The District of Columbia Bar is looking to join the more than 40 state bars around the country that have made participation in a trust program mandatory.
Proposed changes to the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct governing interest on lawyers' trust accounts, or IOLTA, are under review at the D.C. Court of Appeals. The court is seeking public comment on the proposal, which was recommended by the D.C. Bar Board of Governors.
The rule change would require all members of the D.C. Bar who receive IOLTA-eligible funds to participate in the IOLTA program. Under the current rule, there is an opt-out provision. There are two exceptions to the proposed rule: a lawyer must first obey court orders regarding how client money is held; and the lawyer doesn’t have to participate in the D.C. IOLTA program if the lawyer is participating in the IOLTA program where the lawyer is licensed and principally practices.
The D.C. Bar’s board also recommended adopting interest rate comparability provisions for the banks in which lawyers hold client money. The banks that want to qualify as approved depositories must agree to provide certain interest rates on IOLTA accounts.
D.C. Bar officials say the proposed rule changes, if adopted, would increase both the revenue from D.C. IOLTA accounts and the interest paid by banks on money held in those accounts. “We’re all hopeful this will increase IOLTA revenue,” said a D.C. Bar official, Hope Todd, assistant director for legal ethics. The D.C. Bar Foundation distributes interest money to local legal service providers.
The deadline for written comments is January 4. Send ten copies of any comment to the clerk of the D.C. Court of Appeals, 430 E Street, N.W., Suite 209, Washington, D.C. 20001. Any comment submitted to the court will be made available to the public.