Alberta Law Foundation Update
The Alberta Law Foundation (the Foundation) is the largest non-government funder of Access to Justice in Alberta.
Created in 1973 under the Legal Profession Act (the Act), the Foundation has been supporting law reform, law libraries, public legal education, legal information, advice and representation to vulnerable individuals throughout the province for 48 years.
2021 Annual Report
In 2020-21, 43 grants totaling over $15 million were allocated to non-profit organizations for programs and projects that advance access to justice in Alberta. In addition, the Foundation contributed $12.8 million to Legal Aid Alberta in 2020-21. More information about the Foundation and the programs it supports can be found in their 2021 Annual Report.
How Lawyers Can Support the Foundation and Access to Justice
The Foundation’s primary source of revenue is the interest that financial institutions pay to the Foundation on lawyers’ pooled trust accounts. Pursuant to section 126 of the Act, every lawyer holding a pooled trust account in Alberta is required to direct the financial institution where the account is held to pay interest to the Foundation in accordance with the arrangement between the financial institution and the Foundation. In the last few years, the Foundation has identified over $2 million in unpaid interest because lawyers’ accounts were not opened correctly and/or the firm did not instruct the financial institution to pay the interest to the Foundation.
A few simple steps that lawyers can take to ensure the Foundation receives the appropriate amount of interest and ensure its ongoing ability to fund these important programs are as follows:
- When you open a new pooled trust account:
- be sure the name of the account includes “pooled trust”;
- provide the financial institution a letter of direction instructing it to pay interest to the Foundation and have the financial institution acknowledge by signing the letter – see the precedent letter on our website;
- provide a copy of the signed letter to the Law Society of Alberta and the Foundation.
- If you have an existing trust account:
- check to see that you have given the financial institution a letter of direction instructing it to pay interest to the Foundation and that the financial institution knows about it;
- if you and the financial institution do not have a record of the letter of direction, provide one now, using the precedent available on our website;
- provide a copy of the signed letter of direction to the Law Society of Alberta and the Foundation.
- When you file your annual self-report to the Law Society to report on your bank accounts:
- be sure that the account type is accurately described as “trust” meaning pooled trust, “SIBA” meaning a separate interest-bearing account for a single client, or “general” meaning your general operating account;
- be sure to input accurately the bank, transit and account numbers;
- confirm that you have provided a letter of direction for each pooled trust account.
Thank you for your support of the Foundation and access to justice in Alberta. If you have questions about the set up or operation of a pooled trust account, view the Trust Safety section of our website, contact us or contact the Foundation.