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Under former chairman John “Jack” Welch, the General Electric Co. led a revolution in the way corporations hired outside law firms. The company’s widely emulated policies, which stress cost and efficiency in choosing counsel, have since caused many lawyers to lament the passing of cozy, personal lawyer-client relationships. But Welch, who retired from G.E. in 2001, last week spoke out strongly in favor of one of his old lawyer-client relationships. In an affidavit filed recently in support of Winston & Strawn partner Anthony F. LoFrisco, Welch called the attorney “the crucial player in the relationship between GE and Winston & Strawn.” “I have known Mr. LoFrisco for over 25 years, and have always had enormous confidence in his judgment, legal ability, and dedication to his clients’ interests,” said Welch. “During the time that I headed GE, Mr. LoFrisco served an extremely important role as outside counsel for GE and its subsidiaries.” Legal ammunition The affidavit of Welch is ammunition in LoFrisco’s lawsuit against his firm. The 73-year-old New York partner is suing Chicago-based Winston & Strawn for millions of dollars, claiming that the firm’s management breached an agreement with him that would have allowed him to avoid “decompression,” the process by which most partners’ compensation was reduced every year after reaching age 65. The suit, in which LoFrisco has filed for summary judgment, has called attention to the disputes that can arise between senior partners who want to maintain their positions and compensation and the firms that would often prefer to phase them out. Many firms have been willing to waive mandatory retirement or similar policies for older partners still responsible for a large amount of business. Owing in large part to the billing credit he received for his firm’s G.E. work, LoFrisco had long been one of the highest-paid partners at Winston & Strawn, which he joined laterally in 1991 from the now-defunct Olwine, Connelly, Chase, O’Donnell & Weyher. But decompression lowered LoFrisco’s compensation from $2.3 million in 2002 to $350,000 in 2004. LoFrisco, who first sued in 2003, is represented by Michael Carlinsky, a partner in the New York office of Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges. Carlinsky declined to comment on the case. Winston & Strawn’s attorney, Philip Forlenza of New York’s Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, did not return a call seeking comment.

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