Since 1984, the State Bar has disbursed approximately $783 million for legal aid in California. In 2021, we delivered approximately $60 million in grants to 100 legal services organizations that provide free legal aid to low-income Californians. The total in 2022 will be nearly $150 million.
Funds come from the following sources:
Any lawyer who handles client funds that are too small in amount or held too briefly to earn interest for the client must hold these funds in the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA). Revenue from interest generated on these accounts is remitted to the State Bar to be distributed to eligible legal aid grantees. These funds are distributed in accordance with California Business and Professions Code section 6210, et seq. More about IOLTA
Each fiscal year since 1999, the Legislature has appropriated funds for the Equal Access Fund. The first appropriation was $10 million. These funds come from taxpayers and court filing fees. Since its inception, the fund has grown. The Legislature sometimes designates funds for particular purposes, such as preventing homelessness, which the State Bar distributes through a competitive grants process. For example, for 2022, the Legislature allocated $70 million to the Equal Access Fund, of which $65 million will be distributed by the State Bar, and another $40 million for homelessness prevention.
Attorneys can donate to the Justice Gap Fund when paying their annual licensing fees or at any time throughout the year. Donations to the Justice Gap Fund are combined with IOLTA revenue to fund legal aid grants. More about the Justice Gap Fund
In 2015 and 2016, the State Bar received approximately $51 million in grant funds resulting from settlements between the U.S. Department of Justice and Bank of America and Citi. The State Bar administers these grants to legal services organizations to provide foreclosure prevention legal assistance and community redevelopment legal assistance. Grants began in 2016 and will continue into at least 2022.