Thailand undoubtedly plays host to innumerable foreign nationals either working for some multinational companies operating in the country or as retirees. Over the course of their stay in Thailand, there are times that the services of a legal professional would be sought for advice and legal assistance – it could be a matter concerning visa, immigration, work-permit, marriage, real estate or property, and others. Without full knowledge of the local laws, it would be difficult for any foreign national to do things not worrying if such actions have legal consequence or not.
The good thing about Thailand is that it caters to such need as there are a number of law firms offering legal assistance and services to foreigners. However, it is important that the foreign national understand the various types of law firms and legal service providers as against the nature of the legal assistance they need in order to make sure that they end up with the law firm that would be able to accomplish the legal objectives and minimize if not eliminate the risks of being legally pursued in Thailand.
The following is a general guideline one can use when the need for law firm or legal assistance arises. Based on the legal issues to be addressed, there are different types of organizations and businesses offering legal assistance in the Kingdom of Thailand.
These local law firms are competent and effective in local litigation and handling cases involving issues within the Thai judicial system. For many of these firms, they tend to restrict their services to local Thai nationals and businesses. They don’t often solicit business from foreign nationals due mainly to language barrier. Their field of expertise and experience is often concentrated in Thai matters involving Thai nationals. In many cases, the local law firms do not have the expertise, background and experience in legal issues relevant to foreign nationals working, doing business, or living in Thailand. The local law firms have competent and capable trial lawyers but may not be able to handle the case of foreign clients because of language barrier.
The fact that there are innumerable foreign nationals living, working or doing business in Thailand, a number of international law firms were set up in order to cater to the needs of the foreign nationals who may have some issues with Thai law in many different areas. International law firms operating in Thailand are usually directly or indirectly affiliated with big-named multinational law firms. These firms assist multinational corporations with extensive overseas legal issues. Many of the clients of these international law firms are corporate rather than private individuals or small-to-medium enterprises. The expertise of the lawyers providing services for international law firms are on commercial, securities, trade, intellectual property, and corporate matters.
Some law firms in Thailand try to bridge the gap between local law firms serving local Thai nationals with local law issues and international law firms serving corporate clients on matters involving foreign and local laws in commerce, trade, etc. Hence, there are local law firms that have engaged a foreign partner or associate to act as a bridge or liaison between local lawyers and foreign clients. This type of law firm helps foreign nationals with legal cases involving local laws – marriage, work permit, visa requirements, etc. The presence of a foreign partner or associate eliminates the language barrier problem as they are able to communicate well in English making the discussion process with the client a lot easier.
This type of law firm is considered a less expensive alternative outside the range of traditional law firms and they are referred to as pseudo law firms or legal service providers. In general, these firms are operated by Thai or foreign nationals who are non-lawyers. The services they provide may be useful to clients depending on the circumstances of the case. These firms are able to provide very basic assistance which does not demand legal expertise and experience. They may or may not have licensed lawyers or may be working with Thai licensed lawyers in collaboration and not as their staff. The type of legal assistance pseudo law firms can handle usually involves consumer issues, business brokerage and the like. Dealing with pseudo law firms must be done with great caution as clients may end up in more legal trouble if advised wrongly by the non-lawyers in these firms.