A video on how California’s legal services system works.
A history of civil legal aid.
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. For the past several years, since the economic downturn in 2008, that has amounted to about $5 million, a huge drop from the approximately $20 million in 2008.
Legal Services Corporation (LSC)
There are eleven LSC-funded organizations in California:
Bay Area Legal Aid
California Indian Legal Services
California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.
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 $375 million a year.
There are federal restrictions on the type of work that LSC-funded organizations can do with either LSC funds or with other funds. If you work at one of these organizations, we recommend you familiarize yourself with all the current restrictions and always ask your executive director if you have questions. 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.
- Equal Access Fund grants provide approximately $14 million a year.
- Justice Gap Fund (JGF) provided approximately $7 million dollars in 2015 and is expected to provide the same amount in 2016. 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.