Reporters in Their Own Whitewater World

Regarding the article ``Eddies of Whitewater Threaten to Drag Down Clinton's Agenda,'' March 14: Whitewater is really not the topic of conversation among the people whom I hear talking to each other during lunch hour, on the bus, or visiting in grocery store aisles.

Reporters must spend their time reading each other's articles and watching television rather than reporting on what is on the minds of people who do not work in the media. Elona Vaisnys, North Haven, Conn.

Lawyers by any other name ...

The article ``Do Too Many Lawyers Spoil the Economy,'' Feb. 15, from the ``Business Goes to Court'' series, omits an important consideration in the analysis of whether the United States has too many lawyers. The legal systems of the countries mentioned in the article vary widely.

Prof. Stephen Magee, whose study is addressed in the article, is practically comparing apples to oranges. For example, in England there are barristers and solicitors. Only barristers are licensed to appear in court, but solicitors perform other legal functions comparable to what lawyers in the US do. Germany, France, and most other civil law countries have several categories of legal professions, only one of which is referred to as ``lawyer'' in their respective languages. Specifically, in Germany ``notaries'' perform many of the functions that lawyers in the US perform, such as drafting wills and contracts and performing other transactional legal work. Germans do not refer to notaries as lawyers. Nevertheless, the same people in the US would be licensed as lawyers.

If Mr. Magee compares lawyers in the US to ``lawyers'' in these countries, he will necessarily find that the US has more lawyers because of these systemic differences. The article does not make clear whether Magee's research takes such differences into account.

Ray August, an associate professor of law at Washington State University, and Toshika Kitawaki, an associate professor of law at Nihon University in Tokyo, have taken these differences into account and have concluded that Japan probably has more lawyers per capita than the US (whereas on the ``Magee curve,'' Japan has less than half the number of attorneys per 1,000 workers than the US).

Finally, even comparing apples to oranges, US law firms bill less per hour than law firms in most of the countries listed in the Magee curve.

According to a 1992 survey of leading law firms conducted by International Financial Law Review 1000, Britain charges the most in average billing rates at $585 per hour. The US is not even among the top 10. The cost of legal services to the economy is also a major factor that Magee's research is not adequately addressing. David T. Cox, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Selling tobacco to families abroad

While the author of the opinion-page article ``The Two-Parent Safety Option,'' March 10, makes a good point, he should not be crediting Republicans - least of all Dan Quayle - for this time-honored institution.

When he was Vice President, Mr. Quayle came to North Carolina and said we must aggressively pursue foreign markets to sell our deadly drug: tobacco. Drug pushing is no ``family value.''

Bill Clinton was correct when he stated that Quayle used the issue as election-year politics. Treska Lindsey, Flat Rock, N.C.

Score 1 for Elders, 0 for Joe Camel

Regarding the editorial ``Blow Away the Smoke,'' March 2: Although I do not usually agree with the government interfering with the capitalist system, I do feel that Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders acted in the best interest of the American public when she took a stand against tobacco advertising.

It is important to keep the tobacco industry from ``reeling in'' teens and younger children, who are more easily swayed by clever advertising. Teens feel a lot of pressure to fit in, and tobacco advertising depicts smoking as ``cool.'' It is wrong to coax people (especially young people) into using something we all know to be harmful. I commend Dr. Elders because I was once a young person who was very much influenced by such advertising tactics as ``Joe Camel.'' Larry Mitchell, Russellville, Ala.

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