Feb. 16, 2016


Dej-Udom Krairit

Thailand

Dej-Udom Krairit

President, Lawyers Council of Thailand

"We are the largest single professional association in ASEAN."

BIO

As an attorney, Dej-Udom Krairit has been actively involved in local and international legal practice and academia for 48 years and is now serving his third three-year term as President of the Lawyers Council of Thailand. He is a past President of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (1999-2000) and is currently a Foreign Affairs Director and Member of Committee of the Thai Bar. He also serves as counsel to numerous multinational companies and is involved with a number of international organizations including the International Trademark Association and the Union International des Avocats. In the early 1980s, he served two consecutive terms as Vice President of the Association of Asian Patent Attorneys (APAA) and is a current APAA council member. Over the past 36 years, he has been a lecturer at the Thai Bar, at Thammasat and Chulalongkorn Universities, and at the Lawyers Council of Thailand. He has written more than 100 articles and legal notes and two textbooks, “Investment laws in International Market” over 400 pages and “Financial Transactions in International Trade” also over 400 pages. He has also compiled and edited the Supreme Court’s precedent cases and the Trademark Committee’s decisions on the Trademark, Patent, and Copyright Acts. In 2009, Dej-Udom received an LLD (Hon) from Thammasat University.

What was behind the inception of the Lawyers' Council of Thailand over 30 years ago?

The Lawyers Council of Thailand separated from the Thai Bar in 1985 because at that time professional lawyers felt strongly that we didn't receive fair treatment under the joint leadership of the President of the Supreme Court, the President of the Court of Appeals, and the Attorney General. In a committee comprised of 27 members, only five of those members were lawyers, meaning we were a minority in that administration and, therefore, we felt unfairly treated. The prominent senior lawyers at that time supported independence and we pushed for the draft Lawyer Act in Parliament from about 1976 to 1985. We finally succeeded in getting the Lawyer Act of 1985 in place. Overall, it took us a while, almost 10 years, to become free and independent. We are now the special juristic person under our own charter designated with the authority of enforcement of professional ethical rules and the promotion and enhancement of the lawyer profession, including welfare, for example. In short, we are the sole authority overseeing the legal practice of all lawyers—over 81,000 attorneys in Thailand—and we are the central organization of all professional lawyers in Thailand. Initially, we were under the Court of Appeals IX for the whole legal profession; however, now we are truly independent. My colleagues and I are elected from lawyers throughout the country, and our term is three years with only two consecutive terms allowed. All 23 of us, including the president, are fully elected through public elections.

How has the practice of law evolved over the years in Thailand?

When we started our own administration, our biggest issue was that we didn't have any money; therefore, we used our own funding for registration fees and tuition fees, for example. Today, we have invested a great deal into our own construction, $20 million in loans to finance our new office due to be completed in 2016. In our first 10 years, we concentrated on trying to establish more independent and stable legal practices and to raise funding. In terms of practice, most of the legal profession in Thailand is based on litigation, more than 90%. We haven't yet enhanced legal counseling much; however, we are planning about 33 legal counseling courses across all segments. The coming trend of practicing law in Thailand is that we will encourage our professional colleagues to look into future business. We want them to get involved with legal practices in terms of providing legal counseling for all sectors of society, be it finance or sports. Currently, most practices are based on litigation, and more than 60% of that is criminal. I want to encourage branching out from litigation to counseling. We also need to learn and then practice more in English because the official language of ASEAN is English. Thailand was never colonized; therefore, we never really studied or learned English on a large scale.

The key purpose of ASEAN is to increase business activity. Do you think legal cases being overwhelmingly criminal will give way to more commercial legal practices and cases?

To diversify away from pure litigation law, there are 33 new legal counseling courses across all segments that we are trying to promote. In Thailand, it is unfortunate that we have a lifetime permit when we qualify for the legal profession. Once I am registered, that is it; I don't need to take any more compulsory legal studies, which is a shame because it prevents us from evolving, adapting, learning, and becoming flexible in other forms and areas of law. This is something we are trying to change. We can't do it right now, at least not with the current set of lawyers. The legal counseling market will also have to grow, and this will create a healthier and more dynamic legal sector for Thailand, shifting it from a near complete dedication to litigation.

What are your expectations and goals for 2016?

We will move into new offices, into which we have invested $20 million. It's about a 7,700sqm office, which is modern and will accommodate 1,000 people, with a 500-person capacity lecture hall. We are the largest single professional association in ASEAN. We need all the space we can get. We will continue to encourage the legal profession to study and diversify more and to take our 33 courses to branch out from litigation and practice in other areas. This will benefit lawyers, their firms, and the country in general.

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