IOLTA: Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts
What is IOLTA?
In the mid eighties, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court created Maine's Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program and entrusted the Maine Justice Foundation with its operation.
IOLTA is a unique and innovative way to increase access to justice for individuals and families living in poverty and to improve the justice system. Without taxing the public, and at no cost to lawyers or their clients, interest from lawyers’ trust accounts is pooled to provide civil legal aid to the poor and support improvements to the justice system. IOLTA is a critical ongoing source of funding for civil legal aid.
Here are links to the court rules defining Maine’s IOLTA program:
- Maine Rules of Professional Conduct
Rule 1.15. Safekeeping Property, Client Trust Accounts, Interest on Trust Accounts http://mebaroverseers.org/regulation/bar_rules.html?id=88209
- Maine Bar Rule
RULE 6. Maintenance of Trust Accounts in Approved Institutions: IOLTA
Essential Partners—Maine Lawyers
Lawyers and law firms opening new IOLTA accounts must fill out the form entitled Notice by Lawyer/Law Firm to Financial Institution and Maine Justice Foundation to Establish New Trust Account (IOLTA), dated December 2015. This form includes a check-off box authorizing the financial institution to notify the Board of Overseers of the Bar about overdrafts. Lawyers/law firms must sign and provide the original form to the financial institution and a copy to the Maine Justice Foundation. Click here to get this form.
A Special Message for Our Lawyer Partners...Where you bank matters!
Do you know what rate your financial institution pays on Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA)? If not, please click here to find out. If your bank or credit union is a Prime Partner paying 2 percent interest, you generate 10 times more IOLTA revenue than if it pays only 0.20%.
Why does this matter?
IOLTA helps poor and vulnerable Mainers get civil legal aid, which provides access to safety, shelter and economic security. IOLTA revenue has plummeted from $1.48 million in FY 2007 to just $656,000 in FY 2015. Every penny generated by interest on your IOLTA funds is precious.
Essential Partners—Maine’s Financial Institutions
IOLTA depends on the support of more than 40 participating banks and credit unions in Maine. Under the court rules:
- IOLTA accounts must earn at least the same interest rates generally available to similarly situated non-IOLTA accounts; and,
- Financial institutions must sign the “Lawyers’ Trust Account Overdraft Notification Agreement.”
Click here to see this form.
Thanks to Our Financial Partners Who Go Above and Beyond...
A number of participating banks and credit unions pay interest rates on IOLTA funds that go above and beyond the court rule’s basic requirements. Grateful for their generosity, the Foundation thanks each of the following institutions:
Prime Partners, paying 2% interest on IOLTA funds
Index Rate Institutions, paying a rate equal to 65% of the Federal Funds Target Rate or 1.00%, whichever is higher:
Bar Harbor Bank & Trust
Damariscotta Bank & Trust Co.
Gorham Savings Bank
Katahdin Trust Company
Machias Savings Bank
NBT Bank, N.A.
Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution
Skowhegan Savings Bank
University Credit Union
Click here to find all participating financial institutions and the interest rates they pay for IOLTA funds.
Over $26 million for civil legal aid
For 30 years, the Foundation has managed over $26 million of IOLTA funds, distributing them to civil legal aid organizations that serve individuals and communities across the state. Sadly, IOLTA funds have declined sharply due to low interest rates. As these funds have decreased, the need for civil justice has escalated. Even when interest rates are higher, need always outstrips resources.