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.


The Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation, Inc. (WisTAF) is the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs in Wisconsin. Established by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1986, WisTAF helps ensure that low-income people with non-criminal legal problems have access to the legal advice and representation they need.

WisTAF Grants Program Overview

Sources of Grants

Over the past quarter of a century, WisTAF has granted over $58 million to organizations working toward the Foundation’s vision of equal access to justice, regardless of income. When available, WisTAF administers and makes grants utilizing the following funds:

Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) Program
The IOLTA program allows attorneys to pool short-term or nominal deposits made on behalf of clients or third parties into one account. The interest generated by these accounts is remitted to WisTAF for use in grantmaking. The commitment of financial institutions to the communities they serve is reflected in their participation in the IOLTA program. In addition to paying competitive interest rates on lawyers’ trust accounts, many financial institutions have chosen to waive fees on IOLTA accounts, resulting in a direct increase in the dollars available to help fund legal services. To date, IOLTA funding has resulted in over $32 million in grant awards for dozens of Wisconsin’s civil legal service providers.

Public Interest Legal Services Fund (PILSF)
In 2005, the Wisconsin Supreme Court established the Public Interest Legal Services Fund (PILSF) in response to the state’s growing need for civil legal services and to supplement IOLTA funding with a more stable revenue source. PILSF funds are directly attributable to Wisconsin’s attorneys and judges, and are distributed throughout the ten state judicial districts. Since its inception, PILSF funds have helped low-income people in all Wisconsin counties.

Cy Pres
Cy pres is a legal doctrine which commonly refers to residual funds left over from a class action lawsuit, but can also refer to funds from restitution, settlements, or penalties. Occasionally, courts designate WisTAF to receive such settlement agreement residual funds to use in making grants supporting civil legal services.

Pro Hac Vice
In 2014, the Wisconsin Supreme Court amended the “pro hac vice rule” – increasing the fee paid by nonresident lawyers to participate in a particular action (with an active member of the State Bar of Wisconsin). The Court directed that a portion of the fee increase be allocated to WisTAF to help support provision of civil legal services to low-income and indigent persons.

State Appropriation Funding
On occasion, the Wisconsin State Budget has included an appropriation of state funds made by a state agency to WisTAF to be granted out to providers of civil legal services to low-income Wisconsinites.

WisTAF Mission and Grantmaking Philosophy
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.

In furtherance of this mission, the WisTAF Board of Directors annually awards grants to a broad array of publicly and privately funded agencies which provide civil legal services to low-income clients. WisTAF funds programs that address the particular needs and problems of various indigent groups, different geographical regions and special areas of public concern. Agency diversity, in terms of structure, service delivery methods, and sources of funds, is recognized and valued. As such, WisTAF sponsors agencies that provide free legal services as well as those which charge reduced fees for services, consistent with its position that there is room for both models in addressing the needs of Wisconsin’s low income population. WisTAF will not allocate grant funds to organizations to be used for criminal representation.

The WisTAF Board believes that effective funding of grants can take place only in a climate free from political bias and outside interference. WisTAF strongly encourages the cooperation and collaboration of its grantees, and will continue to be guided by these principles as it awards future grants.

Finally, the WisTAF Board reserves the right to change procedures and priorities for the grants program as community needs are identified and as resources change.

Grant Awards
In 2019, WisTAF distributed over $2.7 million to 24 agencies providing civil legal services across Wisconsin. 2019 grants included $920,100 from the Public Interest Legal Services Fund (PILSF), $250,000 from IOLTA funds, $997,000 from the Bank of America Settlement Program for Foreclosure Prevention and Community Redevelopment Legal Assistance, $494,049 in Domestic Violence & Sexual Abuse Civil Legal Services State Appropriation funds, and $52,650 in pro hac vice funds. 

Grant Applications
If you are a civil legal service provider interested in applying for a grant, visit our Applications page. If you currently receive WisTAF funding, and are looking for grant reporting forms or information, please see the Administrative forms page. 

WisTAF 2020 Application and Reporting Deadlines: click here for deadline dates.

For more information about grants or the grantsmaking process, contact Carlos Arenas, Program Manager.

August 28, 2020
Finance Committee Teleconference
September 8, 2020
Grants & Evaluation Committee Meeting
September 25, 2020
Executive Committee Teleconference
October 9, 2020
WisTAF Board Meeting
WisTAF has posted materials for the 2019-20 DVSA Annual Report
WisTAF welcomes Bank of Sun Prairie as “Prime Partner” in supporting justice for all
Now Available: WisTAF’s 2020-21 Domestic Violence & Sexual Abuse Legal Services State Appropriation Grant Application Materials
WisTAF Invests in Services and Projects to Help People Resolve Their Legal Problems
2020 Application & Reporting Deadlines Calendar Now Available!



As a Prime Partner since 2010, Bank Five Nine 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. Bank Five Nine's participation reflects an admirable commitment to justice for all in Wisconsin.

Contact us
4600 American Parkway, Suite 104, Madison, WI 53718
Phone: 608.257.6845 or 877.749.5045 (toll-free)
Email: service@wistaf.org

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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