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December 12, 2015 Dialogue

IOLTA: From the Chair...

By Hon. James S. Hill, Commission on Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts

It is with great pleasure that I begin my term as Chair of the Commission on IOLTA. As a recent Board of Governor's liaison to the IOLTA Commission, I had the privilege to witness firsthand the many accomplishments of the Commission under the leadership of its Immediate Past Chair, Penina Lieber. Among those, the Commission, in collaboration with the National Association of IOLTA Programs (NAIP), produced exceptional videos chronicling the history of IOLTA, which have already proven useful to the IOLTA community.  In addition, through the Joint Technical Assistance Committee, the Commission and NAIP launched the IOLTA Peer Consulting Project to provide objective feedback to IOLTA programs seeking advice regarding possible areas of improvement. I am grateful to Penina for her valuable contributions, and it is indeed an honor to follow in her footsteps.

The Commission met in Phoenix, Arizona for its fall meeting, where we welcomed returning members as well as two other new members: Richard Tate of Texas and Jayne Tyrrell of Massachusetts (see News and Notes). We enjoyed getting to know one another and discussing the Commission's ongoing work and future goals. We also had the opportunity to meet with respected members of the Arizona legal community, including:  Hon. Scott Bales, Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court; Thomas Giallanza, President of  the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education (AZFLSE), which administers IOLTA in the state; Kevin Ruegg, Executive Director of AZFLSE; Alvaro Flores, Chief Technology Officer of AZFLSE; John Phelps, Executive Director of the State Bar of Arizona; and Hon. Lawrence Winthrop, Chair of the Arizona Access to Justice Commission.

The Commission learned that AZFLSE and its partners (including the State Bar of Arizona and the Arizona Supreme Court) have developed several interactive websites enabling the efficient and cost-effective provision of civil legal services to the state's diverse indigent populations facing geographic, language, or other barriers. In addition, information was provided regarding the state's new Access to Justice Commission and its efforts to promote pro bono legal services and help self-represented litigants navigate the court system.

As you all know, in December, the Senate finally passed the IOLTA credit union legislation, which provides federal insurance protection for funds held in IOLTA accounts at credit unions equivalent to the level provided by the FDIC at banks. On behalf of the Commission, I would like to thank the members of the IOLTA community who contacted their members of Congress regarding the bill as well as Ann Carmichael, Legislative Counsel at the ABA Governmental Affairs Office, whose involvement was central to the bill's passage. The bill was signed by the President on December 18, 2014 and became effective immediately.

The credit union legislation and its impact on IOLTA programs was one of many topics of discussion at the Winter 2015 IOLTA Workshops held recently in conjunction with the ABA Midyear Meeting in Houston. These workshops provided an excellent opportunity for IOLTA staff and trustees from thirty-eight US and six Canadian programs to discuss issues of common concern, share ideas and network. I was greatly impressed with the level of discussion among the participants and their strong commitment to ensuring the provision through IOLTA dollars of effective, efficient and high quality legal services.

The past few months have been quite productive, and I look forward to the exciting challenges and opportunities this year will bring as we continue to work together as a community to ensure greater access to justice. And our association with NAIP remains strong and productive. I have enjoyed that interaction and look forward to our collaborative efforts.

On a point of personal privilege I cannot pass on this opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding staff of this Commission led by the incomparable Beverly Groudine. The addition of Shubi Deoras as Assistant Staff Counsel will greatly enhance our ability to succeed in our mission and with Tamaara Piquion as program manager and Charity Golter as our administrative assistant, we have quite the talented team.