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Bar News - November 14, 2008

Only You Can Prevent a Funding Crisis…


An imminent crisis is looming that will affect thousands of our most vulnerable residents in communities across the state. The largest grant program we have to support civil legal aid for low-income and elderly residents, the IOLTA Grants Program, has been seriously impacted by the downturn in the economy.

To meet our grant obligations to the 11 organizations awarded grants this year, we expect to all-but-deplete the IOLTA reserve we’ve grown over the past 10 years. If there isn’t a substantial change in IOLTA revenue, our grant obligations may not be met this year and will have to be reduced by as much as one-third or more next year. But a few minutes of your time could turn things around immediately and significantly.

The New Hampshire Bar Foundation’s IOLTA Enhancement Committee is working diligently to stop the downward spiral of IOLTA revenue. Personal letters, telephone calls, e-mail correspondence and articles are underway to draw attention to the seriousness of this situation. The committee members can alert you to the problem and ask for your help, but only you can prevent this crisis from getting worse.

Things you can do now:

1. Opt-in for the IOLTA Program, if you haven’t already

2. Check your bank statement to find out what interest rate your IOLTA account earns. We see rates vary from 0.0% to 3% for IOLTA.

3. If your IOLTA account averages $100,000 or more a month and is earning less than 2%, call your bank today and ask it to raise the rate. Even a one-half percentage point raise can make a huge difference in revenues for the IOLTA Grants Program.

Our quality of life in New Hampshire depends on our ability to care for others in need. Please join us in this effort to ensure equal access to the justice system for all residents.

"Our firm discovered a year ago that our IOLTA account at a local bank was paying a ridiculously low interest rate. I thought we were going to have to switch banks to remedy the situation, but I decided to give my banker a call first. At our urging, the bank increased the rate to one competitive to other banks. This was easy and only took a few minutes of my time." – Mark D. Fernald, Esq., Fernald, Taft, Falby & Little, P.A.

(Attorney Fernald’s IOLTA account currently earns more than $10,000 annually, far above the $240 a year it was earning prior to his call.)

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