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A Manhattan appellate court last week revived claims against Winston & Strawn by a former rainmaking partner who alleged the law firm subjected him to “decompression,” a firm policy sharply reducing his pay after age 65, in violation of a special compensation agreement. Anthony LoFrisco, a partner in the New York office of the Chicago-based firm, had long been one of the highest-paid lawyers at Winston & Strawn, owing to his close client relationships with corporate chieftains, particularly former General Electric Co. Chairman Jack Welch. In a 1994 arrangement, Winston & Strawn agreed to pay LoFrisco compensation equal to at least 13 percent of its GE billings. That arrangement expired in 2001, but LoFrisco claimed in his 2003 lawsuit that the firm agreed that year to continue the earlier deal as well as exempt him from decompression. LoFrisco, 73, claimed the firm breached the 2001 agreement the following year and decompression thereafter reduced his pay from $2.3 million in 2002 to $350,000 in 2004. The unusual suit has drawn much attention to the issue of how firms handle aging rainmakers, many more of whom are now challenging firm policies that envision retirement at age 65 or earlier. In recent years, many firms have shown greater willingness to waive decompression, mandatory retirement, or similar policies for older partners still responsible for large amounts of business. The Manhattan Supreme Court granted summary judgment to Winston & Strawn in 2005, finding that the plain language of the 2001 agreement with LoFrisco gave the firm’s executive committee full discretion to decide his pay. But on July 5 the Appellate Division, 1st Department, reversed, finding the language of the agreement unclear and that its meaning needed to be determined at trial. LoFrisco was represented by Elkan Abramowitz of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer and Frederick Brodie of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. Winston & Strawn was represented by Philip Forlenza of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler
Anthony Lin is a reporter with The New York Law Journal , an ALM publication where a version of this article originally appeared.

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