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You can bet that there were a lot of couch-potato lawyers watching this year’s summer Olympics on television. But how many American lawyers actually participated in the Sydney games? The U.S. Olympic Committee can’t put a number on it. But it’s no more than a handful. And this much they do know: Only one works for a big firm. That’s 32-year-old Cravath, Swaine & Moore associate Thomas Auth. In June 1999 Auth took an extended leave of absence from the firm to train at the Princeton Training Center in New Jersey. In his second Olympic appearance, Auth headed Down Under to pursue a medal in rowing’s lightweight four. In this competition, the athletes weigh in at a maximum of 160 pounds. It’s the feeling of “speeding across, fighting the inertia of the water,” Auth says, that keeps him hitting the currents. Cravath wasn’t about to stand in the way of Auth’s hopes. “Olympic opportunities don’t come often,” says Cravath partner Kevin Grehan, who has worked with Auth in corporate and real estate matters. “You can always pick up the legal profession, but he may never have another shot at the Olympics.” Granting leaves of absence isn’t new to Cravath. Associates, Grehan notes, have left to clerk and write books, and one even became the general manager of a minor league hockey team. “They need to get it out of their system,” he adds. Auth began rowing as an undergraduate at Columbia University in 1987. The 13-year veteran has been competing ever since, clinching a gold medal in the lightweight four at the 1999 Pan American Games. This year, though, Auth and his teammates didn’t fare so well, finishing sixth overall. So what made this Harvard Law School graduate take a 16-month hiatus to hone his rowing skills? “The thrill of competing,” says Auth. The return to Cravath won’t, however, end Auth’s sporting ways. He says he fully intends to keep on rowing. And there is one more thing that Auth needs to do before returning to Cravath: backpack through the Outback. So just when is Auth coming back? He hasn’t given Grehan a date yet. But, Grehan says, “he’s welcome back whenever he’s ready.” Of course, it didn’t hurt his case when Auth thoughtfully sent his managing partner a T-shirt — from the Sydney Olympics.

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