Following an extensive nominations process, Asia Business Law Journal reveals the A-List of Thailand’s legal profession. Putro Harnowo reports
Being a top destination for tourism and foreign investment in the region, Thailand has been praised for its containment of the pandemic outbreak. However, with global uncertainty looming over economic recovery, deal and investment activities will not bounce back to pre-pandemic levels easily.
The second-biggest economy in Southeast Asia is expected to still experience turbulence, especially from the slump in tourism, which makes up close to 15% of Thailand’s gross domestic product (GDP) annually. A report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development in July named the country as one that could suffer the largest loss from tourism, by at least 9% of GDP, or around US$47.7 billion.
Seeing the big picture, Thailand expects its GDP to contract by 8% this year and it is far from alone in this predicament. Most Southeast Asian countries are experiencing a recession, with two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, as the region’s economic outlook relies heavily on the progress, positive or otherwise, of the pandemic.
The Thai government has rolled out stimulus packages and policy reforms to boost consumer spending, induce investment activities and strengthen the healthcare system. Meanwhile, business is seeing more activity via mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as conglomerates take advantage of the economic slowdown to restructure businesses or capture prime assets at a depreciated rate. Still, recent political instability threatens to impact any chances of a quick recovery should it continue to simmer.
It is against this backdrop that Asia Business Law Journal presents its A-List of the top 100 lawyers practising in Thailand (see the list of all 100 lawyers and the key practice areas for which they are endorsed here). The list is based on extensive research conducted and nominations received from in-house counsel based in the country and elsewhere, as well as Thailand-focused partners at international law firms based outside the jurisdiction.
Nearly all of the A-List lawyers are located in the international city of Bangkok. This cosmopolitan centre serves as a chief port as well as cultural and commercial centre, hosting about one-third of the country’s banking units and three-quarters of all deposits. The Thai government headquarters, the Industrial Finance Corporation, the Board of Investment, and the Securities Exchange of Thailand are all located in the capital, making it crucial for lawyers to keep their finger on the pulse of the city for any legal and fiscal developments.
To understand clients’ perspectives about what it takes to become an outstanding lawyer in Thailand, we sought answers from a large number of professionals, mainly experienced in-house counsel and corporate legal managers. From these recommendations, it is possible to derive a portrait of the outstanding Thai lawyers that make up this elite group.
Comments submitted to Asia Business Law Journal by clients suggest that they not only look for lawyers with an extensive knowledge, but those that are also responsive and creative when it comes to solving complex problems to navigate the nuances of Thai law, with practical advice to achieve strategic objectives.
Amid the global trend of restructuring and M&A, Thailand’s legal landscape sees the need to respond. The Office of Trade Competition Commission has amended the market monopoly law to plug loopholes in big M&A deals and eliminate ambiguity. This change has pushed capital market lawyers to step up their games.
Kudun Sukhumananda, at Kudun and Partners, has been praised by his clients in this field. The founding partner of the firm is said to have “extensive experience in capital markets and hands-on partners in every deal with a very professional service,” according to Ornanong Intaraprasit, a co-CEO of KPM Securities in Thailand.
Similar comment is given by Yajai Pongvarin, a head of legal and corporate secretarial at RHB Securities Thailand, for Kudun’s “excellent knowledge in relation to securities law and capital markets”.
Kudun’s colleague, Troy Schooneman, received accolades for his ability “to bring parties to the table and make a deal happen, sometimes in the most trying of circumstances, with tight deadlines and demanding clients,” says Mark Fraser, managing partner of Frasers Law Company in Vietnam.
“He has exceedingly strong interpersonal skills and is fluent in Thai and English, as well as having a strong background in international M&A transactions from deals undertaken throughout Asia and elsewhere,” says Fraser.
Siam Premier’s managing partner, Chatchavej Chitvarakorn, is also distinguished in this area. “Chad is a fantastic lawyer who knocks it out of the park at handling complex commercial transactions,” says a general counsel at a real estate company who chose to remain anonymous. “Chad is incredibly responsive and will go above and beyond for his clients.”
As the “Thailand 4.0” project strives to transform the country into the region’s innovation hub, intellectual property lawyers are taking advantage of government incentives.
Ben Goodger, general counsel of ASLAN Pharmaceuticals in Singapore, described Alan Adcock, at Tilleke & Gibbins, as “a very knowledgeable intellectual property lawyer with particular knowledge of life sciences. Very responsive.”
Jesse Lieberman, vice president legal at Minor Hotel Group in Thailand, agrees: “Alan’s expertise makes him one of the few international lawyers who has the ability of understanding both the local hurdles in the Thai market, as well as those demands and expectations of foreign players in this exciting new industry.”
In this male-dominated industry, women lawyers are breaking barriers to be the best in their field. The picture is a positive one in Thailand as it ranks second globally for women represented in senior management, with the highest percentage of female CFOs (42%) and the third-highest percentage of female CEOs (9%), based on the CS Gender 3000 report from the Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI).
However, the country’s percentage of women sitting on boards is just 10.7%, ranking 27th globally, although female representation on boards globally has doubled in a decade. This case is more or less the same in the legal market, with only 17 of 100 lawyers in the A-List being female.
“Threenuch Bunruangthaworn, an executive partner of ZICOlaw Thailand, is one of the excellent lawyers that I work with on employment matters,” says Nattaya Thiansingchai, head of HR at Louis Vuitton Thailand. “She provides advice not only from the labour law perspective, but also from a corporate commercial point of view as well. She understands the business context of the issues and provides practical solutions that really help me solve cases and at the same time comply with regulations.”
David Platt, a partner at Pinsent Masons MPillay in Singapore, applauds Wilailuk Okanurak at Linklaters as “one of the best Thai projects and corporate lawyers. Super organized and highly efficient.”
He also praises Audray Souche, co-managing partner at DFDL Thailand, for being an “extremely practical and user-friendly lawyer with an excellent ability to steer foreign investors through the Thai system”.
Traiporn Leelakun, first vice president, legal department at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Bangkok, describes Primyadar Duangrat, at Baker McKenzie, as “deeply knowledgeable” in the field of capital markets and M&A, and “the first choice to consult” when he has problems to solve. “The quality of advice she provides always exceeds my expectations,” says Traiporn. “She goes out of her way to give value to her clients.”
Not to be outshone by their male peers, a good portion of the A-List was filled by Thailand’s leading women lawyers, including: Kallayarat Chinsrivongkul, one of the founding partners of SCL Nishimura; Passawan Navanithikul, a partner at Somboon Rittichai Panuwat Passawan; Sawanee Sethsathira, the head of the energy, chemicals, mining and infrastructure, and project finance practice groups at Baker McKenzie in Thailand; Say Sujintaya, the regional chair of Baker McKenzie’s IP group in the Asia-Pacific; Veeranuch Thammavaranucupt, the head of capital markets and corporate governance practices at Weerawong Chinnavat & Partners; Peerapan Tungsuwan, the head of the healthcare and life sciences industry group at Baker McKenzie; and Darani Vachanavuttivong, co-managing partner and managing director of the IP department at Tilleke & Gibbins.
Compiling the A-List
The A-List is based on extensive research conducted by Asia Business Law Journal. To identify the top 100 lawyers in Thailand, we turned to thousands of in-house counsel in the country and around the world – as well as partners at international law firms – and asked them to tell us which lawyers should make the cut.
Nominations were received from professionals at Thai and global companies, financial institutions and law firms, including: Altus Capital Partners, ASLAN Pharmaceuticals, Atradius Credito y Caucion SA de Seguros y Reaseguros, Frasers Law Company, Kasikornbank, Kingsford Securities, KPM Securities, LINE Thailand, Louis Vuitton, Minor Hotel Group, Nishimura & Asahi, Pinsent Masons MPillay, RHB Securities, Salt & Light Co, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Walalangi & Partners and many more.
The final list reflects the nominations received, combined with the Asia Business Law Journal editorial team’s more than 30 years of collective experience, in documenting and analysing Thailand’s legal market. All Thai private-practice lawyers were automatically eligible for inclusion in the nominations process and, as always, there were no fees or any other requirements for entry.
The names and photographs of all 100 A-List lawyers are published here. In addition, each A-list lawyer was given the opportunity to include their biography and contact details, for which a publishing fee was charged.
It is important to note that while the compilation of the A-List was based solely on independent editorial research, the biographies and contact details that appear alongside many of the listings have been written by the participating lawyers, and the content has not been independently verified by Asia Business Law Journal.