When we were just starting our business in Thailand we had to find the right law firm to help us create our company and walk us through all the different legal steps.
We found a lot of them through recommendations, forums and online search and after meeting with a bunch of them we have observed there are different types of law firms here.
These are not official categories and that there may be many companies that fit into more than one of the categories below (or none at all). However, it is useful as a general overview.
Differences between different types of lawyers and law firms can include language skills, ethical views and values, legal skills, business processes, communication habits and, of course, the rates they charge. In general, there is a positive correlation between rates and everything else, but that doesn’t mean that all cheap lawyers are problematic and all expensive lawyers are incredible.
Companies that take everyone
The catch-all companies offer small businesses everything they need, from accounting and incorporation to work permits and even will writing. These are generally local companies that focus on standardized work at fixed and affordable prices. They tend to be less familiar with more complex legal topics and may have limited English skills.
Companies of expatriates
Companies of expatriates specialize in consulting expatriates on everything from first contracts to incorporation. Their main advantages are relatively low rates and English-speaking staff. Disadvantages may include limited knowledge of more technical business issues and limited resources for individual client consultations.
Commercial companies have specialized lawyers on the payroll with corresponding hourly rates. Their clients range from start-ups to multinationals. They are also the firms that you will most often engage in litigation. Some of them are managed by Thais, others are more dominated by foreign lawyers.
Large law firms
Bangkok’s major law firms may not be the typical 1,000 London-based lawyers that people usually associate with mega firms. In Bangkok, even the largest firms have less than 200 lawyers on site. What distinguishes them (apart from their prices) are the representative offices not only in Thailand, but also in Asia and other continents. Multinational companies represent the largest part of their workload.
Small Specialized Firms
Small specialized firms tend to have only a handful of lawyers in the country and a focus in only one or two areas of practice. In many cases, the fewer practice areas they list, the more competent coverage they provide. One of their advantages is that you are more likely to see the actual partners perform the work for which you have hired them.
Choosing the right law firm in Thailand for you depends largely on the amount involved and the complexity of the subject. My personal preference is to have outlets at competitive prices to do the “procedural” work and at fixed prices that comes up regularly and to hire high-level lawyers from commercial and specialized law firms for everything that requires consultation (work, intellectual property, equity, taxation…).