BY THE BOOK

Thailand 2017 | EXECUTIVE GUIDE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dej-Udom Krairit, President of the Lawyers Council of Thailand, on the establishment of the council, evolution of the practice of law in Thailand, and diversifying away from pure litigation.

Dej-Udom Krairit
BIOGRAPHY
Dej-Udom Krairit is 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 has been a lecturer at the Thai Bar, Thammasat and Chulalongkorn universities, and the Lawyers Council of Thailand. He has written more than 100 articles and legal notes and two textbooks. 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, he 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 did not 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 the 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 entity under our own charter designated with the authority of enforcement of professional ethical rules and the promotion and enhancement of the legal profession, including welfare. 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 were 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 did not 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, with $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 have not 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 financial 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 we am registered, that is it; we do not 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 that we are trying to change. We cannot 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 its near complete dedication to litigation.