New to Legal Services?
For a video on how California's legal services system works, please click here.
For a history of civil legal aid, please click here.
For LAAC's Introduction to Legal Services training resources, please click here.
How is your organization funded?
The unifying factor for our community are the IOLTA funds, distributed by the State Bar through the Legal Services Trust Fund Commission. IOLTA stands for Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts.
- Put simply, it's the very small amount of interest earned on accounts that attorneys hold for clients either for too short a time or of too small an amount to justify opening a separate client account. Those funds, of all California attorneys, in the aggregate, amount to millions of dollars a year. In California, as in most other states, that pooled interest goes to support legal services programs as defined by statute. In FY2012-2013, that amount is $10.68 million. In FY2013-2014, it will be cut 10% to $9.6 million.
- The California Business and Professions Code with requirements for IOLTA accounts is CAL. BPC. CODE § 6212. The section defining qualified legal services projects is CAL. BPC. CODE § 6213. A link to the whole section is here.
- For IOLTA FAQs, please click here.
- The State Bar Board of Trustees is very concerned about declining IOLTA revenue and voted at its March 7 meeting to support legislation that would increase funding for legal services. If you know a Trustee on the board, thank him or her for the board's support!
Legal Services Corporation (LSC)
- There are eleven LSC-funded organizations in California.
- Bay Area Legal Aid
- California Indian Legal Services
- California Rural Legal Assistance
- Central California Legal Services
- Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance
- Inland Counties Legal Services
- Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
- Legal Aid Society of Orange County
- Legal Aid Society of San Diego
- Legal Services of Northern California
- Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County
- LSC is the largest funder of legal aid in the United States at roughly $350 million a year. You can find more information on LSC here. Unfortunately, with the recent sequester, California's LSC programs have seen a huge hit.
- There are federal restrictions on the type of work that LSC-funded organizations can do with either LSC funds or with other funds. More information on those restrictions are here. If you work at one of these organizations, we recommend you familiarize yourself with all the current restrictions. Many advocates are hoping to lift the restrictions by working with members of Congress, so we all hope to see continuing changes in this area.
California's legal services organizations are funded through many other sources.
- Individual donors give over $3 million each year.
- Law firms donate at least $7 million.
- Foundation grants account for over $25 million.
- Government funding is over $100 million.
- Cy pres awards, events, court-awarded attorney's fees account for additional millions.
- Programs are also funded with Equal Access Fund grants, approximately $13 million a year.
- Programs also get nearly a million dollars through the Justice Gap Fund. JGF comes from the voluntary donations from California's Attorneys through their State Bar dues bill. Encourage your friends and law school classmates to contribute at the Campaign for Justice website.