IOLTA stands for "Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts." Attorneys routinely receive client funds to be held in trust for future use. If the amount is large or the funds are to be held for a long period of time, the attorney must place these monies at interest for the benefit of the client. However, in the case of amounts that are small or are to be held for a short time, it is impractical to establish separate interest bearing accounts for individual clients. Mandatory participation in the IOLTA program requires attorneys to place these funds at interest, with that interest paid to the Maine Bar Foundation and dedicated to support civil legal aid for low income and disadvantaged people, law related education and administration of justice projects.
Every attorney admitted to practice in Maine must annually certify to the Board of Overseers of the Bar in connection with the annual renewal of the lawyer's registration, that:
- To the lawyer's knowledge after reasonable investigation:
- the lawyer or the lawyer's law firm maintains at least one IOLTA account, and
- the lawyer has taken reasonable steps to ensure that all client funds are held in client trust accounts meeting the requirements of these Rules, or
- That the lawyer is exempt from maintaining an IOLTA or other trust account because the lawyer:
- is not engaged in the private practice of law;
- does not have an office within the state of Maine;
- is (i) a judge or other judicial officer employed full time by the United States Government, the State of Maine or another state government, (ii) on active duty with the armed services, or (iii) employed full time as an attorney by a local, state, or federal government, and is not otherwise engaged in the private practice of law;
- is counsel for a corporation or non-profit organization or a teacher or professor employed by an educational institution, and is not otherwise engaged in the private practice of law;
- has been exempted by an order of the Court which is cited in the certification; or
- holds no client fund other than retainers or advances for costs and expenses.