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Bettina Solomon Simon is finding a comfortable home as general counsel at Home Interiors & Gifts Inc., a legendary Dallas-based party-plan, home-decorating company founded by a woman to provide careers for women. Simon says she’s pleased Home Interiors provides a supportive environment for employees with families and opportunities for its 65,000 independent contractors. But in the 26 years since she graduated from law school, Simon has found a way to meld her legal career with family obligations, even during times when few women went to law school and female graduates had to struggle to make a mark in the Texas legal community. Simon, 50, brings that track record to her job at Home Interiors along with considerable in-house experience. Simon, who goes by Tina, says she wasn’t out to prove anything in her career: “I don’t think I’m unique because I’m female,” she says. “I’ve been fortunate. I’ve always had the opportunity to do something that was challenging to me and exciting,” she says. But she’s proud of the fact she has become general counsel of a company that provides employment to so many women. Simon says most of the independent displayers selling Home Interiors decorative accessories at home parties are women. Simon says she went to law school because she wasn’t challenged in her job after she graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1970. She earned a degree in communications and once thought she would be a journalist, but wanted something more than the fulfillment provided by her job as director of alumni communications at SMU. So she went to law school at the university, graduating in 1974, one of only 16 women in a class of 225. At first, Simon says she wanted to be a litigator and she did trial work at a small Dallas firm, Berman & Mitchell, for a couple years. But after her son was born in 1976, Simon says she left to work as a solo practitioner. She wanted to have a flexible schedule so she could spend time with her son, who has special needs. “It was the right decision,” Simon says. IN-HOUSE VARIETY As a solo, Simon says she had a general practice. But she got an offer to work in-house on a temporary basis at a relatively new client, Zale Corp. She soon started working permanently at the Irving-based company and served as associate general counsel from 1984 to 1996. At Zale, Simon says she managed litigation and handled contracts and human resources work. In 1996, she left Zale to marry her second husband, Dolph Simon, Zale’s former general counsel, and to join him in private practice. She worked at Simon & Simon until 1998, when she took the job at Home Interiors. Simon says she decided to become general counsel at Home Interiors primarily because she enjoys working in-house. But she says she also was impressed by Home Interiors’ Chief Executive Officer Donald Carter Jr., the grandson of Home Interiors founder Mary Crowley, and enticed by the opportunity to help the 42-year-old Home Interiors reinvent itself for the 21st century. Simon says she enjoys the variety of work of an in-house job as well as the opportunity to work not only as a lawyer, but as a part of the company’s business team. Simon joined Home Interiors in July 1998, shortly after Dallas investment banking company Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc. invested $182.6 million in the company in exchange for a 66 percent ownership share in it. Home Interiors also issued $200 million in notes and borrowed $300 million as part of its recapitalization, according to the company’s 10-K filed in March with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Lawrence D. Stuart Jr., a longtime former outside counsel to Hicks, Muse who has been a partner in Hicks, Muse since 1995 and a director of Home Interiors since June 1998, did not return a telephone message seeking comment about Simon and Hicks, Muse’s investment in Home Interiors. But the company’s financial performance improved in 1999. Financial results reported in the 10-K show net sales topped $500 million in 1999, an increase of 2.7 percent from 1998. Profits increased by 6.1 percent to $263 million in 1999. Simon says Home Interiors, which sells products ranging from $6 candles to $200 pictures, is just now starting to use the Internet to make the jobs of independent contractors easier with a business-to-business Web site. While she spent a lot of time in 1999 working on major real estate transactions for Home Interiors — the company sold off distribution centers — Simon says a big challenge this year is helping the company move into cyberspace. “My job is to make sure there aren’t any pitfalls,” she notes. LEGAL PARTNERS Because she’s the only in-house lawyer at Home Interiors, Simon says she’s still working as a solo practitioner in some ways. But in other ways, Simon says, she’s not going it alone because she expects her outside counsel to work with her, not for her. Alan Perkins, a corporate partner in Gardere & Wynne in Dallas who worked on securities filings for Home Interiors in the wake of the Hicks, Muse investment, says Simon is an enjoyable client to work with because of the way she chooses to use outside counsel. “She really uses you as sort of a partner and treats you as an equal if not more than that,” Perkins says. “Unlike some general counsel, she asks for help when she needs it,” he says. Gardere & Wynne labor and employment partner Ronald Gaswirth, who has known Simon since about 1988 when she was managing employment litigation at Zale, says he recommended Simon for the job at Home Interiors because she has the perfect mix of legal experience and legal acumen for the job. “It so happened that what Home Interiors was searching for was a lawyer who had corporate experience, since they now had public-disclosure obligations, and labor and employment experience,” he says. “It was a win-win scenario.” Simon says she hires outside counsel from Gardere and Weil, Gotshal & Manges in Dallas, and local counsel where necessary. Simon says she finds herself more than just a general counsel at Home Interiors. Employees and even independent contractors are apt to call her and ask her legal questions, often because she’s the only lawyer they know. “I’ve had questions from employees about personal legal matters where I’ve referred them to other lawyers — [like] I’m getting divorced, or my daughter in getting divorced,” Simon explains. “Whenever I can help, I try to help.” “I had a displayer call me last week,” Simon said on April 17. “She had a choking incident in a restaurant and there was some contamination in the food. I told her to call the Department of Health.” QUIRK OF FATE Simon says she takes it as a compliment that independent contractors who might have only been introduced to her once at a company training session will call her with questions. She says lawyers are in the service business. “You don’t say to them, ‘It’s not in my job description,’ ” she says. Simon’s compensation is not a matter of public record, but she does have options to buy common stock that would amount to less than 1 percent of the stock outstanding. Simon says it’s a quirk of fate that she has ended up at a company that sells home accessories because her mother is an ASID designer and she was taught about decorating while growing up. She has started using Home Interiors products since she came to the company. “I love our candles,” Simon says. “And I have some of our pictures in the living room.”

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