Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) is a unique and innovative way to increase access to justice for individuals and families living in poverty and to improve our justice system. Without taxing the public, and at no cost to lawyers or their clients, interest from lawyer trust accounts is pooled to provide civil legal aid to the poor and support improvements to the justice system.
A lawyer who receives funds that belong to a client must place those funds in a trust account separate from the lawyer's own money. Client funds are deposited in an IOLTA account when the funds cannot otherwise earn enough income for the client to be more than the cost of securing that income. The client - and not the IOLTA program - receives the interest if the funds are large enough or will be held for a long enough period of time to generate net interest that is sufficient to allocate directly to the client.
Every state, along with the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, operates an IOLTA program. In 2009, the U.S. IOLTA programs generated more than $ 124.7 million nationwide. These funds, together with state and federal appropriations as well as private grants and donations, enable nonprofit legal aid providers to help low-income people with civil legal matters such as landlord/tenant issues, child custody disputes and advocacy for those with disabilities.