It’s been a tough year for Ince & Co, with job cuts, UK revenue falling 10% and the early departure of its senior partner, Jan Heuvels, six months before his term was due to end. As the firm looks to reduce costs further, it confirmed that it is seeking to sublet nearly a quarter of its London office space.
Unfortunately, this 12 months is no one-off. Although there was some respite last year, when Ince & Co managed to lift turnover by 16%, the preceding three years saw consecutive revenue falls. No wonder chatter about a possible merger has been doing the rounds.
Morale is understandably not great within the firm. We are told that “the constant threat of redundancies overhanging does not exactly provide for the warmest environment (and has created a general laissez faire attitude to anything that isn’t urgent or that associates are not responsible for)”.
Trainees have been reassured that the recent job cuts will have “no impact” on available newly qualified positions. But with the firm deferring start dates for half of the its new trainee intake starting in autumn 2018, it’s understandable that there is concern. The situation regarding availability of training contracts for students wanting to apply firm this year remains unclear.
Ince & Co’s core practice areas are shipping and insurance – the latter an area that is undergoing upheaval amid greater commoditisation of work. Shipping is a quirky area of law with its own culture. The upside of working in shipping is that the hours tend to be less than in areas like corporate finance. According to the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer 2018-19, Ince & Co has an average arrive in the office time of 9:15am and a leave the office time of 7:30pm. Nevertheless, one rookie complained to us of “regular long hours”. And the reduction in headcount has led one insider to claim that they are now having to work “consistent late nights and weekend work”. Newly qualified pay remains at £63,250, and there is no expectation of a rise any time soon.
Another shipping quirk is that it’s one of the most male-dominated areas of law, and this is reflected in Ince & Co’s partner diversity figures – just 15% are female, despite 63% of associates being women.
While starting your career at any big City law firm is going to set trainees up well for their future careers, it seems that Ince & Co could do a bit better when it comes to training. The firm scores a B for this category in this year’s survey. Complaints centre around the preference for formal sessions rather than on-the-job training, which is apparently a bit lacking.
Other aspects of the trainee experience are pretty standard – the work varies, often featuring a mix of “admin tasks” and “genuinely quite interesting” matters, while peers “are supportive if you’re struggling and you ask for help”. Most partners are approachable, but there are a few “who are difficult”. The tech support, meanwhile, is reasonable, with all lawyers given Surface Pros.
Rookies have a decent chance of doing an international secondment; a quarter spending time abroad with the firm. With the firm boasting 12 offices in eight different countries, there are some decent options including Monaco, Hong Kong and Greek port city Piraeus. Client secondments are similarly fairly widely available, mostly to the firm’s insurance company clients.
Another plus is the office, in the Aldgate Tower, which trainees like and describe as “very functional and modern”. Apparently the canteen is very good too, although its modern dishes are not everyone’s cup of tea. “EVERYTHING HAS SODDING AVOCADOS IN IT!” complains one Ince trainee. Monthly drinks on the terrace would be delightful if more people attended. Hopefully Ince & Co’s fortunes will improve soon. When asked about perks, one rookie told us: “The only perk currently available appears to be the knowledge that we’ve retained our jobs…for now…”