FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 18, 2013
Lowell Brown, public information director
State Bar of Texas
Kimberly Schmitt, communications manager
Texas Access to Justice Foundation
512-320-0099, ext. 104
State Bar of Texas announces move to Prime
Texas Access to Justice Foundation Observes
Prime Partner Bank Recognition Month
AUSTIN, Texas — The State Bar of Texas is pleased to announce that it is moving its accounts to a Prime Partner bank to show support for the Texas IOLTA (Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts) Prime Partner program of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.
“The State Bar of Texas is always looking for ways to help ensure all citizens have equal access to justice,” State Bar President Lisa M. Tatum said. “This change to a Prime Partner bank will result in more funding for the important work of providing civil legal services to low-income Texans.”
November is Prime Partner Bank Month, and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation is recognizing banks and financial institutions that help invest in justice through the Texas IOLTA Prime Partner program. Seventy banks and credit unions are committed to being Prime Partners and directly benefit the funding of civil legal services in Texas communities.
Prime Partner banks voluntarily pay higher interest rates on IOLTA accounts, helping close the gap in legal services funding. These banks have contributed millions of dollars in IOLTA revenue throughout Texas.
The Foundation’s “I Bank on Justice” campaign, now in its second year, highlights lawyers, firms, and bar associations investing in justice by banking at a Prime Partner bank. Lawyers and organizations are encouraged to bank at Prime Partner banks, whose higher interest rates help provide assistance to Texas families seeking justice for an abused child, receiving health benefits for an elderly person, or getting a family back in their home when faced with a foreclosure or eviction. More than 5.4 million Texans qualify for legal aid, and many are turned away due to a lack of resources.
“By making the choice to pay higher interest rates on IOLTA accounts, our Prime Partner Banks help ensure that low-income Texans will have access to basic civil legal services,” Richard L. Tate, chair of the board of directors for the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, said. “Through the partnerships of these financial institutions, we are able to provide more funding to legal aid service providers throughout the state that serve those who desperately need legal services but cannot afford them.”
The Supreme Court of Texas created the IOLTA program in 1984 as a means of providing funds for legal aid. For many years, the program worked as it was intended and played a major role in the funding of the state’s legal aid system. Due to the plunge in interest rates in 2008, the revenue generated from the program has plummeted. As a result, low-income Texans are forced to face serious, complicated, and sometimes life-threatening civil legal issues on their own.
In 2007, IOLTA generated revenue in excess of $20 million; in 2013, it is projected to total only $4 million—a decline of more than 75 percent.
Special website and social media spotlights will be featured throughout the month at www.teajf.org and on Facebook.
The State Bar of Texas is an administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Texas that provides educational programs for the legal profession and the public, administers the minimum continuing legal education program for attorneys, and manages the attorney discipline system. For more information, visit www.texasbar.com.
The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the primary state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to approximately 100,000 Texas families each year.