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Predicting IOLTA fund revenues

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All that is known about funding for Indiana’s 14 pro bono districts is that no one yet knows exactly how much the districts will receive in October for their 2011 budgets.

What plan administrators do know as they work on their 2009 reports and 2011 budget proposals – due July 1 – is that times are tough, the need for civil legal services remains steady or is increasing, and short of a miracle they will receive less money from the state’s Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts program than in recent years.
 

Chuck Dunlap Dunlap

Chuck Dunlap, executive director of the Indiana Bar Foundation, keeps plan administrators up to date about the interest rates on IOLTA accounts at quarterly meetings, and whenever the plan administrators ask him. At his latest meeting with plan administrators earlier this spring, the news wasn’t good.

Interest rates have been low around the country, which directly affects IOLTA funds. It’s the interest on the funds in lawyers’ trust accounts that goes to pro bono programs.

In Indiana, Dunlap said the interest rates for IOLTAs range from 0.01 to 6 percent, but the bank that offers a 6 percent interest rate is an anomaly. Attorneys looking for a rate above the state average of about 0.47 percent can possibly find one in the 1 to 2 percent range, but most banks offer interest rates of 1 percent or less, he said.

The national average is about 0.35 percent and compared to other states, Indiana was not the hardest hit.

Monica Fennell, executive director of the Indiana Pro Bono Commission, said attorneys have a choice of bank when it comes to IOLTAs, and they can search for a higher interest rate.
 

Monica Fennell Fennell

Dunlap said he can share information with attorneys about which banks are offering higher rates. For instance, the First Federal Savings Bank of Rochester, which offers a fixed rate of 6 percent, was featured in the IBF’s 2009 annual report, along with the bank’s founder and president, Richard E. Belcher.

“He felt this was a good way to give back to the community,” Dunlap said, and the IBF wanted to recognize him for that.

Plan administrators are already feeling the pinch as IOLTA funds have decreased from revenues of more than $3 million in 2007 and 2008 to about $1.5 million in 2009.

Dunlap said while the exact number won’t be known until the end of June, he estimates there will be about $700,000 raised from IOLTA funds for 2010. That doesn’t include the $2 million reserve the IBF has from the years when interest rates were higher.

At this time, he doesn’t know how much of the reserve would be used to fund grant requests from plan administrators, so he and Fennell have been encouraging them to either cut their budgets or look for other funding sources compared to previous years.

Plan administrators said they have been doing that in anticipation of the lower IOLTA funds for this year, but some already rely on their volunteers and boards for extra funding or in-kind donations for pro bono projects.

Laurie Beltz Boyd, plan administrator for the Heartland Pro Bono Council in District 8 – Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Marion, Morgan, and Shelby counties – said her district continues to work with partners in the legal community. For instance, law firms have helped pay for lunches and have provided their own space for different events her district sponsors, such as free CLEs for attorneys in exchange for pro bono work.

Fennell suggested this as something any firm can do, whether it’s helping their local pro bono district by hosting a CLE or by sponsoring recognition events or paying for plaques or other awards that some districts give to their outstanding pro bono attorneys who’ve given 50 hours or more.

However, Boyd added she didn’t plan to apply for funding outside of IOLTA, which funds her district 100 percent, because other grants in her district are already going to other legal aid providers, such as Indiana Legal Services and Indianapolis Legal Aid Society.

She said legal aid organizations in her district also have representatives on the Heartland Pro Bono Council board of directors so they are already working together in terms of sharing ideas to help improve access to justice.

Terry McCaffrey began as plan administrator for the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana Inc. in District 3 in November. In his district, which includes Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wells, and Whitley counties, he said there hasn’t been much done in the way of fundraising in the legal community, but it is something he and the board of directors are considering this year.

The Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana also receives additional funding for its Volunteer Advocates for Seniors & Incapacitated Adults program, he said, but IOLTA funds go only to the administrative costs for pro bono work and the pro bono work is funded only by IOLTA.

Tammy Sparks, plan administrator/executive director of Legal Aid – District Eleven Inc., has a similar situation. Her district, which includes Bartholomew, Brown, Decatur, Jackson, and Jennings counties, also oversees programs other than the pro bono program to offer access to justice for indigent people in her community. Like District 3, even though District 11 receives other grants for specific programs, IOLTA funds only cover pro bono, and the pro bono program is 100 percent funded by IOLTA.IOLTA

Her district also has not hosted a fundraising event, but she and her board of directors will discuss the idea at least for the exposure for the organization, she said.

In District 13, the Volunteer Lawyer Program of Southwestern Indiana Inc. is mostly funded by IOLTA, said plan administrator Beverly Corn, who oversees the program with R. Scott Wylie.

In that district, which includes Daviess, Dubois, Gibson, Knox, Martin, Perry, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Vanderburgh, and Warrick counties, about 95 percent of funding for all programs comes from IOLTA.

However, the Evansville Bar Foundation, directly through the Evansville Bar Association, pays for the advertising costs for the monthly Talk To A Lawyer Program. The district also receives some funding from the Indiana Supreme Court specifically for a family court project in that district. Donations from the legal community make up 0.5 percent of the budget. Other partnerships, such as donated tax services from an accounting firm and low-fee counseling for parties in the family court program also offset costs.

Other districts also have free or reduced overhead costs, such as rent and administrative fees, thanks to non-profit or legal aid organizations in their districts.

As the districts prepare their annual reports in the coming weeks, there is a tinge of uncertainty for their budgets. They do, however, seem to share the idea that their legal communities will step in if needed.

“Scott and I believe that if it comes down to rock bottom there’s no money to operate at the level everyone has come to expect from District 13, we can call on the lawyers and community leaders to help us out of any crisis,” Corn said via e-mail. “Call me a ‘PollyAnna,’ and many do, but I believe the downward spiral is over and within a year, IOLTA will be breathing a sigh of relief. Indiana is so fortunate that the IBF had the wisdom and foresight to prepare for times like these and put reserves in place. However, Scott and I both believe that we need to do our part to make whatever reductions we can so that the IBF can count on us to do our part during these times, just as we have come to count on them.”•
 

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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