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 £545,000, 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. Plenty seem to agree with the Incer who wold us, "there is no macho environment encouraging late nights for the sake of it".
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. Says one lawyer, "I've been to India, Korea, South America, Central Europe and had a fantastic time of it". 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, although insiders tell us the chef apparently poached
from Claridges is no longer with the firm.
It's not all Michelin-starred gravy. The firm's profitability dropped in 2012/13, resulting in 10 fee-earners and six staff being made redundant in the shipping team. NQ
retention fell to a miserly 58% a few years back and only nine
new trainees were taken on. However all of those nine were kept on when they
qualified, and the firm promptly went back to recruiting a
dozen trainees a year. Almost all were kept on for a while (11 from
12 in 2009, 10 from 12 in 2010 and 14 from 15 in 2011), though in 2013 only 10 from 15 found a berth in the firm.
The 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. In 2014, though, it slipped to eight place - though top ten is still excellent. Responses gave particular attention 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. Let's hope the redundances in 2014 are an aberration, because generally one staffer's assertion looks bang on the money: Ince & Co "looks after its people"