IOLTA and Managing Client Funds


Checklist for the IOLTA Account

  • Do I need an IOLTA account?
    • Do you handle client funds?
  • Is my IOLTA account in a bank doing business in the state where I practice?
    • Not where you live, where you practice.
  • Does my bank comply with the IOLTA account rules?
    • You have to ask your bank. Most major banks will comply.
  • Is my IOLTA account titled correctly with the Bank?
    • RPC 1.15 - . . . The account shall be designated as a “client trust account,” “IOLTA account,” or with a clearly identifiable fiduciary title. . . .
  • What Tax ID Number should my IOLTA account have with the bank?
    • The federal tax identification number assigned to all Ohio IOLTA accounts is 31-1126612.
    • Do NOT use your SS#, or your law firm EIN #.
  • Did you register your IOLTA account?
    • Print and mail the form to OLAF when you set up your account.
  • What money goes into the IOLTA Account?
    • Retainers received from clients, until they are actually earned;
    • Funds which belong in part to the client and in part to the lawyer;
    • Funds of the client that are being held for disbursement at a later time;
    • Personal injury settlements and awards;
    • Deposits required to close property transactions.
    • Prepaid court costs
  • Should my client have a separate account?
    • If net interest could be earned for the client, then the funds should be deposited in a separate account for the client's benefit.
  • Where do I deposit flat fee payments?
    • If the money is “earned upon receipt,” it does NOT go into IOLTA.
  • Am I maintaining the appropriate records?
    • For each client with money deposited into the IOLTA account, you must maintain records sufficiently detailed to show:
      • the fee agreement with each client;
      • the name of the client;
      • the date, amount, and source of all funds received on behalf of such client;
      • the date, amount, payee, and purpose of each disbursement made on behalf of such client;
      • the current balance for such client.
  • Have you reconciled your IOLTA account for the month?
    • RPC 1.15 – A lawyer shall reconcile the IOLTA account every month.
  • What records should I keep?
    • Fee Agreements with the client
    • Copies of the monthly reconciliation
    • All bank statements
    • All deposit slips
    • All canceled checks
  • How long must I keep records for the IOLTA account?
    • RPC 1.15 – Records of such account funds and other property shall be kept by the lawyer and shall be preserved for a period of seven years after termination of the representation or the appropriate disbursement of such funds or property, whichever comes first.
  • How much of my own money may I keep in the IOLTA account?
    • You may keep “seed money” ONLY in the IOLTA account to cover bank fees, or to keep a minimum balance. In other words, nominal amounts only.
  • I want to accept credit cards for retainers. Who pays the credit card charges?
    • You do. That is the cost of doing business.
  • My client is missing. What do I do with the IOLTA money I am holding?
    • You may turn it over to the State of Ohio’s unclaimed funds without violating your ethical duties.
  • Am I doing anything with the IOLTA account to get myself in trouble?
    • You worked hard to get your law license. Do not throw it away by failing to follow the rules regarding the IOLTA account. The fastest way to disbarment is through the IOLTA account. Follow the rules. It’s not that hard.
7 part video, duration of 00:54:08.
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John H. Phillips

John H. Phillips


Prior to practicing law, Mr. Phillips received a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering and a Master of Science in Engineering. He worked as an engineer in Cincinnati, Boston and Minneapolis prior to practicing law. As an engineer he was responsible for Quality Assurance and Regulatory Compliance at three nuclear power plants.

Mr. Phillips received his law degree from the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. While living in Minnesota, he was appointed twice by Governor Rudolph Perpich to serve on the Hazardous Substance Injury compensation Board where he was Vice Chairman. He left Minnesota to join the litigation department of Taft, Stettinius and Hollister where he focused his practice on environmental law and litigation. In 1994, he left Taft, Stettinius and Hollister to become managing partner of what is now Phillips Law Firm, Inc.

Mr. Phillips lives in Anderson Township with his wife and four children. He is actively involved in his community where he has been President of the Hamilton County Board of Health, Secretary of the Park W. Gast, Jr. Education Foundation, Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the Cincinnati Chapter of Triangle, Inc. (an engineering, architecture and science fraternity at the University of Cincinnati), and President and Founder of a non-profit organization for continuing legal education programs known as the Northeast Lawyers Club. He is a member of the Cincinnati Bar Association, and serves on the environmental law committee, professional responsibility and ethics committee, and real estate committee. He is also a member of the Ohio Free and Accepted Masons and the Syrian Shrine in Cincinnati, Ohio

Mr. Phillips handles a wide variety of cases for clients. He handles personal injury cases, business disputes, legal malpractice, and insurance claims. He has litigated cases from Texas to Minnesota, and from New York to Oregon. He represents businesses and individual clients in the areas of personal injury cases, business disputes, legal malpractice, insurance claims, construction law and building code compliance, real estate law and development, landlord-tenant, business formations, non-profit corporations, and estate planning. Mr. Phillips also has significant experience handling complex litigation and environmental issues. He represents clients with issues regarding the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund), Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, Atomic Energy Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, to name a few.


He served two terms as a member and President of the Hamilton County Board of Health.

He was twice appointed to the Hazardous Substance Injury Compensation Board by Minnesota Governor Perpich. He served as Vice Chairman on this state board which reviews personal injury and property damage claims related to the release of hazardous substances.

He is Vice President of the Board of Trustees of the Cincinnati Chapter of Triangle, Inc. (an engineering, architecture and science fraternity at the University of Cincinnati).

He was awarded the National Triangle Fraternity Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2002.

He is the President and Founding Member of the Northeast Lawyers Club (an Ohio Not-For-Profit Corporation Providing Continuing Legal Education to attorneys).

He is secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Park W. Gast, Jr. Education Foundation (an Education Foundation at the University of Cincinnati).

Interesting Experience

He is an experienced litigator and trial attorney with multiple bench trials, jury trials, and administrative hearings too numerous to count including legal malpractice, medical malpractice, personal injury, contract, business, environmental law, and zoning.

He has drafted many ordinances including an anti-nuisance zoning ordinance for a local village to prevent undesirable businesses from moving into an area, an environmental justice ordinances to prevent the spread of environmental hazards on low income areas, and regulations on rabies, sewage disposal and other public health issues.

He has brought private enforcement cases against government officials that ultimately resulted in the felony conviction and five-year prison sentence of a City Mayor.

He has been an Adjunct Professor at the University of Cincinnati’s in the Biology Department teaching “Environmental Law for Non-Lawyers”, and he has been an Adjunct Professor in the Nuclear Engineering Department teaching “Reactor Lab” and “Radiation Detection and Measurement.”


William Mitchell College of Law, Saint Paul, MN – 1989. Received Juris Doctor by attending law school evenings while working full time as a nuclear engineer.

University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, Cincinnati, OH – 1984. Received a Master of Science in Engineering while attending on full scholarship as a Teaching Assistant and Associate Professor.

University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, Cincinnati, OH – 1982. Received a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering.

Law Related Work History

Phillips Law Firm, Inc. Cincinnati, OH – 1994 – present. General practice law firm which has o a very strong business law, personal injury, legal malpractice, environmental law, tax law, bankruptcy, adoption, and bike law practice.

Taft, Stettinius and Hollister, Cincinnati, OH – 1990 to 1994. Associate attorney practicing in the litigation department. Handled all aspects of environmental law, litigation, and regulatory compliance.

Engineering Related Work History

Northern States Power Company, Minneapolis, MN – 1979 to 1981 and 1984 to 1990. Senior Engineer with experience in Quality Assurance, Nuclear Fuel Management, Core Analysis, Safety Analysis, and Licensing.

Yankee Atomic Electric Company, Framingham, MA – 1984. Loss of Coolant Accident Analysis and Thermal Hydraulic Engineer.

University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH – 1982 to 1983 Adjunct Professor in the nuclear engineering department.

Cincinnati Gas and Electric, Cincinnati, OH – 1982. Nuclear Fuel Performance Engineer.

Author and Lecturer

“Legal Alert,” a monthly environmental column published in “Metal Finishing” magazine.

Professionalism among lawyers – “What’s wrong with us?” – An analysis on lawyers, litigating and public perception of lawyers.

Ethics – “The year in review” an analysis of changes in the law affecting all lawyers.

Substance Abuse in the Legal Profession – “What drives you to drink?” An analysis of danger signs and where lawyers can get help for substance abuse problems

Legal Analysis – “Does RCRA Really Apply to Your Environmental Remediation?”

Legal Analysis – “Potential Contractor Liabilities and Indemnifications for the Environmental Restoration Management Contractor at the Fernald Environmental Management Project”

Legal Analysis – “Decommissioning America’s Commercial Nuclear Power Plants: Running the Regulatory Gamut”

Engineering Analysis – “Reactor Coolant Pump Operation During Small Break Loss of Coolant Accidents at the Yankee Rowe Nuclear Plant”

Education Analysis – “Teaching Radiation Health Physics at the University Level,” The University of Cincinnati was a recipient of a $30,000 grant based upon this work.

Expert Witness

He has testified in legal malpractice cases as to standard of care, reasonableness of attorney fees, and damages for both Plaintiff and Defense Cases.