Ince & Co (London)
Ince & Co, Holman Fenwick and Willan and Clyde & Co together
form the triumverate of top City shipping firms. Ince makes the least
money, but it’s still very profitable - its most senior partners take
home an estimated £575,000, and assistants’ salaries compare favourably
with all but the largest corporate practices.
Shipping firms tend to have a slightly more relaxed attitude to hours
than more corporate finance driven practices, and this seems to be the
case here. Assistants say that hours are generally civilised in all
areas. On the downside, shipping law isn't everyone’s cup of tea,
especially, it would seem, to the lady lawyers out there. When last we
heard, of a total of 97 partners (many of whom started their careers
with the firm), only 14 are female. Almost as poor a proportion as the
woeful 15 out of 127 at Holman Fenwick. What is it with shipping firms?
Ince has a curious system where there are no departments, everyone
just sits together. You can work for anyone, but generally have 10-15
partners who give you work as and when you have capacity. So as a
trainee, you can carry matters through the two years of your training.
The training seems to please. As one associate explains, “from a
professional development perspective, there is a very clear career path
guidance document detailing what responsibilities you can expect at each
stage in your career, the milestones in professional development, how
those milestones are measured and the benefits of achieving them”.
The opportunity to work abroad is another plus, and on the
international front it’s been a busy few years. The firm has European
offices Le Havre, Piraeus, Paris, Monaco and Hamburg to its letterhead,
plus the only slightly more exotic Dubai, Shanghai, Hong Kong and
Singapore. So there are plenty of interesting places to work when the
fleet's in port. Most of all London – the offices overlooking Tower
Bridge are beautiful, and are blessed with a chef apparently poached
from Claridges which means the food's great. It's a real laugh, too,
with one Incer commenting that the firm "almost encourages binge drinking".
All of this expansion costs money, of course, but indications are
that the firm increased its profitability in 2011-12 having suffered a
miniscule drop in 2010-11. For a while it seemed to have a bearing on NQ
retention - this fell to a miserly 58% a few years back and only nine
new trainees were taken on. But all of those nine were kept on when they
qualified, and last year the firm said t it's back to recruiting a
dozen trainees a year - and that almost all are to be kept on (11 from
12 in 2009, 10 from 12 in 2010 and 14 from 15 in 2011). And salaries
continue to outpace the competition.
The firm's performance in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey
over the last few years has been nothing short of stellar. An impressive
second place in 2011 was followed by victory in 2012. And the firm
retained its crown spectacularly in 2013. Responses vindicated all the
firm's hard work - with particular attention being drawn to the "fantastically friendly" people and the "excellent social life" (especially if you like sailing). Such a great place, in fact, that it's the only firm ever described as "like living in a land of unicorns and rainbows".
Overall a very decent firm with an interesting set up and what must
be one of the best cash/work/life ratios in the City. It seems likely one staffer's assertion is bang on the money: Ince & Co "looks after its people".