On 31 December 2018 Ince & Co was placed into administration and purchased by listed firm Gordon Dadds. It left behind most of its international offices (Cologne, Dubai, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Le Havre, Marseille, Monaco, Paris, Piraeus, Singapore). Gordon Dadds, recognising an august brand when it saw it, renamed the whole firm Ince, in a rare instance of the acquiring entity taking its target's name.
In 2023, it went bust, again. This time, it was bought up by Axiom DWFM. That firm also bought up Plexus, and renamed itself Axiom Ince. Things aren't looking great for the new entity at present.
So what was Ince? One upon a time, Ince & Co, Holman Fenwick and Willan and Clyde & Co formed the triumvirate of top City shipping firms. Ince & Co also specialised in insurance.
It was a lovely place to work, by most accounts, until it wasn't. In RollOnFriday's 2016 survey of satisfaction in the profession, Ince plummeted from 10th to bottom. Chief amongst concerns was lack of work and, consequently, job security. "Every day brings something new", said one lawyer: "redundancies, leaving drinks, folks in floods of tears". Another said there was "plenty of time to relax" - but only because there's "not much work around". A colleague rued, "I'm probably next to be kicked out".
Another cited "haemorrhaging partners/fee earners/staff" and the associated bad press. Where once lawyers had spoken of "rainbows and unicorns", now it transpired that the rainbows "were an illusion much like the covering of an oil slick". As for the unicorn, "it was violently *#*@ed before being sold on to the glue factory to help recoup operational costs".
In 2018, more redundancies followed, with 32 roles cut in the London office. There were several high-level departures, and the firm hunted for a merger, which increasingly didn't look like a choice.
Finally, Ince went into administration and was purchased by Gordon Dadds, a listed firm which then rebranded itself as Ince Gordon Dadds, and then as Ince. So at least you know it has a brand worth keeping.
In 2019, Ince Gordon Dadds came bottom in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey, capping off a torrid time. It has recovered somewhat in subsequent years, even if it's not the prestigious shipping and insurance firm it once was.
In 2021/22, lawyers at the firm told RollOnFriday that pay was "Decent but not spectacular" and, alternatively, that "They pay as little as they can get away with".
As for management, "Apart from our global senior partner who is excellent our management style is 'beat them with a stick'", claimed one lawyer. "Senior management is only concerned with new acquisitions", said another. Others were more positive: "A strong team with a good sense of direction for the firm", vouched a senior solicitor, who said that "Having a dedicated management team comprised of non-lawyers is a huge plus", as it "Takes the politics away and allows the firm to grow".
"Who are we? Where are we going?", asked a junior solicitor. "There may well be a plan, but we don't quite know what it is yet. We are certainly going somewhere, at least."
As for the culture, there is "Still an Ince family", although also "Lots of acquisitions, so lots of new faces and ideas, which keeps things fresh".
But, as emphasised above, that's all in the past now. Ince is now but an asset dissolved into Axiom Ince, and it's newest iteration has suffered a very rocky start.