In the first of a new series identifying the movers and shakers that are making waves in legal markets around the region, Putro Harnowo looks at the outstanding work of Thai law firms on the rise

Thailand is a vibrant legal market thanks to the country’s economy, the second-largest in Southeast Asia and a significant player in the region’s cross-border supply chain. It is a busy and competitive legal market with a healthy mix of established local firms, leading global names and up-and-coming ones that are challenging the status quo.

Asia Business Law Journal’s inaugural Rising Stars series turns to Thailand’s legal market to shine a light on the challenger firms that are carving out a name for themselves.

In this time of uncertainty following the covid-19 pandemic, and as international markets remain highly volatile, Thailand has been a relatively bright spot. The first quarter of the year was busy with a few notable IPOs and M&A deals, and the firms in our list of Rising Stars have been playing an increasingly important role in these deals.

However, not all of our rising stars are new or boutique firms. Some of them have proven their prowess and have been around for decades, but are still making a mark with their innovative spirit. Others have either built a reputation in their specialty areas or have cemented their place with high-quality legal counsel and teams of experienced lawyers.

Encompassing all of this talent, Asia Business Law Journal presents “Rising Stars: Thailand” to honour the country’s law firms that are on their way to becoming undisputed market leaders.

WHAT IS A RISING STAR FIRM?

While the Rising Stars are of varying vintage and size, the common denominator is they are all on an upward trajectory. This could be because they are widening their areas of key expertise, or due to a recent reorientation of the firm’s strategy, or because the firm is reaping the rewards of its hard work. Law firms typically have at their helms, or within their ranks, lawyers who can draw in the clients, and it is no different in Thailand. All of our Rising Star firms also have strong leaders who have made a name for themselves while building formidable firms.

LAW FIRMMANAGING PARTNER/NOTABLE LAWYERS
Ananda Intellectual PropertyFranck Fougere
Apisith & AllianceApisith John Sutham
The Capital Law OfficeChatri Trakulmanenate, Pakdee Paknara
Charin & AssociatesCharin Satchayan
Dherakupt International Law OfficeAnuphan Kinitchiva
ES CounselEkawat Piriyawarasakul
Frank Legal & TaxFabian Doppler
Herrera and PartnersJose Herrera
International Legal Counsellors Thailand (ILCT)Jayavadh Bunnag
Kudun & PartnersKudun Sukhumananda
LawPlusKowit Somwaiya
Pisut & PartnersPisut Rakwong
Satyapon & PartnersSatyapon Sachdecha
Silk LegalJason Corbett
Thanathip & PartnersThanathip Pichedvanichok

Note: Firms are listed alphabetically and not in rank order

STOCK SAVIOURS

Founded in 2013 by a legal team with more than 20 years’ experience, The Capital Law Office focuses on capital markets, corporate and M&A, and corporate governance within Thailand and Southeast Asia. Earlier this year, the five-partner firm made a breakthrough by advising Thailand’s largest retailer, Central Retail Corporation (CRC), in the country’s largest IPO to date with THB78.1 billion (US$2.52 billion).

“The Capital Law Office should be a rising star in respect of capital market fields, [with the firm’s] recent IPO for Central Group,” says Passawan Navanithikul, partner at Weerawong, Chinnavat & Partners. Central Group is one of Thailand’s major conglomerates and CRC is a subsidiary.

“The Capital Law Office, and Kudun & Partners, have quite strong teams of lawyers and good Thai clientele,” says Jessada Sawatdipong, co-managing partner at Chandler MHM in Bangkok.

Kudun & Partners has been growing significantly since its establishment in 2015 by four young partners. The founding partner, Kudun Sukhumananda, who was formerly a partner at Weerawong Chinnavat & Partners, has extensive experience in capital markets, M&A, banking and finance, and real estate.

The firm has 11 partners and more than 40 associates serving private and public corporations across the full spectrum of industries. The firm launched a China business unit in 2018, headed by partner Mayuree Sapsutthiporn, to cater to increasing demand from Chinese clients.

“As to Thailand’s up-and-coming law firms, the rising stars, only one name comes to my mind: Kudun & Partners,” says Jirapong Sriwat, a partner at Nishimura & Asahi (Thailand) in Bangkok. “I come across them from time to time, since they [the partners] were at Weerawong Chinnavat & Partners. They are professionals and growing very fast.”

The firm recently advised Thai Solar Energy on the first transferable subscription rights (TSR) offering in Thailand to date, and represented B Grimm Power in issuing the largest IPO in Thailand in 2017, valued at US$371.6 million.

thai law firmsPisut & Partners was established in Bangkok in 2016 by Pisut Rakwong, who has extensive experience in the hotels and hospitality, corporate, commercial, labour and employment, and property sectors. The 16-lawyer firm now has well-established connections with international law firms across Southeast Asia and around the globe.

“We have been working with Khun Pisut [Rakwong] for some time now, and have found him extremely responsive and knowledgeable,” says S Jong, committee chair of Thai property developer, the River Condominium in Bangkok.

The firm recently advised the shareholders of a Thai-listed company on the disposal of shares valued at THB10.16 billion, and represented leading Malaysian hotel operator Ri-Yaz Group on its US$17 million acquisition of a four-star hotel in Koh Samui, Thailand, from Japanese investors.

Founded in 2005 by Thanathip Pichedvanichok, who serves as managing partner, Thanathip & Partners has in a short time built a track record that proves its reputation among marquee clients. It has risen to the top echelons of legal practice in Thailand, and this three-partner full-service firm has done notable work in M&A, corporate finance, capital markets, foreign direct investment, banking and finance, and securities and corporate, powered with a team of 27 associates.

Last year, the firm advised Bangkok Commercial Asset Management (BAM) and the Financial Institutions Development Fund (FIDF) in connection with BAM’s IPO, which raised THB31 billion, the country’s biggest privatization to date and the largest IPO of a financial institution in Southeast Asia.

The firm also represented property developer Central Pattana (CPN) in its joint venture with MEA Commercial Holdings in a THB1 billion investment for a retail outlet named Central Village.

INTERNATIONAL VISION

ES Counsel specializes in complex dispute resolution matters. The firm was founded in 2014 by experienced litigators with decades of experience in international and other well-known law firms in Thailand. The co-founder and managing partner, Ekawat Piriyawarasakul, leads eight lawyers in the firm to represent various international organizations in diverse industries. Its scope of services focuses primarily on litigation and arbitration.

“Though there are many new law firms established in recent years, most of them are still at the starting stage, and do not show much potential yet,” observes Nathapong Tongkaew, a partner at Domnern Somgiat & Boonma in Bangkok. “There may be one firm that looks outstanding to me, ES Counsel. According to my understanding, the firm also provides good investigation services, including on some complicated issues, e.g., internal fraud committed by employees and breach of fiduciary duty at a high level,” he says.

Frank Legal & Tax was established in 2012 by Fabian Doppler, a German lawyer who had previously practised for international law firms in Germany and Thailand. Starting with a strong emphasis on real estate and transactions, the firm shifted to corporate and commercial law, and grew quickly into a medium-sized business law firm.

The Bangkok office now comprises seven licensed lawyers specializing in investment, corporate and real estate, most notably in advising international clients setting up their businesses in the country. From 2019 to mid-2020, the firm advised a German institutional investor in the establishment of a portfolio in Thailand, represented an Italian manufacturer in its THB300 million greenfield investment, and advised a German energy company on setting up biogas energy plants.

Herrera and Partners, founded in 2019 by Jose Herrera, focuses on corporate and litigation. Herrera is a lawyer with dual nationality – Spanish and Argentinian – who has worked in jurisdictions including Malaysia, Poland, Spain and Latin America. The four-lawyer firm in Bangkok serves local and foreign corporations, entrepreneurs, governments, high networth individuals, wealthy families, banks and publicly listed companies.

Dherakupt International Law Office (DRKI) was established in 2004 in Bangkok by Anuphan Kinitchiva, bringing his 30 years of experience in taxation and business law. The 30-lawyer firm with five partners is now focusing on providing services in tax and commercial law to local and multinational clients.

REGIONAL NETWORKS

International Legal Counsellors Thailand (ILCT) was founded by US lawyer Charles Warren Kirkwood in Bangkok in 1966, and has been through various transformations. The firm has an Asian office alliance with Russin & Vecchi, with offices in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Taipei. The full-service law firm is currently led by managing partner Jayavadh Bunnag, with a team of next-generation lawyers advising in an ever-changing legal landscape.

“ILCT started in 1966, so they are not a new law firm of course, but their next generation are dynamic and are reinvigorating the firm: implementing innovative technologies, going into new practices, and going regional,” says Cho Pei Lin, managing director at Asia PR Werkz in Singapore.

“They have been working a fair bit with our partners, in the ASEAN region and globally. Partners to look out for are Mallika Margherita, Palawi Bunnag, and Ratinuch Kawnachaimongkol.”

thai law firmsThe six-lawyer firm LawPlus was established in Bangkok in 2003 by Kowit Somwaiya, who serves as managing partner. The firm grew significantly in the region and expanded its operation to Vietnam through an associate firm, PLF Law Firm, in 2009, and later opened LawPlus Myanmar in Yangon, in 2013.

The firm specializes in banking and finance, corporate and commercial, M&A, and intellectual property (IP). It advised a German bank on a US$52 million revolving credit facility to a Thai company, and a German bank on claiming for THB210 million and THB180 million, respectively, in bankruptcy cases against two Thai finance companies.

PATENT AND PROPERTY CHAMPIONS

IP infringement has been a severe problem in Thailand, and the US had the country on its Priority Watch List for IP protection since 2007. But the country has made tremendous efforts in refining its trademark-related legislation, which eventually led to the US removing Thailand from this list in 2017.

Following this development, the country is working to transform itself into the region’s innovation and digital hub, announcing a national strategy called Thailand 4.0 in 2018, and opening up plenty of opportunities for technology and IP lawyers. A few boutique and specialized law firms have taken up this challenge.

One of the most notable firms is Satyapon & Partners, which was founded by Satyapon Sachdecha in 1995, bringing his more than 30 years of expertise in IP law. The full-service IP firm comprises three partners and more than 25 IP attorneys.

The firm provides advice in all areas of IP law including prosecution and enforcement of patents, trademarks, designs and copyright, as well as IP searches and watches, assignment, licensing, franchising, regulatory approvals, investigation and litigation.

Mid-sized independent commercial law firm Apisith & Alliance was founded in Bangkok in 2002 by Apisith John Sutham, who has extensive experience representing Thai and foreign clients in anti-dumping and safeguard investigations. The firm is recognized for its work in corporate and commercial transactions, M&A, commercial arbitration and IP.

One of the prominent cases the firm advised was the trademark cancellation filed by Bridgestone against Thai company Deestone. In May, the firm advised Thai medical technology and device company, Vascular, in its business acquisitions by major Indian company Sahajanand Medical Technologies.

Another IP-focused boutique law firm that has shone in recent years is Ananda Intellectual Property, which was established in 2011 in Bangkok by Franck Fougere, who has been practising IP in Thailand since 2003. Partner Danai Triamchanchuchai serves as a key adviser of Ananda IP on trademarks and contracts. The firm’s international network has a broad IP practice supported by experts in China and around the region.

Welcoming the digital era, Jason Corbett founded Silk Legal in 2015, specializing in regulation surrounding business, technology and blockchain. The boutique law firm stays focused on modern and upcoming legal trends in Thailand, strengthen by the experience of its 10 lawyers in cross-border insolvency and restructuring, M&A and commercial transactions.

Backed by a strong and long history of tourism promotion, Thailand has a property market that entices many foreign investors, yet complying with real estate law is not an easy task. Charin & Associates is notable for its work on real estate investment trusts (REITs). The managing partner, Charin Satchayan, has extensive experience, with involvement in several landmark transactions over a career of more than 25 years. The firm represented and advised Frasers Property Industrial REIT Management in connection with the acquisition of additional assets with a value of THB3.7 billion.

OUR METHODOLOGY

Asia Business Law Journal’s list of “Rising Stars: Thailand” was compiled following an extensive consultation exercise in which in-house counsel were invited to nominate Thai law firms, both new and established, that have either immediately impressed or recently reinvigorated themselves to become providers of top-class advice and representation.

Our final Rising Stars 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 Asia’s legal market.

All Thai law firms were eligible for consideration and, as always, there were no fees or any other requirements for being considered.