded by the Columbus Bar Association and a coalition of diverse community leaders from law enforcement, the courts, business community, public and private human services, and the schools.

The CBA Barrister Leadership Program begins. Open to young lawyers, the program is intended to develop leadership skills and provide networking opportunities with leaders in central Ohio.

The Columbus Bar Association website debuts at

The Columbus Bar Association begins providing online continuing legal education (CLE).

The CBA's Managing Partners' Diversity Initiative begins with a historic public pledge to significantly increase the racial diversity of the Columbus legal community. Twenty of the city’s largest law firms, two bar associations, the two area law schools and the city attorney’s office make a five-year commitment to attract and retain minority law candidates.

The original signatories of the Managing Partners’ Diversity Initiative, in 2001

The Columbus Bar Directory is available online for the first time.

The first Columbus Bar Foundation Gala is hosted by Leslie and Abigail Wexner at their party barn in New Albany. The black tie event, a tribute to Angela Pace, raised more than $200,000 and benefited “Angie’s Room” at the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Children’s Hospital.

The CLE Easy Pass is introduced, offering CBA members 12 hours of CLE programming for a flat rate of $150.

The new Franklin County Common Pleas Courthouse is completed.

The CBA launches one of the nation’s first  incubator programs for lawyers, Columbus Bar inc. The program provides lawyers who want to start a firm with affordable office space, practice management training and a mentoring system. Columbus Bar inc received the Solo and Small Firm Project Award from the ABA in 2012.

The CBA partners with WSYX-TV’s 6 on Your Side to create the “Ask the Attorney” program in 2011. Each Wednesday evening, several Columbus Bar attorney volunteers answer phone calls from members of the community, offering free legal advice on a wide range of issues.

Electronic filing (e-filing) is introduced in Franklin County courts.

Columbus Bar Interpreting Services is launched in response to Supreme Court of Ohio Rule 88. The rule requires courts to hire a certified foreign language or sign language interpreter, when available, to ensure the “meaningful participation” of deaf and limited English proficient individuals in court proceedings.

Free online legal research through Fastcase is introduced as a part of Columbus Bar membership.

In March 2016, the Franklin County Municipal Court Self-Help Center opens with the support of the Columbus Bar Foundation.

Life in 1869

  • Ulysses S. Grant is President
  • Civil War ended four years prior in 1865
  • Transcontinental railroad is completed
  • National Woman Suffrage Association forms in New York
  • Cincinnati Red Stockings become first openly all-professional baseball team
  • A loaf of bread costs 3 cents
  • Average yearly wage is $399.01


Oldest Bar Association in the State of Ohio

Founded in 1869, the Franklin County Bar Association was the first of its kind in Ohio. Others soon followed:

1872: Cincinnati Bar Association
1873: Cleveland Bar Association
1875: Akron Bar Association
1878: Toledo Bar Association
1878: American Bar Association
1880: Ohio Bar Association


CBA Leadership

The CBA’s first full-time Executive Secretary/Director was hired in 1946.

1946-57: Margaret McNamara
1958: Betty Maclean
1958-60: Kathy Carnahan
1960-65: Nancy Cassidy
1965-69: Margaret Starbuck (Allen)
1969-78: Judy Stoothoff
1978-2010: Alex Lagusch
2010-present: Jill Snitcher McQuain


Minority Clerkship Program Participating Firms, 1987

Arter & Hadden
Carlile, Patchen, Murphy & Allison
Crabbe, Brown, Jones, Potts & Schmidt
Emens, Hurd, Kegler & Ritter
Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur
Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn
Schwartz, Kelm, Warren & Rubenstein
Squire, Sanders & Dempsey
Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease


Diversity Initiative

The following firms and organizations signed the five-year pledge in 2001:

Arter & Hadden LLP
Baker & Hostetler LLP
Blaugrund Herbert & Martin, Inc.
Bricker & Eckler LLP
Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, LLP
Carlile Patchen & Murphy LLP
Chester Willcox & Saxbe LLP
Cloppert Portman Sauter Latanick & Foley
Crabbe Brown & James
Isaac, Brant, Ledman & Teetor
Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue
Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter Co., L.P.A.
Lane, Alton & Horst
Luper Sheriff & Neidenthal
Maguire & Schneider, L.L.P.
Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, LLP
Schottenstein Zox & Dunn
Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, LLP
Thompson Hine LLP
Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease, LLP
Wiles Boyle Burkholder & Bringardner Co., LPA
Zeiger & Carpenter
Capital University Law School
The Ohio State University College of Law
John Mercer Langston Bar Association
Columbus City Attorney’s Office


Ask the Attorney

Since 2011, more than 100 central Ohio attorneys have volunteered 2,000+ hours for the program.