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This month the Law Society of Scotland's full training and competence regulations came into force and it is one of the first law societies to implement such a regime.
Consequently, every firm that offers investment advice will have to have at least one principal qualified or exempt, by qualification and experience in terms of the Investment Business Training Regulations 1994. The closing date for exemptions was 30 November 1994 and anyone not having an exemption must pass the society's Investment Business examination, which is the Investment Advice Certificate examination of the Securities Institute in London. Other qualifications which are equivalent to this exam are currently:
the financial planning certificate of the Chartered Insurance Institute;
the Securities Institute Diploma, which offers a choice of 10 subjects of which three have to be passed;
the associate exam of the Institute of Investment Management and Research;
membership of the Securities Institute.
The Law Society is currently considering other benchmark qualifications acceptable to regulators.
As from 1 November, all solicitors and non-solicitors who conduct investment business must comply with the continuing professional development practice regulations which set down a minimum time requirement for education and training in investment business
As Scottish solicitors are authorised to conduct most types of investment business and as a prudent reaction to the failures highlighted by the Barings collapse, the Law Society has introduced a rule that any solicitor wishing to carry out any volume of discretionary investment management, must be specifically authorised by the Law Society to do so.
This involves proven experience in this area and operating a clear separation between the front and back offices. This move has been welcomed by the Association of Solicitor Investment Managers (Asim).
Scottish solicitors have, historically, long been involved in providing investment advice to clients and the profession's regulator is keen to promote this and ensure the highest level of investor protection. The effect of the new rules will be to provide enhanced standards to all clients using Scottish solicitors for financial advice and tighter regulation.