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August 25, 2017 Dialogue

IOLTA: From the Chair

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

As I reflect on all that the Commission on IOLTA has achieved over the past three years, I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have served as its Chair. It has been an honor to contribute to our mission-to assist state IOLTA programs in maximizing and effectively utilizing resources for the delivery of legal services to the poor-along with my fellow Commission members. 

The Commission's collaboration with the National Association of IOLTA Programs (NAIP) has yielded many successes during my tenure, thanks largely to the work of the members of four joint committees focused on the following areas: Meetings and Training, Communications, Resource Development/Banking, and Technical Assistance. A great example is the IOLTA Workshops, organized by the Joint Meetings and Training Committee and held biannually in conjunction with the ABA meetings. These workshops provide invaluable training and networking opportunities for IOLTA program directors, staff, and trustees from across the country. 

The Summer 2017 IOLTA Workshops were held most recently in New York City. Separate meetings for newer IOLTA program staff and IOLTA program trustees to discuss issues of common concern were particularly popular, as were breakout sessions involving programs of similar size and topic-based discussions. The plenary and concurrent workshops were very well-received and featured a wide variety of useful subjects, including: new research regarding philanthropic foundations' views of civil justice; monitoring and enforcing attorney compliance with IOLTA rules, statutes, and regulations; the Community Reinvestment Act and its relationship to IOLTA; legal services issues confronting immigrants; unidentified and unclaimed funds in IOLTA accounts; grantmaking practices; and creating effective partnerships with financial institutions. 

One of the most talked-about sessions from the Summer Workshops involved the latest news regarding federal funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). Following this session, the ABA held a non-partisan rally for LSC that included top-notch entertainment from Broadway stars and featured stories from legal aid clients regarding the impact LSC has had on their lives. I could not think of a better way to close out my time as Commission Chair than to attend this inspiring rally, and I know others on the Commission were equally moved by the event.

Sadly, I am not the only member of the Commission whose term has come to an end, as we must bid farewell (but not goodbye) to both Dick Tate and Jayne Tyrrell. Dick Tate is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and has served with distinction on the Commission from 2014-2017. He has been a member of the Joint Resource Development and Banking Committee, the Joint Communications Committee, and the Joint Meetings and Training Committee, serving as a co-chair for the Joint Meetings Committee for two years. His commitment to access to justice is legendary and his contributions have enhanced the work of the Commission tremendously.

Jayne Tyrrell is the Executive Director of the Massachusetts IOLTA Committee and also has graced the Commission with her excellent service since 2014. She has been a member of both the Joint Meetings and Training Committee and the Joint Technical Assistance Committee, serving as a co-chair of the latter for the past two years.  Jayne’s expertise and knowledge base on IOLTA matters are beyond compare, and she has been an invaluable resource for the Commission’s technical assistance program.  On a personal level, I am grateful to both Jayne and Dick not only for their impressive contributions, but also for their wonderful friendship.  While they will be greatly missed by all Commission members, we are fortunate because we know we can always count on their dedication to the cause and continued participation at the IOLTA Workshops. 

Finally, I would like to thank the current and former staff of the Commission on IOLTA for all they have done during my tenure as Chair.  Bev Groudine has been absolutely indispensable as Commission Counsel, and I am grateful to Shubi Deoras, Tamaara Piquion, Charity Golter, and Antoinette Tanner for their helpful assistance as well. It has been my pleasure and privilege to work with ABA staff, the Commission members, NAIP members, and the larger IOLTA community over these past three years.  I hope for, and look forward to, future opportunities for collaboration and advancing the IOLTA mission.