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Following an extensive nomination process, Asia Business Law Journal reveals the A-List of Thailand’s legal profession. Lim Miran and Putro Harnowo report

Heavily tourism-reliant Thailand has shouldered a grim burden following the lockdown and travel restrictions accompanying the pandemic. But the country has fought back and sought recovery via foreign investment, cryptocurrencies and digital assets that have seen significant interest, returning hope to the economy.

The country’s GDP contracted 6.1% last year, the biggest slump since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Before the pandemic, tourism generally contributed to 12% of the economy, with nearly 40 million foreign visitors spending USD58 billion in 2019. A surge in covid-19 cases and stricter containment measures have meant only 300,000 foreign tourists this year.

The government has deployed an array of measures to assist small and mid-sized enterprises affected by the pandemic, from financial support and debt moratoria to the granting of low-interest financial assistance.

The global economic recovery is expected to drive exports, which contributed to 60% of the economy before the pandemic. However, the Bank of Thailand (BoT) has forecast the economy to increase by just 0.7% this year due to weakening domestic demand and continuing economic shockwaves.

On the bright side, the Thailand Board of Investment announced in August that foreign direct investment applications had increased by 14% in number, and 158% in combined value, during the first six months of 2021 compared to the same period a year earlier. The target industries including power generation, electrical appliances and electronics, medical, petrochemicals and chemicals, and agriculture and food processing.

Thailand was among the first jurisdictions in the region to specifically regulate virtual currencies by issuing the Digital Asset Act, 2018, which provides clear definitions of the different types of digital assets and various requirements for crypto traders. Since then, the interest in cryptocurrencies and digital assets has seen a significant surge, despite the market’s contractions.

In an April 2021 report titled “The way forward for retail central bank digital currency in Thailand”, the BoT reported that the trading volume of domestic crypto exchanges had increased 17 times, from USD143 million in 2018 to USD2.49 billion in 2020. The central bank has also developed its own crypto to expedite transactions between banks, and created a sandbox for commercial banks to experiment with digital currencies.

Against this backdrop, 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 following this article). The list is based on extensive research conducted and nominations received from in-house counsel in the country and elsewhere, as well as Thailand-focused partners at international law firms based outside the jurisdiction.

Comments submitted to Asia Business Law Journal suggest that lawyers with local wisdom and deep experience are sought after, but those with extensive knowledge of the upcoming trends and a global mindset are highly regarded to tackle the ever-changing nature of business matters.

Nearly all of the A-List lawyers are located in the nation’s capital, Bangkok – where companies, think-tanks and policymakers are headquartered – as the best place to build up networks. The city has become one of the most important of Asia’s business hubs, where modern and traditional infrastructure meet, serving as a critical entry point for the region’s markets and international trade.

Beyond the border

Thailand offers a lucrative prospect for foreign companies with a strategic location that allows it to serve as a gateway into the Asean market and bridge two giants – China and India. But starting and running businesses in the country can be a daunting task, and many A-List lawyers are applauded for their valuable guidance.

Yuttana Saithai, head of foreign direct investment advisory at UOB in Bangkok, recommends Bunnasomboon (Aaron) Chaiparinya, a partner at JTJB International Lawyers, as a “professional lawyer with excellent knowledge on both international law and local regulations – superb service mind”.

Cindy Ng, associate director of trust services and private wealth at private equity firm Vistra in Singapore, agrees. “Aaron is very professional and proficient in advising matters involving taxation, inheritance, investments and trusts,” says Ng. “He has very good people management skills and is able to speak and articulate complex concepts into layman’s terms.”

Tatsuru Kobayashi, senior manager at financial service provider NEC Capital Solutions in Tokyo, praises Palawi Bunnag, a partner at International Legal Counsellors Thailand (ILCT), for her assistance in the company’s investments, and setting up a business alliance in late 2020. “Her insight and unwavering support were a great help for us when our deal could not be completed under the very difficult situation caused by the never-ending pandemic,” says Kobayashi.

Barbara Kuemmerle, head of legal services of utility tunnelling company Herrenknecht in Freiburg, Germany, nominates Till Morstadt, managing partner of Lorenz & Partners, for his “prompt and comprehensive legal advice and practical support in all fields of commercial and corporate law” to the company and its subsidiary in Thailand.

“I would like to highlight his huge experience and very practical focus, which are very useful for finding quick and effective solutions for all issues in business life,” says Kuemmerle.

Patrick Gruendel, global head of tax at IT and cloud service provider SoftwareOne in Stans, Switzerland, describes Morstadt as “a lawyer who gives clear-cut answers, and no ‘could-would-should’ opinions”.

“Moreover, [Morstadt has] very precise predictions on how a dispute will develop and what is required to influence the case in a certain manner,” says Gruendel. “That is outstanding in the advisory industry.”

Brendan Hanley, assistant general counsel at American computer storage devices manufacturer Western Digital in Bangkok, says Alan Adcock, a partner at Tilleke & Gibbins, is the type of business partner every company seeks. “He understands our business, is quick to respond, and his advice is always on point,” says Hanley. “These qualities make Alan seem less of a person from a ‘firm we hire’ and more of a ‘strategic partner’.”

Maricef Valderrama, legal counsel at Italian confectionery manufacturer Ferrero Asia-Pacific in Singapore, adds: “Alan is very professional, responsive and a pleasure to work with.”

Michael Lorenz, the founding partner of Lorenz & Partners, is commended for delivering “professional and in-depth knowledge and guidance” by Christine Russel-Wittebrood, managing director of global logistics service provider Leschaco in Bangkok.

Markus Winter, CEO of beverage manufacturer Krones in Bangkok, is also grateful for Lorenz’s “years of competent and quick support”.

Robust networks

With numerous free-trade agreements, Thailand is an attractive place for international commerce. But opportunities come with risks, and legal professionals navigating their clients’ businesses need to seek local advisers to build a sustainable base.

Jason Corbett, managing partner of Silk Legal, is recommended by Azmul Haque, managing director of Collyer Law in Singapore. “Jason is an intelligent lawyer who is business-savvy, as well as an entrepreneur at heart,” says Haque. “He is my go-to lawyer for Thailand matters.”

Elmer Muna, a partner at Walless in Tallinn, Estonia, agrees. “Jason Corbett has provided our clients with a high-quality insight into laws and legal opportunities in Thailand,” says Muna. “He has also helped our clients in putting together efficient cross-border solutions with companies in the EU.”

Warathorn Wongsawangsiri, a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, is highly regarded by Singapore-based Allen & Gledhill’s partner Ramesh Selvaraj, who places him among the top lawyers for dispute resolution and arbitration in Thailand.

“[Wongsawangsiri] shows maturity beyond his years, running and managing a tight ship of lawyers extremely well,” says Selvaraj. “He and his team are extremely responsive, provide sound advice, and hold the client’s hand right through the proceedings … I have no qualms recommending Warathorn to anyone who is in need of legal assistance.”

Stephen Cheong, advocate and solicitor at Sharpe & Jagger in Singapore, recommends Kudun Sukhumananda, founding partner of Kudun & Partners, as “one of Thailand’s prolific rainmakers, for he is extremely sharp, savvy and business-minded”.

Cheong also vouches for Pisut & Partners’ managing partner, Pisut Rakwong, for being “very versatile and consistently able to think out of the box. Very creative and dynamic.”

Rakwong is also applauded by Loh Kia Meng, senior partner and chief operating officer at Dentons in Singapore, for being “very responsive to enquiries and having a wide network of professionals”.

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 Thailand and around the world – as well as partners at international law firms – and asked them to tell us which lawyers should make the cut, and why.

Nominations were made by professionals at a wide range of Thai and global companies, financial institutions and law firms, including: Allen & Gledhill, ASLAN Pharma, b+b Burkhardt+Bischoff, BDB Taxise, BizWings Thailand, Berli Jucker, Cabinet Zazoua, Collyer Law, Consulthink, Dentons, Detecon, EGB Abogados, Enterprise Singapore, Ferrero Asia Pacific, Gruenkorn & Partner, Herrenknecht, ICON Wirtschaftstreuhand, JLL, Kelakos Advisors, KPMG Thailand, Krones Thailand, Leschaco (Thailand), Liebherr (Thailand), Maschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle, Mayer Brown, Miller Thomson, Minor International, Myo Win & Associates, NEC Capital Solutions, Nishimura & Asahi, Pinsent Masons MPillay, Piper Alderman, Röchling Automotive Asia, ROXCEL Trading, SCG, Sharpe & Jagger, SoftwareONE, Tanner De Witt, Taxise Asia, Torqeedo, TraTax, UOB Thailand, Vistra Singapore, Voith Hydro Shanghai, Walalangi & Partners, Walless, Western Digital Storage Technologies (Thailand), WTS Consulting, and many more. Thorough editorial research followed the nomination process.

The final list reflects the nominations received, combined with 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.

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