Underfunded Legal Aid in MA Leaves 2/3 of Those in Need Unrepresented

According to a new study, 64 percent of the low income people in Massachusetts who applied for and were qualified for civil legal assistance were turned away in 2014.

News Story (Massachusetts)

Ruth McCambridge
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
October 20, 2014
Link to story
Link to report

Tags: Funding: IOLTA, Funding: State & Local, Research/Data

Organizations mentioned/involved: Boston Bar Association


Martha Minow is the dean of the Harvard Law School and one of the 32 members of the task force that produced the 37-page report. “When you have people who are literally not represented in actions where they can lose their homes or face physical violence, where they can’t get legal remedies to which they’re entitled, there’s a failure to live up to the rule of law,” said Minow.

As NPQ has reported on a number of occasions, civil legal aid is in significant part paid for by the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA). This is derived from, among other things, the interest paid on money that lawyers hold in trust for clients during real estate transactions. That money was precipitously eroded, first by the decline in the housing market and then by today’s historically low bank interest rates.

In 2007, before the big recession, that fund generated nearly $32 million in interest; this year, only $4.5 million is expected to be generated.