I’m an averagely competent baby lawyer at a top 20 UK firm. I’m interested in getting exposure to high profile and complex deals, so weighing up offers from Sidley and Latham.I’m able to work hard, but is it likely that I’ll be out of my depth? Do I need to be incredibly competent to succeed at these types of firms?

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Not at all. Trust me on this. Lawyers are universally incompetent

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No. Not all. I’m also sure you’re plenty competent to work at those firms.

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Agreed with A1. Most important thing for young associates is work ethic. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, you will be able to match your peers at either firm.

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The less competent you are at these firms the more you can make up for it with hard work. Often those who get farthest at large us law firms I find are are competent “enough” (somewhat smart but not a genius) but they are exceedingly willing to take the pain inherent in the job.

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There’s also law school smart and real world smart. I was ok at law school. Slightly above the curve at a top 5 school. But, not Wowzers grades by any stretch. The practice of the law was (for me) something that fit me like a glove. I was good at it out of the gate. When stuff was clothed in actual clients and actual issues, I just got it in a way I didn’t in law school. I also found it far more interesting than law school.

And here’s the thing: Intellectual curiosity and active thinking compounds in value over time. Is my processor as fast as the person who was # 1 in my law school class? No. But, man, I can rattle off so much knowledge and riff on various factors in ways that leaves people wowed because of all the time I have poured into thinking about my area of the law. Active thinking - for a long period of time and for the hours we put in at law firms - it can close gaps and actually allow you to lap people who have higher processing power / speeds than you.

Lots of smart people get lazy at some point in their life and coast (at least for a bit). Everyone does it…the more you can train yourself to not do it, the better you will be.

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Impressive to get offers from Sidley and Latham from a top 20 firm, is it finance? As other posters say, work ethic and a propensity to learn is the key thing as a junior.

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