Money for Nothing

Ron Kirk, Esquire: I am a Summer Associate at a prominent Dallas law firm. My firm is often compared to Gardere & Wynne, although we are a little bigger and, I think, better. There is a lot of truth to the article ("Conspicuous Presumption," August 3), in particular, the description about the methods for hiring new attorneys. However, it could use a few points of clarification. Partners in law firms, like partners in any partnership, actually "own" the business. Once you have attained the status of partner, you share in its profits like the shareholder of a corporation. Depending upon the compensation scheme, law firms generally pay their partners a base amount whether they do any work or not. They then add to this base a sort of "commission" for extra hours billed and certain intangibles. Of course, they can vote you out of the partnership if you're just a slacker. But, if you take on some task (say, as a visiting law professor, a foreign exchange attorney, or political office) approved by a vote of the partnership that tends to reflect well upon the firm, you still get that base amount because they expect you to come back some day, better for the experience, and work.

In fact, $200,000 is awfully low for a partner at Gardere. It is probably the base "salary" owed to Mr. Kirk as his share in the partnership profits. You wouldn't deny a stockholder his dividends because he didn't do work for the corporation. Essentially, this is the same thing.

Actually, under Texas law, Gardere must pay this to Mr. Kirk or else kick him out. Recall that Ken Starr is and was a partner with Kirkland & Ellis throughout his tenure as U.S. Department of Justice Independent Counsel. It's fun to speculate about favors and corruption, but that would be unfair in this case. The article's discussion about the use of the Flag Room is indeed alarming and relevant. The discussion about free coffee and the "touchy feeliness" of the summer associate experience was hilarious, and very apropos. I enjoyed the article.

Name withheld by request

Going Public

Those other neighborhoods: As both an educator and parent in the Dallas Public Schools, I applaud your positive look at some of our campuses ("Public Defenders," August 3). It is true that many of our public schools offer an education that is superior, academically and socially, to the private system.

The real challenge comes in making this the case at each campus in the Dallas system. Your story focused on North Dallas schools located in comparatively affluent neighborhoods. Believe me, there are no significant numbers of families opting out of private schools to attend the Roosevelts, Sunsets, Adamsons, Kimballs, and Madisons located in the southern sectors of the district. This is not to say these schools do not have fine programs or competent teachers, but they certainly do not have many of the resources found on North Dallas campuses. To be sure, many of these resources are not taxpayer-supported, but are the result of lobbying and fundraising by committed, politically savvy parents. It's just too bad that most of our campuses don't have access to the same type of network to help fill their needs.

The real challenge for the Dallas Public Schools is not to lure back families from the private sector; rather, it is to provide access, equity, and a superior education to all children in the school system, not just those fortunate enough to live in the right neighborhoods.

Shellie Driscoll

Right to choose: Jonathan Fox's article about parents leaving the private schools for the public schools illustrates vividly the main point of the school choice movement: Parents should have an opportunity to choose the school that best fits their child's individual needs. The parents who were interviewed had the means to send their children to private schools but chose to move them to public schools after concluding that those schools best met some of their children's individual needs. Notice that some of the children in some families remained in private school. Notice also that the public schools the parents chose were in areas where they face competition from private schools.

Children whose parents don't have those means are forced to attend public schools regardless of whether their needs are met. Those children ought to have a choice, too.

Dorman E. Cordell
Senior Scholar
National Center for Policy Analysis

Learning diversity: I must tell you how deeply appreciative I am for Jonathan Fox's story on DISD schools. My two children have only benefited from their attendance in Caillet Elementary in northwest Dallas. The diversity of their school reflects the diversity of our neighborhood and of Texas at large. My daughters, who are of Anglo descent, feel at ease with their Hispanic, African-American, and Asian schoolmates because they have literally grown up with them. They will be at ease with people of different races and cultures for the rest of their lives because of their positive experiences in DISD schools. My older daughter will attend Marsh Middle School this fall, with our blessings and both my and my husband's participation in the PTA. We have been board members on both the PTA and SCC in our daughters' school since they were in kindergarten. We strongly feel that parents who are displeased with DISD schools are very likely the ones who decline to be actively involved in their schools. They complain liberally but don't lend a hand when even the smallest projects arise.  

In comparing my daughters' education to their cousins' educations, I am regularly asked if I am concerned that their education suffers. My answer is consistently "No!" and I add that I feel they are ahead of where they would be otherwise. I am satisified their ability to compete will continue to be high because of the incredible quality of the teaching that goes on in DISD schools. They manage to wade through an overwhelming level of paperwork and bureaucracy to deliver some top-notch teaching.

Mr. Fox's article was so much more even-handed than the many pieces on DISD that have appeared in other Dallas news organizations of late. My advice to the Dallas Observer management is that you treat him well. He has a wonderful career ahead of him if he continues to tell the truth.

Kathe Kitchens

Rave On

No greater high: Upon reading "The Straight Dope" (August 3), I knew I had to write this letter. I'm not going to lie and say you have it all wrong about the current availability and use of drugs at raves. Most of it's true. But it hasn't always been this way and isn't this way with everyone everywhere.

There is no high greater than when you first step through the doors of a rave. The air seems to rush by you as you walk into a venue filled with happy faces, outrageous clothing, and music so intense you cannot help but bob your head. Raves are a place for kids to go and not have to worry about being judged or stereotyped. They don't have to worry about what everyone's going to say if they're not "in style" or "cool." Upon entering a rave, you are automatically accepted with open arms, smiles, candy, stickers, and friends. There is no place in the world like a rave.

However, there are those out there whose irresponsible behaviors are ruining this haven for the rest of the party kids. Harm reduction groups are trying to combat this stereotype of "raves equals drugs." They don't say don't do drugs, because we all know that people are going to do them anyway. Instead, they approach this problem with, "If you're going to choose to use drugs, please use them as responsibly as possible." They don't tell you how to use drugs or how to get the most of drugs, they give the facts.

Please, everyone, for the rest of us who enjoy raving for what a rave is (without drugs), be responsible. We need to keep our scene alive. Peace.

Via e-mail

Good intentions: When Lisa [Singh] first started to talk to us, she really wanted to show the good side of parties. We were excited that finally someone was going to write something other than drugs. I can understand that Lisa ended up writing about drugs. There is nothing we can do about it until everyone decides that life (parties) is fun sober. We started going to parties for music, for the people, for the feeling of being accepted no matter who you are. There are drugs, but they have always been there. The media is just looking at the bad.

Lisa, thank you for showing a little bit of the good in the rave scene. To the parents of ravers, trust your children to do the right thing, and more than likely they will. Peace, love, unity, and respect for yourself and everyone around you.

Kindra Nackos

Britney Bares It

Irresponsible act: Regarding the nude image of Britney Spears on an article in your August 10 issue (and your Web site), I find it hard to believe that the "artist" responsible for this nude image--Garth Weber--has received prior permission from Britney Spears to portray her in the nude!

While I understand this is a parody of an actual album cover featuring a nude woman--and that Britney's face was merely pasted on--I personally found it in poor taste, a violation of not only her privacy but also of copyright, and needless to say an irresponsible act on the part of management at the Dallas Observer in allowing such a thing to be published.  

Since the Dallas Observer is distributed throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is easily accessible to youth, I find the Observer has lowered itself in regard to the quality and integrity of its image as a cutting-edge newspaper.

David Cameron Nix

Testing, Testing

Beware of bad science: Joe Pappalardo's article "American Psycho-Babble" (August 3) brings to witness an issue that has been around for some time within the field of industrial and organizational psychology. One of the primary surges for using psychological testing for employment purposes has come from our own government. Back in WWII, testing was used to place thousands of incoming GIs within tasks and military efforts that best suited their personality and skills. As Pappalardo stated, the trend has continued into major and small businesses. As smaller companies begin to invest in the use of psychological testing, new issues arise. Many of these companies may not be educated about particular issues that affect testing and testing development. They may not be aware of what characteristics of personality assessments make the tests a reliable and valid measure. They may not know what qualifications are needed or be able to afford the professionals needed to administer and score such testing.

Most small businesses and even most corporations are not educated about the fundamentals of testing. Without this education, psychological assessment can easily be misused. Tests could be used that are not specifically designed for employment purposes or even appropriate for that setting. Psychological tests used outside of their specifically designed purpose or used on populations of people that it was not designed for significantly decrease the validity of the results. Without the qualified individuals to administer and score these specialized tests, individuals may be at risk of misinterpretation. Businesses are not held as accountable as psychologists may be to the confidentiality of these results, either.

Any business considering the use of psychological tests for employees should explore these issues themselves and even then hire or consult with qualified professional services that provide testing.

Peter Thomas
Via e-mail

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