From the Chair...

Commission on Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts

Kudos to the Joint Meetings Committee on another round of outstanding workshops in Dallas on February 7th and 8th. The Winter IOLTA workshops covered a wide breadth of relevant topics to help IOLTA programs press ahead as the low interest rate environment continues.

The work of the California IOLTA program regarding the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) prompted the development of a plenary session. Elena Enzweiler, Senior Accountant, IOLTA Compliance/ Bank Relations for the California IOLTA program; Dan Foley, Senior VP/ Compliance Manager at Plains Capital Bank; and Eloy Villafrance, Community Affairs Office for the FDIC formed a comprehensive panel of speakers who discussed an innovative approach to bank relationships. The presenters spoke on a bank's ability to receive CRA credit for providing IOLTA accounts an interest rate above that which is provided to similarly situated customers or through grants to IOLTA programs. This plenary was followed by concurrent sessions on delivery systems, grant making software, and cy pres, as well as, the ever popular speed dating.

The Joint Meetings Committee had the opportunity to collaborate with the National Conference of Bar Foundations (NCBF) on the final plenary session, which focused on fundraising. Many thanks to Amy Sings in the Timber, NCBF president and Executive Director of the Montana Justice Foundation, who was instrumental in securing the speaker, Andy Robinson. Andy provided a dynamic presentation where he offered a fresh look at strategies in fundraising, but of equal importance he provided an opportunity to discuss those ideas in smaller groups.

Dallas also provided a time to discuss local repercussions to the sunset of unlimited FDIC insurance coverage for non–interest bearing accounts, including IOLTA (see News and Notes). While our community was hopeful for an extension to the sunset, we were well aware that unlimited coverage was always intended to be temporary. Although full coverage has expired, IOLTA accounts are now insured up to $250,000 per owner per financial institution, an amount higher than the $100,000 limit in effect prior to the unlimited coverage.

I want to take a moment to thank Sandy Klebanoff, Executive Director of the Connecticut Bar Foundation and Liz Drummond, Assistant Director of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, for hosting the Commission in Connecticut during our fall meeting. Not only did we conduct Commission business, but we had the distinct pleasure of hearing from leaders of the Connecticut IOLTA and ATJ communities. Peter Arakas, Vice President of the CT Bar Foundation and Ingrid L. Moll, Grant making Co–Chair of the CT Bar Foundation, provided valuable insight into the foundation's grantees, fellows programs and grant making process. In addition they shared information on Connecticut's IOTA program, which requires mortgage lenders to put funds in IOLTA–like accounts. This was of particular interest because Connecticut is one of only four states that require non–lawyers to participate in IOLTA like programs. Alice Bruno, Secretary of the CT Bar Foundation and Executive Director of the CT Bar Association; Barry Hawkins, President of the CT Bar Association and The Hon. Raymond R. Norko, Chair to the Ct. Access to Justice Commission described the Connecticut Bar Association's pro bono programs and the Hartford Community Court.

It is my hope that the workshops in Dallas gave renewed energy to many programs in their various efforts to fund legal services. That being said, the completion of one set of workshops brings us now to the planning of the next. As issues, questions and innovations arise, the Joint Meetings Committee welcomes and appreciates your input and ideas for future sessions and topics. In the same vain, the Joint Technical Assistance and Joint Banking/Resource Development are available to offer support and answer questions as you press forward with the good work of IOLTA.