If the idea of imposing a mandatory requirement on licensed D.C. lawyers to perform pro bono work is such a good one, why not extend it to other licensed occupations and professions {"D.C. Lawyers Lag in Work for Poor," Metro, Oct. 1}?

Why shouldn't doctors, architects, engineers, funeral directors and the like also be forced to do things by the government that they might not otherwise be willing to do? And why let plumbers and electricians off? Clearly they should also be compelled, since they are also licensed by the government. What about cabdrivers? Why shouldn't they haul some people for nothing?

The answer is that in the District of Columbia lawyers are somehow regarded as public property. The reason is that the bar is controlled by the same tired old clique that has been repeatedly reminded by referendum that it is out of step with the membership.

Aside from the potential constitutional problems inherent in the emerging compulsory pro bono plan, how would you like to be represented by a lawyer who has been coerced by the state to represent you? People, whether they are lawyers or not, don't respond well when they are compelled by threats, particularly at a time when the rest of the world is turning away from government-imposed programs that restrict individual liberty.

The fact is, it's better to let people make their own choices. That is what America is supposed to be about. It never hurts to remind some people of that.

JOHN CLARK SALYER Washington