When did you decide you wanted a career in law?
I knew from a fairly early stage that I wanted to be a lawyer and didn’t really consider any other career options. Looking back, of course, I realise that I had very little idea about what being a lawyer really entailed or the broad spectrum of choices available.
Why did you choose Ince & Co?
I was about to start a Masters degree in shipping and marine insurance, when the in-house lawyer to a London Greek shipowner told me that if I wanted to be a contentious shipping lawyer – which by that stage I knew that I did – Ince & Co was the only place to go. I was subscribing to Lloyd’s Law Reports at the time and the frequency with which Ince & Co appeared in the leading cases confirmed this advice.
What makes the firm different?
I think what makes Ince genuinely different to other firms is its ethos and its people, and the two are of course very closely connected. The firm prides itself on its collegiate spirit and culture of mutual respect. It might sound trite, but it truly is a friendly firm and in many respects embraces the qualities of the old-fashioned family firm. It’s a firm that cares for and supports its people, at all levels, and a place where individuals – whatever their role or ‘status’ – can and do stamp their personality on the place.
What has your experience been like so far, and what have been the high points?
I’ve been with Ince for over 20 years, and have had a rich and varied time of it – including seven years in our Singapore office.
Certain cases stand out either for their notoriety or the quirkiness of their subject matter. To name a few, there was acting for the London insurance market in connection with the Buncefield explosion – the biggest peace-time explosion ever in Europe; there was acting for the world’s arguably most famous rock band in a personal injury matter; there were two trips to war-torn Aden in 1996 to interview the crew of two vessels that had been hi-jacked and held to ransom by Somali pirates; there was the time when I was two days into my Singapore stint – and a junior lawyer – that a shipowner phoned to tell me that his ship was on fire and when I asked where the ship was, he told me to look out of my window and look for the ship with smoke coming out of its holds!
There’s no such thing as a typical day at Ince. The work is so varied and unpredictable. You can come into the office in the morning expecting to complete a particular task only to receive urgent instructions in connection with a new and developing casualty which may completely take over and relegate whatever you had previously planned for that day.
What advice would you give to graduates considering a career in law?
Firstly I’d say get as much work experience as you can to help assess the type of firm and the type of work that is likely to suit you best. Secondly – while I recognise that this might be more easily said than done – really focus on the quality of training that you’re likely to receive at any particular firm. In my experience, the quality of training can differ significantly from firm to firm.
What are the development opportunities and support offered at Ince & Co?
Although the majority of the learning and development takes place simply by doing the job, running the cases, etc, we also have a more structured programme of internal and external lectures which allows newcomers to our core areas to develop and refine their knowledge of those areas and other skill sets essential to working at a firm like ours.
In terms of support, our objective is to produce confident, rounded lawyers at the end of the training contract. As such, we try to give trainee solicitors as much responsibility as they can handle from the very beginning. We think this is critical to encourage development. But we recognise that different people develop at different rates, and so does their willingness to take on responsibility. So our approach is to put as much responsibility on each trainee solicitor as he or she is individually willing to accept whilst always ensuring that the necessary support and guidance is available at all times. To use a metaphor – our trainees are thrown in at the deep end, but not on a “sink or swim” basis, as there’s always a lifeguard in attendance!
You never stop learning and developing. I don’t think that we ever really become the ‘finished article’ – and that’s one of the things that keeps professional life interesting and challenging.
What are your plans for the future?
More of the same, I think – continuing to work for great clients with great colleagues on interesting and challenging cases. Also, continuing to develop as a lawyer and trying to fulfil my responsibilities as a mentor. I currently mentor five solicitors, so I want to ensure they receive the best support and guidance in terms of their progress and development.
Have you been involved in any social activities with the firm, or any fundraising and CSR initiatives?
Yes, I enjoy the social side of the firm, which can be quite lively! I’ve also done a fair amount of pro bono work.