IOLTA Basics The Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois


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Funds arising from a Nevada matter must be kept in an approved financial institution in Nevada. Effective February 1, 2009, all Massachusetts attorneys may only deposit their IOLTA funds in financial institutions that have been certified to meet new requirements. Pursuant to a July 26, 2006 order of the Supreme Judicial Court, financial institutions must be certified by the IOLTA Committee to be eligible to hold IOLTA funds. Additional changes in the operation of IOLTA accounts were adopted in December, 2008. Interest generated by IOLTA accounts forms an important source of funding for civil legal aid in Illinois. IOLTA changed this by allowing law firms to place these funds into an interest-bearing trust account instead.

Do all of my trust accounts have to be IOLTA accounts?

When submitting annual license fees and required disclosures to the State Bar of Nevada, all attorneys must also verify and report that their current IOLTA trust accounts are compliant with Supreme Court Rule 217. This means IOLTA trust funds must be in a participating financial institution. Unlike criminal defendants, people facing serious civil legal problems—such as domestic violence, housing insecurity, employment, government benefits, consumer debt, and elder issues—generally do not have the right to an attorney if they cannot afford one. Legal aid programs provide free civil legal services but, due to insufficient funding, legal aid organizations in Massachusetts are forced to turn away nearly 60% of eligible people seeking help. The interest earned on IOLTA accounts and other funds distributed by the IOLTA Committee are essential to helping to close this justice gap.

  • Since 1984, the Mississippi Bar Foundation and The Mississippi Bar have worked with members of the Bar and with the banking community to administer the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts Program.
  • The reason the accounts were non-interest-bearing is that prior to 1981, commercial banks were prohibited by federal law from paying interest on demand deposits (e.g. checking accounts).
  • An expert bookkeeper ensures your IOLTA is always recorded properly on the books.
  • The financial institutions have been advised that rulings have been obtained by the Foundation from the appropriate federal regulatory agencies authorizing “NOW” or similar type accounts to be used for IOLTA accounts.

More information about how IOLTA funds are used in the public interest is available in the IOLTA Committee’s annual report. Massachusetts Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15 and the 2009 IOLTA Guidelinesprovide rules and guidance regarding the Massachusetts IOLTA program and IOLTA accounts. The interest on the IOLTA accounts is remitted to the Foundation, which grants the money to nonprofit organizations that provide free civil aid to low-income Texans.

Resolve Attorney Problems

An retail accounting account may be selected if the funds are relatively modest or will be held by the lawyer for only a short time. While this all may seem simple enough on paper, in practice, properly handling an IOLTA can be incredibly complex and time consuming. Even a large law firm with a dedicated accounting team has to take deliberate steps to maintain IOLTA compliance. Smaller law firms or independent attorneys have to be infinitely more careful, since small mistakes can have dire consequences.


The BBO regularly conducts a free Trust Account Training that explains the records required to be maintained for IOLTA accounts and other trust accounts. See the IOLTA Committee’s Calendar-Upcoming Events for upcoming dates and details. Even though work has been technically completed, you still cannot take any money directly from Client A’s retainer until they review and approve the billed amount. Then, once approved by Client A, the $480 is considered earned but cannot be withdrawn directly from the IOLTA account. Instead, the money is then transferred to the firm’s business account, while the remaining $6,520 from the retainer remains in trust.

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