Writer Recounts Career-Changing Revelation: Those Who Made Partner at Cravath Loved Their Work

James B. Stewart is a New Yorker staff writer and the author of a half-dozen books. But he was an associate at Cravath Swaine & Moore back in 1976, when $16,500 was a top New York salary for a newly minted Harvard Law School graduate like himself.

His assignments were great, his colleagues were great, and partners at the firm obviously were on a solid financial footing, he writes at the New York Times’ DealBook blog. But as he pondered the future, something niggled at him.

One day he had a profound revelation. Everyone who made partner at Cravath loved their work.

“You couldn’t fake this,” Stewart wrote. And, while he enjoyed his own work at the firm, he didn’t feel quite the same way about it, much as he would have liked to love such a prestigious, high-paying gig.

“At the same time, it was liberating,” Stewart wrote of his insight. “It was obvious to me that someone who loves his or her work, whatever that might be, has a huge competitive advantage, not to mention a satisfying and enjoyable life. Somehow people who love what they do seem to make a living. So I started pondering what I might love as much as some of my Cravath colleagues loved practicing law.”

That led to his taking a big pay cut for a journalism career that took him to American Lawyer and the Wall Street Journal and made him well-known as the author of books including the best-selling Den of Thieves.

The New Yorker, for which Stewart also has written, provides a more detailed biography.

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