National Law Journal – Perfect storm hits legal aid

The situation looked grim for Texas legal aid groups. In 2009, the take from Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts had plummeted due to record-low interest rates. Public interest law groups faced massive budget cuts.

The Texas Legislature came to the rescue with a one-time $20 million emergency allocation to fill the shortfall in 2009 and 2010, but the state now is dealing with its own budget crisis and legal aid advocates aren’t counting on another financial bailout for 2011 or an overnight recovery of the accounts, which go by the acronym IOLTA. “That funding is going to be very tough to come by in the next legislative session,” said David Hall, executive director of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, the largest provider in the state. “They’re talking about making cuts across the board.” The organization stopped filling open lawyer positions in 2010 to prepare for cuts and may close offices, institute layoffs and roll back its caseload in 2011, Hall said.

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