Bar News - May 17, 2017
Bar Foundation News: Bar Foundation Approves $800,000 in IOLTA Grants to Support Civil Legal Aid
By: Dan Wise
The NH Bar Foundation Board of Directors has approved $800,000 in IOLTA grants for the fiscal year starting June 1, 2017, a 14 percent increase over the $700,000 granted last year.
The total amount of IOLTA grants each year varies with interest rates, the level of business activity as reflected by law firms’ trust account balances, and the number of banks and credit unions that agree to pay above-market interest rates on IOLTA accounts. IOLTA grants support the work of civil legal aid providers and other initiatives related to increasing access to justice for New Hampshire citizens.
“We are incredibly grateful to the community-minded financial institutions that generously support the work of the civil legal aid providers,” said Jack Middleton, NH Bar Foundation Board chair.
At its May 3 meeting, the board approved the recommendations of the five-member IOLTA Grants Committee, an elected, independent committee that reviews grantees’ requests. The grants committee makes allocations within the overall funding limit set by the board.
For the second year in a row, the major statewide civil legal aid providers submitted a joint, coordinated request for funding to the grants committee.
The grantees’ request this year shifted $10,000 to bolster the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), which provides limited education debt relief on law school loans to licensed New Hampshire attorneys working for IOLTA-funded agencies. Established in 2000, LRAP enables legal aid providers to retain staff lawyers who, once they have gained a few years’ experience, might otherwise leave public interest law for private sector jobs with higher salaries.
The NH Bar Foundation sets the funding level annually for LRAP in conjunction with the overall IOLTA funding amount. In the past year, a Foundation committee reviewed and updated LRAP guidelines and limits. The amount each attorney receives (in the form of a short-term loan that is forgiven each year if he or she continues to be employed at an eligible organization) has a lifetime cap, is based on full- or part-time employment status, outstanding law school loan debt, and any loan assistance they may be receiving from other sources.
IOLTA is the single-largest source of non-governmental funding for civil legal services in New Hampshire.
IOLTA grants are especially important as they are not restricted and can be used by civil legal aid organizations to address core programming needs as well as for initiatives to respond to emerging problems.