From the Chair...

Commission on Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts

I am pleased to begin my term as Chair to the Commission on IOLTA. Last year I was given the opportunity to serve as a member where I had the privilege of working with Immediate Past Chair Lora Livingston. Under Lora's direction, the Commission provided steady leadership in a time when the economy and IOLTA income was waning. She saw to it that the Commission played a pivotal role in obtaining unlimited FDIC insurance coverage for IOLTA accounts, provided support and resources for jurisdictions considering mandatory and comparability, and challenged Commission members to be forward thinking as IOLTA programs faced trying times. I applaud her outstanding leadership and hope to continue the work she began.

As my tenure begins, five members return to the Commission with me: Susan Erlichman, John Gunn, Justice Bernette Johnson, Diane Don and Arnie McDonald. In addition, Eileen Letts, Jon Ross and Cynthia Mares will be joining as new members. I am fortunate to be working with this group of talented and committed individuals who bring a diverse and rich base of knowledge and experience to the work ahead. I would also like to take a moment to thank Darrell Jordan and Arley Harrel for their service to the Commission last year and wish them success in their future endeavors.

Before concluding his time with the Commission, Darrell served as Co–Chair to the Joint Meetings Committee, which put together a stellar program for the Summer IOLTA Workshops in Chicago. Sessions addressing hot topics affecting IOLTA and critical issues in banking provided attendees an opportunity to grapple with matters such as the scheduled December sunset for full FDIC insurance coverage for IOLTA and efforts to extend it, new IRS regulations for lawyers who accept credit card payments, and the effects of prolonged low interest rates on IOLTA. A line up of outstanding speakers provided proactive approaches to revenue enhancement, including a panel of IOLTA directors who discussed the elements of successful honor roll and leadership bank programs and bankers who presented strategies for approaching bank foundations for contributions. As always, the program provided participants opportunities to network, talk about challenges to their programs and exchange ideas.

The importance of these workshops became very clear as the Commission analyzed the results of its annual database update for the IOLTA Clearinghouse. Each year the Commission seeks to collect information regarding income, grants, and banking from IOLTA programs in all 52 U.S. jurisdictions. Upon receipt of this data, the Commission compiles and analyzes the information for the IOLTA Handbook. The most current numbers (from 2011) show that IOLTA income and grants have declined from the previous year. Add to that the Federal Open Market Committee's decision to most likely keep interest rates down through mid–2015, and IOLTA programs are confronted with unparalleled challenges. In these times, the workshops offer the IOLTA community a time to learn new ideas, discuss issues and learn from one another.

Though budgets are tight and staff is limited, the IOLTA Workshops are well worth the investment. Fully aware of their importance, the Meetings Committee is diligently working to produce the Winter IOLTA Workshops, which are scheduled for February 7–8, 2013 in Dallas, Texas. I look forward to that time and hope to see you there.