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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Their purpose can go far in helping the poor who cannot afford legal services and supporting improvements to the justice system.

Interest on lawyers trust accounts or IOLTAs, are a unique type of trust account that works like this: a lawyer who receives funds that belong to a client must place those funds in a trust account separate from the lawyer’s own money. Client funds are deposited in an IOLTA when the funds cannot otherwise earn enough interest for the client to be more than the cost of securing that income. The client–and not the IOLTA program–receives the interest if the funds are large enough or will be held for a long enough period of time to generate net interest that is sufficient to allocate directly to the client. The interest generated from the accounts is used in a variety of ways, but mainly to help state legal foundations provide pro bono work to poor families.

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