Robert D. Novak's July 4 op-ed, "Slick Lobbying for China," suggested that it was improper for Akin Gump to represent CNOOC in its bid for Unocal Corp. because it previously had represented Chevron Corp., a competing bidder, on different matters. He said Akin Gump's decision to represent CNOOC was part of "the capital's current climate that elevates money above all else." That is a serious and unfounded charge.

Akin Gump began to represent CNOOC early this year, before it learned that Chevron would bid for Unocal. It was well into the representation of CNOOC before becoming aware of Chevron's interest.

When Chevron did bid, CNOOC remained interested in pursuing a bid, which it later made. In addition, because CNOOC remained interested in making a bid, Akin Gump could not reveal its participation to Chevron or anyone else until after CNOOC's bid became known.

The rules of professional conduct governing the legal profession, issued by the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, provide that representation begun in good faith may continue despite later, unforeseen developments. This rule avoids putting a client in the position of CNOOC of being deprived of its choice of counsel at a critical time.

Notwithstanding Mr. Novak's suggestions, we did not choose one client over another here. Instead we began to represent one without knowing that another would later become involved. When it did, we followed the ethical rules set by the court.

R. BRUCE McLEAN

Chairman

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Washington