New website supports Penna attorneys and civil legal aid
A website redesigned to better serve attorneys, financial institutions and others who support civil legal aid for the state’s poorest individuals and families has been launched by the Pennsylvania Interest on Lawyers Trust Account, or IOLTA, Board.
Among other things, the new website (www.paiolta.org) highlights the “I Bank on Justice” Campaign — an initiative to recognize attorneys and firms that use a “Platinum Leader Bank,” or one that pays a one percent premium yield on IOLTA accounts.
Revenue on IOLTA accounts has dropped by 75 percent since 2007 when interest rates fell with the economic downturn. Platinum Leader Banks — and the law firms that bank with them — make a significant difference in the amount of funds available for IOLTA’s charitable purposes.
An attorney compliance section of the newly revamped website provides lawyers with instructions for opening an IOLTA account and applying for an exemption, and offers quick links to the rules and regulations governing those accounts. Attorneys may also browse the list of IOLTA grantees to find volunteer opportunities or donate to IOLTA’s Pro Bono Initiative Fund, which supports local efforts to coordinate pro bono activities.
Financial Institutions serving attorneys’ IOLTA needs may quickly access interest rate certification forms and other bank resources.
The IOLTA board monitors more than 14,000 IOLTA accounts at more than 200 financial institutions approved by the Supreme Court to offer such accounts; processes more than 1,500 pro hac vice admission applications annually for out-of-state attorneys making appearances in Pennsylvania courts, and supports more than 35 legal aid providers, eight law school clinical programs and six local pro bono projects. The board also administers a loan repayment assistance program, which benefits attorneys employed by IOLTA-funded organizations.
The IOLTA board is a not-for-profit organization operating under the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that awards grants to legal services agencies, pro bono programs and law schools to support civil legal assistance for those without the financial means to retain counsel. Its sources of revenue include the collection of interest earned on IOLTA accounts and a portion of fees on court filings and attorney registrations.
Clients and others frequently transfer moneys to attorneys to hold. When the amount is large or if the funds will be held for extended periods of time, attorneys invest the funds for the benefit of the client. When the funds are small or expected to be held for a short time, however, they cannot practically be invested. Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15 requires attorneys to deposit these smaller and short-term funds into interest-bearing IOLTA accounts. The attorneys’ banks transfer the interest earned on these accounts to the IOLTA board.
Every state, along with the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, operates an IOLTA program.