The Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation works with civil legal aid organizations in Wisconsin to increase access to justice. We oversee funds and invest in services and projects to help people resolve legal problems.

WisTAF recognizes State Bank Financial for nine years of civil legal aid support

COVID-19 heightens importance of “Prime Partner” funding for people in Wisconsin


CONTACT: Benson Gardner, Communications and Development Manager, 608.620.0711, bgardner@wistaf.org

MADISON — The Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation (WisTAF) recognized State Bank Financial for its longstanding support of civil legal aid. Desperately needed during the pandemic, civil legal aid ensures people can access legal representation, advice, and information when they face life-altering challenges. The Wisconsin Supreme Court established WisTAF to help meet this need by administering the state’s Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program.

State Bank Financial has volunteered as a “Prime Partner” in the IOLTA program for nine years; the Prime Partner program itself hit the 10-year mark Jan. 1.

“Long before COVID-19 increased so many people’s needs for employment, safety, health, and housing, a select group of banks in Wisconsin were addressing these issues by supporting civil legal aid,” said April Barker, president of the WisTAF Board of Directors. “These Prime Partners help people in need. People need civil legal aid to surmount barriers to employment, secure their safety from abusers, access unemployment and veterans’ coverage—and deal with other life-altering challenges. With needs more acute than ever, I hope many more partners will join the cause.”

Civil law covers a myriad of situations with direct impacts on people’s fundamental needs. In civil cases, unlike criminal court, there is no constitutional guarantee of an attorney. Without one, people often struggle to navigate the complexities of the legal system, making it hard to achieve stability or experience justice.

To solve this issue, nonprofit law firms and other partners offer civil legal aid: online information, attorney advice, and legal representation for people who couldn’t afford to pay for a lawyer on their own. Funding for this piece of the justice system has been accomplished through a variety of private and public efforts.

The IOLTA program uses a collaborative arrangement between financial institutions and lawyers to fill a portion of the need. The program revolves around the trust accounts attorneys use to hold funds for clients. When client funds are not large enough or would not remain in trust long enough to generate interest for the client, attorneys pool the funds into a single, larger IOLTA account with greater interest potential. Banks remit interest earnings to WisTAF for use administering grants that offer civil legal aid in every part of Wisconsin.

Prime Partners are banks which go above and beyond the IOLTA program’s threshold participation requirements, offering higher levels of interest on IOLTA accounts as a form of community support.

"As a community bank, State Bank Financial is proud of our longstanding partnership with WisTAF, which helps people achieve safety and self-sufficiency,” said Chris Weeks, senior vice president and the chief financial officer for State Bank Financial. “Our mission involves serving our communities and helping people achieve their financial goals, so supporting civil legal aid fits right in."

People at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible to receive IOLTA-funded services.

State Bank Financial operates five branches, all in Wisconsin: in La Crosse, Marshfield, Onalaska, Shelby, and Sparta.

WisTAF is a nonprofit organization that works with civil legal aid organizations in the state to increase access to justice. The foundation oversees funds and invests in services and projects to help people resolve legal problems. More information about the Prime Partner program can be found on the WisTAF website, wistaf.org.


August 25, 2021
Finance Committee Meeting
September 1, 2021
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Grants & Evaluation Committee Meeting
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Racial Justice Workgroup Meeting
October 1, 2021
Executive Committee Meeting
October 15, 2021
WisTAF Board Meeting
Now Available: 2022 WisTAF Direct Legal Services Grant Application materials
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Our recent Prime Partner, West Pointe Bank goes above and beyond IOLTA participation requirements by paying additional interest on its clients' IOLTA accounts — helping to expand access to civil legal services in Wisconsin. West Pointe Bank's participation reflects an admirable commitment to justice for all in Wisconsin.

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Board & Staff
Board of Directors
Rebecca Murray, Executive Director
Tehmina Islam, IOLTA Program/Office Manager
Carlos Arenas, Program Manager
Benson Gardner, Communications and Development Manager

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