March 15, 2014 Dialogue

IOLTA: From the Chair...

By Penina Lieber, Commission on Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts

In April, the Commission held its spring meeting in Little Rock Arkansas. We were fortunate to be joined by members of the Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation, Inc. (the Foundation): Dr. Alice Hines, Frank Sewall, Tamra Cochran, and Immediate Past President Richard Downing. The Foundation administers IOLTA and engages in fund raising for legal services and the state's access to justice initiatives. I was pleased that the Chair of the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission (the AATJC), the Hon. Annabelle Amber Tuck, AATJC member William Wadell (who also serves as President to the Foundation), and Amy Johnson, Executive Director to the AATJC and the Foundation were also able to attend.

Many thanks to our guests for providing us with an opportunity to learn about the state's new coordinated approach to funding and providing legal services. With one executive director for both the Foundation and the AATJC, the organizations are moving forward to streamline their vision, funding and work. It is hoped that this consolidated effort will result in a greater impact on the expansion and enhancement of equal access to justice in Arkansas.

On the banking front, following her workshop at the Summer 2013 IOLTA Workshops Lena Robinson, Regional Manager, Community Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco produced a workshop for the National Interagency Community Reinvestment Conference in Chicago this past March. Ms. Robinson invited Bobbie Salgado, Deputy Vice President, CRA Strategy & Operations for Union Bank of California to present on a panel. Ms. Salgado discussed how Union Bank decided to pursue CRA investment credit for providing the California IOLTA program interest above the comparable rate and how they were able to obtain the credit.

Commission staff were invited to attend the workshop. Following the session several bankers and a CRA examiner expressed interest in the concept. An exciting beginning was put in play when staff connected the bankers and examiner with IOLTA directors in their respective states to begin a dialogue. In Illinois, the IOLTA director was subsequently invited to attend a meeting of community bankers, where she was further able to make connections and network.

With the start of this dialogue, I am pleased that the joint meetings committee will include a Banking Breakout by Region in its program for the Summer 2014 IOLTA Workshops. This session will allow directors and staff to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the various approaches to obtaining CRA credit for IOLTA participation, as well as regional strategies in moving forward with CRA examiners.

However, with rumors of rising interest rates, CRA will be only one of the issues discussed at the summer workshops in Boston on August 7th and 8th. Other topics to be addressed will include - how to prepare for rising rates, succession planning, and innovative legal aid and pro bono programs. I look forward to the sharing of ideas, challenges and victories, as well as, the excellent training that has become a tradition of the Summer IOLTA Workshops and hope to see many of you in Boston this August.