The Massachusetts Bar Foundation has awarded more than $2.7 million in grants through its annual Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) grant program. This year's award amounts ranged from $5,000 to $175,000, and will run from Sept. 1, 2002 to Aug. 31, 2003. The largest grant payout from the MBF ever will fund 116 grants in 84 non-profit organizations.
The grants support law-related projects that provide civil legal services to the state's low-income population or improve the general administration of justice for the public.
At a time of budget cuts to many non-profits the MBF supports, as well as to the courts themselves, the competition for this year’ IOLTA funds was exceptionally strong. The MBF received more than 150 applications requesting more than $5.1 million. The number of requests indicates the extent of unmet legal needs of the commonwealth’ low- and middle-income citizens.
Contrary to common belief, MBF IOLTA grants to legal-services programs are not typically used to pay lawyers' fees.
"These grants provide vital support for the coordination and administration of the pro bono services of many of the nearly 40,000 licensed lawyers in Massachusetts," said MBF President Paul Farrell. "Funding these activities expands tremendously the capacity of the organizations serving those most in need."
Last year, more than 69,000 residents benefited from programs supported by the MBF.
The MBF is a charitable organization of lawyers and judges, composed of those members of the Massachusetts Bar Association most concerned with guaranteeing the quality and availability of justice in the commonwealth. Individual foundation members, known as fellows, contribute as much as $5,000 in support of the group's mission. Additionally, more than 150 fellows volunteer each spring to review grant requests and interview applicants in order to assure optimal benefit from the foundation’ grant funding.
The Supreme Judicial Court created the IOLTA program in 1986 to address the unmet legal needs of the state's low-income population. Through this program, individually insignificant amounts of interest on client escrow deposits, formerly absorbed by the banks, are aggregated and distributed to charities in support of law-related programs. The MBF is one of three charitable entities in Massachusetts appointed by the court to distribute IOLTA funds. Each year, the MBF receives 26 percent of the state's total IOLTA income to support its competitive grant program.
A list of the 2002/2003 IOLTA grant recipients is available on the MBF Web site at www.MassBarFoundation.org.