NC IOLTA Awards $9.5 Million in Grants for 2024
North Carolina Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (NC IOLTA) will distribute roughly $9.5 million in 2024 to organizations providing free civil legal services and other programs designed to improve the administration of justice.
Established in 1983 as the philanthropic focus of the North Carolina State Bar, NC IOLTA envisions a North Carolina where all people can effectively meet their legal needs.
Funds from NC IOLTA currently support 28 organizations providing legal services in all 100 North Carolina counties. These grants support victims of domestic violence, families facing eviction and property loss, disabled seniors, and countless other North Carolinians in need of legal assistance to protect their rights and ensure their basic needs can be met.
“We are committed to ensuring equal access to justice across the state,” says Shelby Duffy Benton, chair of the North Carolina IOLTA Board of Trustees, which finalized 2024 grant awards at its meeting in early December. “In partnership with North Carolina lawyers, banks, and grantee organizations, we work together to see that legal services are provided to people who otherwise would not be able to afford them.”
With additional funds available for 2024 due to the increased income being generated on general trust accounts held by North Carolina lawyers, NC IOLTA was able to increase grant awards for many grantees, support identified gaps in funding, and fund new programs.
Mary Irvine, NC IOLTA executive director, is pleased that available funds can offset revenue lost by grantee programs from other sources. For example, funding from the federal Victims of Crimes Act has decreased substantially in recent years and is expected to continue to decrease in 2024.
“This year, several legal aid programs that provide life-saving legal services to families experiencing domestic violence will be losing federal funding restricted for this purpose due to a change in the allocation of funds at the national level,” Irvine said. “Fortunately, with additional funding from NC IOLTA and other sources, legal aid providers in NC will be able to continue their critical work in this important area.”
In addition to its regular annual grants, the NC IOLTA Board recently approved funding of a three-year grant program to offer summer stipends for law students who work in public interest internships in one of the 45 North Carolina counties that have been classified as “legal deserts” (i.e., counties with less than one lawyer per 1,000 residents). The IOLTA Public Interest Internship Program is being reestablished after the program was discontinued during the recession due to decreased funding.
The IOLTA Public Interest Internship Program is designed to expose law students of all backgrounds to the practice of law in the public interest, particularly in areas of the state with limited access to legal professionals. Stipends will support law students working for judges, public defenders, district attorneys, and organizations providing free civil legal services.
Benton shared her perspective on the opportunity to engage law students early in their careers to use their skills to contribute to the legal needs of underserved communities.
“Particularly as a lawyer coming from a rural community, I acknowledge the continued need for resources to support access to legal services in legal deserts and other underserved areas. The board approved the Public Interest Internship Program to support students who wish to return home or make roots in counties with a real need for lawyers that may struggle to compete with more populous areas of the state.”
The creation of IOLTA programs across the country came at a time of dire need, Irvine said, but the need continues. “Without access to legal services, the legal system does not work for everyone. NC IOLTA values the support of all of our partners to help all North Carolinians fairly navigate the justice system, making our communities stronger and more equitable.”
Since inception, NC IOLTA has awarded more than $120 million to organizations that provide legal aid to individuals, families, and children.
• 2024 grant awards totaling $9.5 million were approved in December. For a full list of 2024 grant awards, visit nciolta.org.
• NC IOLTA recently released the 2022-23 report on funding administered under the Domestic Violence Victim Assistance Act. In 2022-23, NC IOLTA administered $854,380 in funding to Legal Aid of North Carolina and Pisgah Legal Services for legal services for domestic violence victims.
• Though income has not been fully finalized, NC IOLTA anticipates 2023 interest earned on lawyers’ general pooled trust accounts will exceed $15.5 million.