Ben W. Heineman Jr., General Electric Co.'s longtime legal chief, plans to leave the conglomerate and join the public policy group at the Washington law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP early next year.

Heineman managed more than 1,000 lawyers around the world as senior vice president for law and public affairs at GE, where he "is credited with changing the way in-house counsel are viewed," said Jamie Gorelick, a Wilmer Cutler partner who helped bring Heineman to the firm as a senior counsel.

Many lawyers Heineman hired in his nearly two decades at GE have become top in-house counsels at other public companies.

Heineman, who also will teach at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, will advise the firm on such issues as harmonizing U.S. and European regulations and asbestos injury compensation. He starts Feb. 1.

Heineman has long-standing ties to Washington. Before joining GE in 1987, he was managing partner in the Washington office of the law firm then known as Sidley & Austin. During the Carter administration, Heineman was an assistant secretary at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Wilmer Cutler handles securities, regulatory enforcement, intellectual property and other business for GE.

Departure From Justice

Timothy J. Coleman, a federal prosecutor who led the investigation of former Adelphia Communications Corp. executives and oversaw the work of the government's Corporate Fraud Task Force, is leaving the Justice Department to become co-chairman of the white-collar crime practice at Dewey Ballantine LLP in Washington and New York.

Coleman, 41, was most recently a top adviser to Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey, testifying before Congress on policy issues and shepherding government investigations of Enron Corp. and other high-profile cases.

Coleman, who will begin his work in private practice in January, said, "There's no end in sight" to enforcement of business fraud cases. "There's been a real sea change in the way government has approached corporate enforcement," he said.