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Ben Heineman Jr. makes a habit of being at the top. He’s been a fixture in the upper reaches of Corporate Counsel‘s compensation survey for nine years and this year has climbed to No. 1. Heineman’s total cash compensation was close to $3.5 million in 2001, a $400,000 increase over his 2000 remuneration despite General Electric Co.’s drastically shrinking market value during the same period. So, is he worth it? In terms of sheer numbers, Heineman shoulders a heavy load. He oversees 883 lawyers in 13 operational divisions worldwide. Heineman also comes about as close to being a living legend as a 58-year-old in-house lawyer can. A Rhodes scholar and Supreme Court clerk, Heineman was dubbed “possessor of the best r�sum� in America” by The New Republic at age 35. The wunderkind shocked his colleagues in the Washington, D.C., office of Sidley & Austin when he jumped to Fairfield, Conn.-based GE in 1987. The career move — and his subsequent performance in the job — have fundamentally altered the status of corporate counsel. Heineman also has a reputation for excellent hiring and training, which is underscored by headhunters, who love to raid GE. At least four GE alums are now high-powered GCs themselves. And Heineman is nice, to boot. Colleagues and acquaintances call him “a sweetie pie” and “a very special guy.” What’s next for the �ber-GC? Heineman agreed to stay for a while after former CEO Jack Welch’s departure. It’s now been close to a year since Welch’s successor, Jeffrey Immelt arrived. But Heineman declines to discuss his plans. One thing is clear: The GC doesn’t need to make more money. Between 1995 and 1999, he cashed in a total of $33 million in options and currently has nearly $32 million more that are exercisable. What does he plan to do with all that money? Heineman, like a true model lawyer, is mum about that too.

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