The ACT Law Society administers a Statutory Interest Account (SIA) in the ACT. The SIA is used to fund a number of purposes prescribed in legislation and regulation, including supporting the provision of legal aid in the ACT community and meeting the costs of regulating the legal profession in the ACT.
Where does the money come from?
Money in the Statutory Interest Account (SIA) comes from two sources:
1. Interest on Solicitor Trust Accounts — Solicitors hold money in trust on behalf of their clients. Interest on these trust account balances is paid to the SIA.
2. Interest on the Statutory Deposit Account — Law practices in the ACT are at times required to pay amounts out of their general trust account into the Statutory Deposit Account, which is maintained by the Society.
The interest earned from these two sources is maintained in a separate account, kept by the Society, and known as the Statutory Interest Account.
What are the funds used for?
Funds in the Statutory Interest Account may be used:
- to supplement the Fidelity Fund (a fund to compensate people who suffer loss as a result of misdeeds of solicitors in relation to trust accounts)
- to provide funds to support the provision of legal aid in the ACT community
- to meet the costs of regulating the legal profession in the ACT
- to assist with the costs of conducting a course of training for the practice of law
- to meet the costs of administering the account and amounts deposited with the Society.
How are the funds managed?
Money held in the Statutory Deposit Account and the Statutory Interest Account is invested.
Money in the Statutory Deposit Account is repayable on demand to the law practice that deposited the money. This ensures that law practices are able to make necessary payments out of the general trust account of their practice.
The Society’s investment strategy ensures the highest returns are achieved, while still meeting the requirement that funds are available to be paid on demand.
How do the funds support the provision of legal aid in the ACT community?
Each year, the Society invites applications for grants from the Statutory Interest Account to support the provision of legal aid in the ACT. These grants are over and above the funding for core services that is provided by government at both the Territory and Commonwealth level. This additional funding made available through the SIA supports access to justice and improved legal assistance service delivery for members of the ACT community.
Applications are received from Legal Aid ACT and local community legal centres. These are assessed by the Council of the Society on the basis of relevant eligibility and assessment criteria. Once a decision is made by the Council, the Society seeks the consent of the ACT Attorney-General to the payment of the recommended amounts to applicants.
The funding available for distribution as grants from the Statutory Interest Account varies from year to year. This is due to a number of factors, including the variable nature of investment returns having regard to fluctuations in interest rates, and the amount of client funds held in trust accounts on which interest may be earned in any given year, as well as the level of regulatory activity and associated costs.