June 15, 2014 Dialogue

IOLTA: From the Chair...

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

As my term as Chair of the Commission on IOLTA comes to an end, I am grateful for the opportunity to have served and am proud of all we have accomplished during the past two years. Our success is due in large part to the remarkable collaboration that has developed over the years between the Commission and the National Association of IOLTA Programs (NAIP). Both entities can be enormously proud of our joint efforts in forging a close and harmonious relationship. I have no doubt that this unique partnership will have a lasting impact on the IOLTA community for years to come.

The development of the videos that chronicle the history of IOLTA required much hard work by members of both organizations, as well as staff. The finished products — a short video and a longer version — are important educational tools that have already been used at IOLTA program board meetings, continuing legal education seminars and other events. They capture the struggle to gain acceptance of the IOLTA concept, as well as the insights of past leaders.

More recently, through the work of the Joint Technical Assistance (TA) Committee, the IOLTA Peer Consultation Project has been launched. Its goal is to provide a mechanism for IOLTA programs to request and receive objective, expert consultation to identify both strengths and areas of possible improvement for their programs. The TA Committee has developed comprehensive guidelines for operation of the program, along with a list of experienced and knowledgeable members of the IOLTA community who are willing to act as consultants on a pro bono basis. While programs receiving the visits will be expected to cover the peer consultants' travel, food and lodging costs, there will be funds available through NAIP to member programs that need assistance in meeting those costs. This effort not only illustrates the collaboration between NAIP and the Commission, but the willingness of members of the IOLTA community to assist one another to assure that programs are operating as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Perhaps the crowning jewels of the Commission–NAIP collaboration are the bi–annual IOLTA Workshops. Through the efforts of the Joint Meetings Committee the IOLTA community is given the opportunity twice a year to obtain timely and comprehensive information on topics of mutual concern. The Summer 2014 IOLTA Workshops were no exception: banking, grant making, technology and succession planning were all subjects of informative sessions in Boston. Attendees also had the opportunity to hear from leaders in the legal aid and IOLTA communities about their views on the impact civil legal aid has had in the past and can have in the future. Given that this year marks the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty, it was a particularly appropriate time to engage in that exciting discussion.

At the same time that I am leaving the Commission, so are two Commission members who have served with distinction and commitment. Arnie MacDonald and Susan Erlichman have worked enthusiastically to move our projects forward and to engage in our Workshops. As a former chair of the Maine Bar Foundation, Arnie brought an impressive level of knowledge and perspective during his tenure on the Commission. He served as Co–Chair of the Joint Banking Committee this year and as a member of that Committee during his first two years. Arnie also served on the Joint Communications Committee for one year and on the Joint Meetings Committee for the past two years. He was an enormous help in planning the popular banking sessions for the Winter and Summer Workshops.

Susan Erlichman came to the Commission with many years of experience as an IOLTA director, with a real life perspective that was invaluable to the Commission over the past three years. As a former president of NAIP, Susan's leadership skills were frequently called upon by the Commission in her capacity as Co–Chair of the Joint Technical Assistance Committee for two years and Co–Chair of the Joint Meetings Committee this past year. I am personally grateful to both Susan and Arnie for their willing service and their friendship.

I would like to thank everyone who has served on the Commission as a member or liaison during my tenure. Their active participation and support for IOLTA's mission has made serving as Chair a great privilege. I would also like to thank the Commission's staff, both past and present — Counsel Bev Groudine, Susan Updike, Tamaara Piquion, LaVernis Hall and Charity Golter – for their hard work and dedicated service. My tenure has been a rewarding one, and I will always treasure this opportunity to highlight the importance of legal aid on a national front.