What is IOLTA?
IOLTA stands for "Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts." Rule 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct requires attorneys who handle client funds or funds entrusted by others, including settlement checks, fees advanced for services not yet performed, or money to pay court fees, to hold those funds in one or more interest-bearing bank accounts labeled as a “Trust Account,” or words of similar import.
If the amount is large or the funds are to be held for a long period of time, the attorney must place the money in an individual interest-bearing account for the benefit of the client.
However, if the amount of client funds is small or the funds will be held for such a short period of time that they are not capable of earning interest for the client in excess of the cost of maintaining a separate bank account, then they are pooled in a single account with similar funds of other clients.
The interest on these pooled-fund, IOLTA accounts is forwarded to the State Bar of California and used to support approximately 100 nonprofit legal aid organizations that provide civil legal aid to indigent and low-income people, seniors, and persons with disabilities.