Why did you choose Ince & Co as the firm to train with?
I first entered Ince & Co's orbit at a law fair in Sheffield, where I spoke to a trainee (now an associate) about the firm. After looking into the firm further, I decided to apply for the Trainee Recruitment Placement Scheme.
It was this scheme which cemented my desire to secure a training contract with Ince & Co. There's really no substitute for a vacation scheme when it comes to getting to know a firm, as it allows you to meet so many people and see how the firm works on a day to day basis.
There were a few key reasons why I ultimately chose Ince & Co.
The first reason is that the firm is considered a specialist in its core sectors (Transport, Trade, Energy & Infrastructure and Insurance). This focus means that the firm is doing the highest calibre work in those areas, with a number of cases heard in the Supreme Court every year and the firm working on high value complex transactions.
The second reason is that trainees are not lost in the crowd at Ince. The firm's size, small trainee intake, an open plan office and agile working allow you to really get to know people. This is an essential part of the firm's culture, as trainees are encouraged to seek out the partners and associates they are interested in working with.
The third reason is that Ince is a truly international firm, with a particular presence in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. This adds an interesting layer of complexity to most of the work we do. In litigation it means that the parties will likely be based in different countries, often with related proceedings ongoing in multiple jurisdictions simultaneously. Many solicitors likely go through their entire careers without considering matters such as the conflict of laws or anti-suit injunctions. At Ince & Co these are our bread and butter. The same is true of transactional work, where the international element means you have to consider risks that won’t apply to a domestic transaction: what security package can you take to maximise your chance of recovery across different jurisdictions? What can you do to protect yourself from political risk related to foreign governments? If you're looking for intellectual stimulation combined with practical problem-solving, international law is for you.
What was the selection process?
The application process is relatively condensed. It begins with an online application, consisting of a covering letter, CV, and Watson-Glaser critical thinking test. The next stage is an interview which involves an in-tray exercise. The in-tray exercise tests your ability to juggle competing priorities and provide practical solutions to complex issues, which is very important given the flexible training structure at Ince.
Those who apply directly for a training contract will also need to attend an assessment day which includes a more in-depth interview, group pitch and legal drafting exercise, but this is not a part of the application for the placement scheme.
What training have you received?
Before starting your first seat you will attend the Professional Skills Course. This course covers financial and business skills, professional conduct, and advocacy.
The firm also runs the Trainee Introductory Course, their internal induction programme. This introduces you to the firm's business groups and gives the trainees an opportunity to get to know each other better through a series of social events. This year we had dinner with the current and future trainee intakes, went on a Jack the Ripper Tour and visited the London Eye.
Of course, the training does not stop when you start your first seat. On top of everything you will learn "on the job", there are regular seminars on a range of topics, often delivered by leading barristers who were instructed in the cases under discussion. These talks provide invaluable insight as they go beyond the headlines to examine the fine detail of recent cases, keeping you in contact with the law as it develops. We also receive frequent legal updates and briefings prepared by our professional support lawyers.
As a firm with a distinguished maritime heritage, Ince also puts their trainees through a multi-day course in Liverpool provided by Brookes Bell, a marine consultancy and surveying company.
What has been your favourite moment of your training contract so far?
Fairly early on in my first seat, an associate asked me to perform an urgent research task. The matter concerned damage sustained by a vessel at sea and we needed to know which country would have jurisdiction to determine the limitation date, after which a claim would be time-barred. The vessel's owners, the shipyard where maintenance work had been done, the owners of the shipyard and the manufacturer of the parts were all located in different countries.
I quickly came back to the associate with an answer (backed up, of course, with the relevant law), and not long after that we had emailed the client with advice incorporating my research.
There is nothing quite as thrilling as seeing your work being relied upon. After years of academic training involving hypothetical problem-solving, it is quite refreshing for the work that you do to have real-world impact.
What challenges have you experienced?
One of the greatest appeals of a training contract at Ince is the degree of freedom trainees are given to seek out the type of work they are interested in. Although you do have a seat which will usually provide you with a large portion of your work, each trainee is given a high degree of autonomy to develop their own caseload from various areas across the firm. For my first seat I’m sitting with a partner who specialises in non-contentious energy work, however I’ve already got involved with some shipping litigation and insurance work alongside that.
This inevitably however comes with its own challenges. If you take on too much work you will overload yourself, especially if several months down the line it turns out that you're working on two matters with approaching deadlines. That means you have to learn how to manage your time not only in the present but also thinking ahead for the future. This may at times involve having to decline work. Equally, however, you don't want to turn down too much work so striking the balance can be challenging.
What advice would you give to potential trainees applying to Ince?
Do everything you can to get to know the firm. This is a fairly common piece of advice and I understand that it can be difficult, from the outside, to truly appreciate what differentiates one firm from another. However, it is vital that prospective trainees understand the firm they are applying to join. Working culture is difficult to define but it will impact everything you do. At Ince, for example, trainees can expect to work closely with a variety of partners. In some other firms the partners may be less accessible, with trainees working exclusively with their supervising partner. All these little things add up to give each firm its own distinct flavour.
There are a few things you can do to help yourself here. Attend law fairs and speak directly to current trainees. Look into other events such as open evenings and talks. Read up on some cases the firm has been involved in, paying attention not just to the legal dispute but also the commercial background. That will help you understand the sectors that we operate in and the type of work the firm handles.
As mentioned above, however, nothing can give you the same understanding of the firm as the placement scheme.
What are you most looking forward to on your training contract?
I was first attracted to law because I liked the idea of a job which required specialist knowledge and expertise, so the thing I'm anticipating most is being able to look back and see how far I've come. I've already learnt so much, even in the short time I've been here. By way of example, on the LPC you might look at a simplified Share Purchase Agreement that's twenty pages long. In real life a transaction could easily involve over forty documents, some of them hundreds of pages long. Learning how real transactions are structured--why all those documents are necessary and how they fit together—is the kind of thing you can look forward to learning on your training contract. Gaining this knowledge will make you feel like a real lawyer, which is, after all, why we're here.