Ince, Ince & Co, Gordon Dadds, or Ince Gordon Dadds? With so many names, this firm has had a busy time. Here’s the full story:
Gordon Dadds was the second UK law firm to float on the stock exchange, listing on the Alternative Investment Market in 2017. This ‘Gordon Dadds Group PLC’ bought Ince & Co LLP (minus most of its international offices) in a pre-pack administration deal in December 2018, becoming ‘Ince Gordon Dadds’.
The firm has now changed its name to ‘The Ince Group’ or simply ‘Ince’ for short. However, ‘Gordon Dadds’ will remain the name of the private client and family practice in Mayfair.
Ince & Co was founded in 1866 in Cardiff and expanded to London in 1870. It was always heavily weighted towards shipping law and litigation.
Gordon Dadds listed as part of its growth strategy and has been highly acquisitive. It aspired to double its revenue within three years of listing and achieved that target early.
In its most recent financial results, the firm’s turnover increased 87% from £52.6 million to £98.5 million, narrowly missing the £100 million top line target projected by CEO Adrian Biles in November 2019. Operating profit also grew 72% from £15.2 million to £26.2 million but organic growth alone accounted for a modest 5% rise. The results reflect the first full year of trading as a consolidated group.
The share price has had its ups and downs — listing at 140p, and reaching a high of 189p. Shares have tanked sharply in recent months due, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the business seeking to raise funds from shareholders to reload its balance sheet. Ince has increased its borrowing from £2.9 million to £9 million and is currently trading at around 23p.
At the new firm, corporate and tax are the largest practice areas. Other prominent practices include shipping, trade aviation and insurance.
How has all this affected trainees? The “merger caused the level of training to dip”, one tells us, with their peers mostly agreeing with this sentiment. Trainees are “given high levels of responsibility if you are capable” but a “lack of day to day guidance, supervision and teaching” was reported. There is “very little in the way of formal training” but “good exposure to a variety of work”. Trainees consequently get to “learn on the job” which meant “soft skills definitely develop faster than legal nous”.
Trainees are exposed to “really exciting work most of the time”. There are the “inevitable trainee tasks” such as “typical document management tasks” but these are fortunately “balanced out by real work such as legal research, assisting with witness statements/expert reports, and preparation for trial”.
One trainee was excited to have “worked on some high-profile cases, three of which made headline news”. Another gushed about “drafting a letter to a premier league football team and visiting a celebrity client’s home to have documents signed”. It is apparent that Ince has not lost its litigious roots post-merger, as trainees reported that there was “a fair bit of bundling” but also “a good amount of advanced tasks such as drafting pleadings or liaising with opposing solicitors. One rookie sums it up: “All in all, a healthy mix of brain work and ‘listen to Spotify as you paginate your sixteenth bundle’ work!”
The culture post-merger was positive. “Everyone gets on well” with “no competitive atmosphere”. There is an “excellent squad” and “no snakes have been revealed… yet”. One trainee beamed that they “actually love the friends” they have made at Ince. “They’re kings and queens,” another praised.
The social life “has changed a lot with the merger”. Whilst Ince is “a very sociable firm” and there are a “decent amount of free hangovers” on offer, events “are few and far between these days as the new firm maintains very tight purse strings”.
However, the work-life balance is commendable. “Real people work here, they understand that you have a real life”. There is “no face time culture” as the firm “generally respects that you have a life outside of work”. Whilst there are “longer hours in family and corporate”, in other departments, trainees were living the dream, as “6pm is the norm”.
There was consensus that senior members of the firm were approachable. The partners and senior associates can “be difficult to pin down but when they’re around most are very approachable”. Often it is a case of “getting your foot in the door” and then you can get to know the partner. And some do so very well, as per one rookie: “I am on WhatsApp bantz terms with a few and will meet up with some superiors outside of work hours for pints.”
Ince has “good tech resources” but “falls short of excellency”. There were gripes among rookies on how well the firm transitioned to remote-working in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We only had our laptops and were not provided with any other equipment such as a monitor or a mouse,” one complains, while another adds: “Neck and back are killing working from a tiny laptop. Need my screen and chair!”
Trainees did report travelling abroad pre-pandemic, but these appeared to be brief and case-related. One trainee spent “two nights in Copenhagen” and another was flown “to Doha for a day”.
As for the perks, it was reported that those at Ince & Co were “very good” but fizzled post-merger. There are said to be no more monthly ‘Ince Drinks’ much to the chagrin of one trainee. The “standard package” of law firm perks include discounted food, healthcare and gym membership.
The office set-up is a curious arrangement. The firm’s main base is at Aldgate Tower which is a “lovely modern glass-windowed office”. There were grumbles about the open plan office as “loud dictations and personal calls drive everyone mad but when that’s not happening it works well”. The set-up “has its pros and cons” but overall the office “sparks joy” and “the view is piff”.
However, the insurance practice at the firm has moved from Aldgate Tower to the Lloyd’s building “which is pretty cool”.
The firm does have a canteen which is “very well subsidised”. This “great cheap food” was a hit with trainees, although its quality could be “hit and miss” with reports of “school dinner style” lunches and “small portion sizes with no dessert”.
But it gets brownie points for its “very green” set up. The canteen uses “recycled and biodegradable materials for the cutlery and napkins”, and also “encourages recycling”.