A pilot program for the Bar’s proposed automatic trust accounting software should be up and running sometime this fall.
Board of Governors Parliamentarian Andy Sasso told the board at its recent Miami meeting that the Bar is negotiating a contract with FIS and TMI Trust Company. FIS is the Jacksonville-based banking services company that is developing the software and will run the trust accounting program.
He said TMI will be the custodian of the trust funds deposited through the program.
Sasso said an amendment to Standing Bar Policies is also being prepared that says lawyers who participate in the program will be presumed to be complying with Chapter 5 of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, which regulates lawyers’ trust accounts.
The program will provide free software to participating lawyers for setting up and managing client trust accounts. Once lawyers make the correct inputs using the program, it will automatically ensure they are in compliance with Bar trust accounting regulations and produce the reconciliations required by the rules.
Deposits can be made online and disbursals can be made by checks printed and mailed by FIS, checks printed at the lawyer’s office using magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) toner, automated clearinghouse (ACH) transfer, or wire transfer.
A side benefit is the pooled accounts will generate a much higher return for The Florida Bar Foundation’s IOTA program. Currently, banks are paying around 10 basis points (or 0.1 percent) on lawyer trust accounts. Sasso said with the recent interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve, the program should boost that return to more than 100 basis points (1 percent).
The test program will run up to six months but could finish earlier, Sasso said. President Michael Higer asked if the pilot would be up and running this fall, and Sasso replied, “I think that’s a realistic goal.”
He added that FIS and TMI Trust Company, once the Florida program is up and successfully running, are looking at going national with the system.