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Wince & Co? Rumours swirl that Ince & Co is to merge with Watson Farley & Williams

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City middleweights could be getting hitched

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Rumours are swirling legal London that City middleweights Ince & Co and Watson Farley & Williams are set to tie the knot — creating a firm that one would expect to be called Wince & Co.

That name could be appropriate for the partners at poor old shipping and insurance firm Ince & Co, which has endured falling turnover, redundancies and a trainee rate this autumn of just 60%.

By contrast, shipping finance and aviation law specialist Watson Farley & Williams — or WFW — is doing pretty good, upping revenue and training contract numbers this year from 15 to 18.

The registration-walled Lawyer Magazine has the scoop, with Ince senior partner Jan Heuvels telling one of its reporters that his firm and WFW had “met to discuss business issues”, while denying that formal merger talks had taken place.

WFW managing partner Chris Lowe added that he had “sat down” with Ince management and “listened to what they have to say”.

If a merger did happen, it would represent quite a coup for WFW, which began life in 1981 as a breakaway from what was then Norton Rose. Ince & Co can chart its proud history all the way back to 1870.

A combined firm would bring together WFW’s £125m turnover (up by 7% last year) with Ince’s slightly less £79.4m revenue figure (down by 8% last year) to a create a 25 office shipping megafirm offering nearly 30 training contracts a year.

The question the serious legal market observers are asking themselves, though, is whether Ince & Co might hold fire on a merger with WFW in order to find another outfit with which it could create a catchier name. With the Legal Services Act allowing firms to consider tie-ups with barristers’ chambers as well as each other, some have even suggested a three way merger could be on the cards.

After all, as was observed on the RollOnFriday message board:

How about Freshfields, Ince & Co and Old Square Chambers and then they could be the Fresh Ince of Old Square?