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IOLTA Update - IOLTA Grant Application for 2023 Funding Available Now

Due to limited resources and insufficient funding, only a fraction of North Carolinians has access to the critical legal services they need to thrive. As reported in North Carolina’s 2021 Legal Needs Assessment, In Pursuit of Justice, there is just one legal aid attorney for every 8,000 eligible North Carolinians, leaving far too many people in our communities without essential legal advice or representation in court. Without equal access to justice, many are left to navigate a challenging legal system on their own, unaware of their rights and without support. This puts their rights and basic needs in jeopardy.

As the philanthropic arm of the North Carolina State Bar, we at North Carolina Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (NC IOLTA) provide access to justice by funding high-quality legal assistance. In 1984, when NC IOLTA was approved by the North Carolina Supreme Court, North Carolina became the 15th state to adopt IOLTA. Programs now exist in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, as well as across the Canadian provinces. This response to increase funding for legal aid through IOLTA came from the legal profession, acknowledging the need for legal services and the power to change people’s lives. Studies show that even a small amount of legal assistance can dramatically improve outcomes for individuals and families.

NC IOLTA’s impact is possible through partnership. We work directly with lawyers and financial institutions across our state to set up interest bearing accounts to hold client funds as required under the Rules of Professional Conduct. Funds generated are used to award grants to organizations that help provide legal aid to individuals, families, and children. Since 1984 we have awarded more than $105 million to support access to legal aid for important civil matters, and protecting the basic human rights of our neighbors, such as access to housing and shelter, family safety, and healthcare.

Last year, with the funds provided by IOLTA accounts from across the state, organizations that received funding from NC IOLTA closed more than 31,000 cases for North Carolina clients in all 100 counties. With IOLTA’s support, legal aid programs championed clients as they moved from a place of frustration and uncertainty, to one of stability and support.

• Legal Aid of North Carolina assisted a Duplin County woman in a multi-year effort to prove ownership of her home, which she inherited from a family member who died without a will, ultimately allowing her to access the financial assistance she needed to make repairs to the home after suffering extensive damage in Hurricane Florence. She now has a safe and stable place to live.

• Disability Rights North Carolina assisted an elementary school student in a rural county in obtaining appropriate services from her school, including psychological and behavioral assessments and support. With the help of skilled advocates, she was able to stay in the classroom and make significant academic and behavioral progress last year.

• The North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission assisted a client in restoring his driver’s license, which required clearing up a child support issue, paying off old court fines, and completing a required substance abuse assessment and treatment. Through partnership with an attorney, the client restored his license and avoided losing his job.

Lawyers like you make this possible.

By working toward equitable access to civil legal aid, we are creating a North Carolina where all individuals can fairly navigate the system to have their basic needs met and their rights protected.

This year, the board finalized revisions to NC IOLTA’s grant programs, criteria, and policies in preparation for the 2023 grant application cycle. Now, information, which had previously been found in several places, is centrally located and available on our website. Policies and criteria were tweaked to reflect the most significant gaps identified in the Legal Needs Assessment, as well as other opportunities for supporting organizations providing civil legal aid and other critical programs improving the administration of justice.

The 2023 NC IOLTA grant application is now available. The timeline below details the application, review, and award process.

• Grant information and application for 2023 grants released on August 1, 2022.

• NC IOLTA staff will be available to answer questions of applicants in August and September and will host an online information session on August 17.

• Grant applications are due on September 23.

• Staff and board review applications during the months of October and November.

• The NC IOLTA Board of Trustees meets in early December to determine grant awards.

• Grant decisions will be communicated by December 9.

• Funding begins in January 2023.

If you are involved with an organization or effort in your community that provides civil legal services to low-income individuals or works to improve the administration of justice on behalf of North Carolinians, we encourage you to share this application information with them. Questions can be directed to Program Manager Dan Labarca at dlabarca@ncbar.gov or Executive Director Mary Irvine at mirvine@ncbar.gov.

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Don’t forget to update your IOLTA status! You may have recently received an email from NC IOLTA letting you know that there is a conflict between your mandatory IOLTA certification and the IOLTA status we have on record for you. If you did, please submit your updated IOLTA status information (i.e. information about your current employment) via the NC State Bar membership portal so that we can properly associate you with a firm in our system. As a reminder, separate from the mandatory annual certification, all attorneys should inform NC IOLTA any time your IOLTA status changes, that is, if you change employment or open or close a trust account.

IOLTA revenue. Revenue from participant income in 2022 has averaged about $420,000 monthly in 2022, a decrease of 4% compared to 2021. We anticipate increases in the coming months with the recent adjustment in the Federal Funds Target Rate (FFTR) and positive adjustments being made by many financial institutions in their interest rates.

State funds. NC IOLTA administers state funding on behalf of the NC State Bar. Under the Domestic Violence Victim Assistance Act, a portion of fees assessed in civil and criminal court actions support legal assistance for domestic violence victims provided by Legal Aid of North Carolina and Pisgah Legal Services. From July 2021 through June 2022, NC IOLTA administered $811,042 in domestic violence state funds. This is an increase over the 2020-21 state year, but remains lower than pre-pandemic levels. NC IOLTA also administered an additional $100,000 in state funding in 2021-22 directed to Pisgah Legal Services for their veteran’s legal services program.

Working groups. This summer, NC IOLTA convened four working groups coming together over a series of meetings to develop recommendations for how the community can improve access and address some of the identified areas of need as laid out in the Legal Needs Assessment. The working groups include (1) family law; (2) services to immigrant populations; (3) communications and outreach; and (4) coordinated intake. The working groups will finalize proposed recommendations later in the summer.