That American Express chose Cravath, Swaine & Moore as counsel in its epic antitrust fight seems fitting. The credit card’s famous slogan, “Membership has its privileges” evokes an exclusivity mirrored by what many consider to be the most prestigious law firm in the country.

But the lawyer who led AmEx to victory last week—the chairman of Cravath, no less—was not born with the proverbial silver spoon.

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