IOLTA and Financial Institutions
Financial institutions that maintain IOLTA accounts are essential partners for IOLTA programs. They find that participation in IOLTA not only serves a worthwhile cause, but also often leads to valued business with the legal community.
The amount of IOLTA revenue depends on interest rates paid by financial institutions. When rates drop, IOLTA revenue declines, forcing many IOLTA programs to reduce grants to civil legal aid providers. IOLTA rates tend to be cyclical and variable. While IOLTA is a valuable source of ongoing funding, the amount can be unpredictable because of changing interest rates.
Relationships between financial institutions and IOLTA programs are quite different in Canada and in the United States. In Canada’s provinces and territories, where there are fewer than 100 banks plus several hundred credit unions, IOLTA rates tend to be more uniform. In the United States jurisdictions, where there are there are approximately 5,000 banks and 5,000 credit unions, IOLTA rates are wide-ranging.
IOLTA programs work closely with financial institutions to maximize IOLTA revenue. Most IOLTA programs require banks to pay rates that are comparable to similarly situated non-IOLTA accounts. They also negotiate with financial institutions to reduce service charges and increase interest rates on IOLTA accounts. Working with financial institutions and attorneys helps to ensure that IOLTA generates as much revenue as possible to support legal aid for those who have nowhere else to turn. Since the birth of IOLTA many decades ago, millions of Canadians and Americans have been served by civil legal aid, access to justice initiatives, and law-related education programs supported by IOLTA funds.
Recognition for Leadership Financial Institutions
Many IOLTA programs recognize financial institutions that voluntarily pay premium interest rates on IOLTA accounts. They do this in a variety of ways:
- Placing them on an “Honor Roll” for leadership banks
- Presenting Awards
- Featuring them in professional and business publications
- Promoting them in social media and on IOLTA program websites
- Marketing them to the legal community
- Providing Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) documentation