The Post has carried an article {"Costly D.C. Legal Action Raises Questions," front page, July 5} and an editorial {"D.C.'s Legal Gamble," July 8} critical of the D.C. School Board's retainer of a law firm to handle its asbestos litigation. The criticisms: 1) concern the payment to lawyers for work rendered thus far -- $3.5 million "is too high a price to pay"; and 2) question the judgment of the D.C. School Board because the D.C. government decided to avoid all outside legal bills -- relying on the Corporation Counsel's Office to handle a similar lawsuit.

First, although neither article suggests any wrongdoing on the part of the School Board, the articles are flawed. They fail to inform the public of the progress or lack of progress by the law firm toward concluding a proceeding on exposure to asbestos in the public schools in this city, which may be the cause of death of numerous children and employees. If the law firm has properly billed for the work performed in tackling this important litigation, unless there is more than an assertion to demonstrate that the fee is excessive, there is no basis for public outcry, or the implication that the public is being ill-served. The opposite may be true. The citizens may well be closer to remuneration for the injuries caused by the asbestos in our public school buildings.

Second, what is wrong with two units of the District's government being involved in litigation for the benefit of diverse public injuries? The Corporation Counsel's Office is focusing on asbestos pollution in public buildings other than the public schools, a point muddled in The Post. Credit, not criticism, should be advanced in both cases, for in the end the money spent -- whether in taxes to pay the salary of the lawyers in the Corporation Counsel's Office or the law firm -- will be well spent if one or both prevail in this important litigation. J. CLAY SMITH JR. Dean, Howard University School of Law Washington