From the Chair...

Commission on Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts

Several weeks ago the members of the Commission and I met for our spring meeting in Denver, Colorado. A highlight of that meeting was lunch with our Colorado guests. Present were, Diana Poole, Executive Director and Philip Johnson, President of the Colorado Lawyers Trust Account Foundation (COLTAF). I was pleased that John Asher, Executive Director of Colorado Legal Services and former Chair of the Commission on IOLTA, was able to attend along with John Gleason from the Office of Attorney Regulation and Fred Baumann, Chair of the Colorado Access to Justice Commission. In addition, we were joined by Mark Fogg, president elect and Charles Turner, Executive Director of the Colorado Bar Association.

Reports from our guests showed that equal access to justice is a priority for the legal community and that there is strong collaboration and support among the organizations represented in working toward this goal.  Phil and Diana provided us with an update on the progress of comparability rule revisions in Colorado; these changes were approved by the COLTAF Board and are now before disciplinary counsel. They should soon be before the state supreme court and it is hoped that the revisions will be adopted this year.

Phil Johnson indicated that even with interest rates at record lows, he hoped that these rule changes will generate greater income, but regardless of the present day yield, he is pleased to see COLTAF proactively prepare for a time when interest rates will be back on the rise. In the meantime, the foundation is actively working to enhance revenue by re-evaluating and reconstructing their bank recognition program. They are finding success by forging new relationships in the banking community, recognizing partnership banks and developing more effective methods of communication.

Like Colorado, many IOLTA programs have increased their efforts in revenue enhancement. On March 5, 2012, the Idaho Supreme Court approved amendments to the state’s IOLTA rule. Effective July 1, 2012 Idaho will be the 45th jurisdiction to adopt mandatory IOLTA and the 33rd jurisdiction to adopt interest rate comparability. As always, the Commission on IOLTA and National Association of IOLTA Programs Joint Technical Assistance Committee is available to assist in exploring, drafting and implementing mandatory IOLTA and other IOLTA revenue enhancement strategies (see News and Notes).

Throughout our time in Denver, generating income remained a pervasive theme, and reports from members of the Commission on the state of IOLTA in their jurisdictions were evidence of the same.  Their reports showed that declining income due to low interest rates made it necessary for programs to look to alternate sources of funding such as filing fees, cy pres awards and pro hoc vice fees. In addition, programs have begun exploring innovative ways to bolster income such as planned giving, private fund raising campaigns and the possibility of obtaining real estate escrow interest.

These efforts resonate with the training provided at the retrenchment workshop conducted in New Orleans. This summer we will have another opportunity to broach retrenchment in a plenary session at the workshops in Chicago on August 2nd and 3rd, which will be held in conjunction with the ABA Annual Meeting. The workshops will include sessions where hot topics and honor roll/prime partner programs are discussed, as well as, a banking session and the return of speed dating. In addition, attendees will have ample time to meet, discuss and collaborate in small groups. As always, I look forward to this gathering of the IOLTA community and hope you will join me there.