Ince & Co has been crowned RollOnFriday's Firm of the Year 2012, roundly thrashing the opposition with an extraordinary set of scores across the board. The firm beat off challenges from Shearman & Sterling and Bird & Bird to triumph with an exceptional overall result of 87%. You can see all this year's results here.

The Firm of the Year survey shows the real picture when it comes to employee satisfaction. Staff rate their firm's performance on pay, career development, openness about future plans and work-life balance. Plus, as ever, the critical categories of meeting room biscuits, staff loos and the firm's social life.

This time last year, Ince came a creditable second overall. But just how has the firm taken a leap from silver to gold? The main factors in the victory were its scores for pay and social life, with the firm coming in for terrific praise in both categories. Satisfaction with pay was overwhelming, especially when combined with Incers' perception of their work-life balance. Although salaries are by no means stellar, staff are generally very happy with them - no doubt because there's little midnight grinding. One Incer claimed "if you work out average hourly pay here compared to my previous Magic Circle firm it's probably double". Another well-rested employee said "I have never had to work an all nighter which means I am not a true lawyer". So no surprise that the firm's score of 82% for work-life balance is the top in the UK.

    Ince & Co, 5.31pm

Ince cemented its position with exceptional satisfaction ratings for career development and openness, scoring a table-topping 90% and second-place 83% respectively. One junior lawyer was particularly taken with the system under which there's "no need to specialise until 2PQE when you can specialise in two different areas".

When it comes to party time, the Incers seem delighted with the social life offered by the firm, rating it an exceptional 96%. The "wonderfully friendly" staff loved the "free booze every month", "lots of free food and drink", felt that the firm is "great for parties" and that "Ince lives up to its fun reputation". The in-house chef is ex-Claridges, too, and is extremely popular, with praise running from "delicious" to "om nom nom". One partner, perhaps getting a little carried away, explained that "every day we ride on golden unicorns...I love my job".

However there was one note of caution on the comestibles front, as it seems there's a two-tier biscuit strategy "amazing" biscuits reserved for clients. Everyone else has to put up with "your average McVities Family Choice corner shop special".

James Wilson, senior partner, told RollOnFriday that he was "delighted that Ince & Co has been named UK Firm of the Year 2012. It represents a vote of confidence in the firm by the people who work here. It also recognises the increased investment we have made in career development to enable us to meet the demands of our clients and that, despite the uncertain economic times, we make time to enjoy the social side of working together."

So what of the chasing pack? As the exciting graphic above shows there's a 5% gap between first and second place, where the medal goes to Shearman & Sterling. The high score is put down to the "fantastic" pay, the "nurturing partners" and the "very friendly, fun people".

Third place, and a shiny bronze medallion (not actual bronze) goes to Bird & Bird. Despite the dubious branding and the endless "bird puns", the firm is praised for its realistic billing targets, "great social life" and the "delicious gingerbread biscuits". However, one lawyer expressed deep concern over an incident in which a trainee, despite being beaten ten-nil on the firm's table football table, point-blank refused to "take his trousers off and walk around the table as per tradition". Supposedly the firm's sports department was contacted, but refused to take the case. For shame.
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Anonymous 03 February 12 09:33

Well done Ince & Co. Worked there years ago and have never found a firm quite like it since. Clients a treated like long lost friends and staff are very well looked after.

Anonymous 03 February 12 12:29

Pleased to see that Ince & Co has come top. I think the real difference between Ince & Co and other firms is in the quality of the work you get exposed to at a very early stage in your career. The fact that you are using your brain and developing your legal skills every day makes for much more job satisfaction. This in turn results in a positive outlook on aspects of the firm which are less than perfect.

Roll On Friday 03 February 12 14:32

Inverse the work/life ranking and it's a pretty good approximation of prestige of the firm. Says a lot.

Anonymous 03 February 12 15:33

Having worked at Irwin Mitchell I am not surprised about this ranking, greedy partners, all about money poor service.

Well done Ince and Co, take a leaf out of their book.