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.

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