By Alice Neece Mine and Bruno DeMolli
Bruno DeMolli, staff auditor and investigator for the State Bar, rarely needs to be introduced to a member of the North Carolina State Bar.
After 15 years of auditing the trust accounts of North Carolina lawyers, he
is on a first name basis (or at least known by his
first name) with most members of the bar.
What isn't widely known is why Bruno
arrives on the doorsteps of certain lawyers each quarter to determine the lawyers' compliance with the trust accounting rules, Rules 1.15-1 to 1.15-3, of the Revised Rules of Professional Conduct.
On occasion, a lawyer concludes that she
is being audited because she
has done something to draw attention to herself.
More often, audited lawyers are indignant because they believe that the bar should be investigating another, unnamed, lawyer in town who is the "type" to mishandle trust funds.
But, despite the rumors to the contrary, lawyers are not picked for a trust account audit because they have drawn attention to themselves or they "fit the profile.
Rather, every effort is made to be random in the selection of the lawyers whose trust accounts will be audited by Bruno
during a particular quarter.
Each quarter, Bruno
audits the trust accounts of 60 lawyers from two judicial district bars.
The week before the quarterly meeting of the State Bar Council
, a computer software program randomly selects six judicial districts from the 39 judicial districts in the state.
Although only two judicial districts participate each quarter, the field of six names is necessary to avoid redundancy.
A truly random software program that picks only two judicial districts each quarter has the disadvantage of potentially selecting the same judicial districts quarter after quarter.
Several years ago, when the computer program was set to select the names of only two districts, one particular judicial district was picked three times in five years. (Needless to say, the lawyers in that district were a little more paranoid than usual about activities of their State Bar.) Under the current procedure, six districts are initially selected by computer to generate the field from which the final selections are made.
reviews the list of six to determine how many times and the dates on which each district was selected since the inception of the random audit program.
identifies the two judicial district bars that will be audited during the quarter by eliminating from the list the four judicial districts that have been audited most recently and frequently.
selects the two district bars, the names of the 60 individual lawyers whose accounts will be audited must be determined.
After 15 years with the State Bar's random audit program, Bruno has visited all 39 judicial district bars a minimum of three times each and audited the trust accounts of well over 10,852 lawyers (representing 3,398 lawyers who were selected for audit plus the 7,454 lawyers who practice in the same firms as the selected lawyers).
As a consequence, the name "Bruno DeMolli
" has become synonymous with the name of the State Bar
and with integrity and care in fulfilling a lawyer's duty to safe guard and account for client funds....Bruno also knows the best inexpensive eating establishments in the state.
Just ask him the next time he
randomly appears on your doorstep.
Bruno DeMolli is staff auditor and an investigator for the North Carolina State Bar.