There is a saying that it’s better to give than to receive, which could have been written for Eurojuris member firm Kamthorn Surachet & Somsak, where the culture of giving to others lies at the heart of its practice.
And the firm’s focus of putting the interests of others first, with a strategy of ‘sustainable practice’, has seen it play the role of partner and supporter to its clients and colleagues during the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thailand is located at the centre of ASEAN having about the same land area as Spain or France, consisting of two broad geographic areas: a larger main section in the north and a smaller peninsular extension in the south, with a population of some 68 million people, almost 16% of whom live in the capital Bangkok. Cultures and traditions are steeped in spirituality and the population is predominantly Buddhist. Now Southeast Asia's second-largest economy, Thailand has grown to become a World Bank ‘middle-income’ country and since 2016 is focused on attracting investment in high-tech manufacturing and services.
Kamthorn Surachet & Somsak is a full-service firm with 40 staff including 29 lawyers, working mainly with international clients, building long term relationships that have seen second and third generation contacts developed since the firm was founded in 1984.
One of the founding partners, Kamthorn Ounhirunskul, says: “We attract corporate clients and also premium global law firms looking for local expertise. Our motto, and the principle of all our practice, is to look after our clients’ interests above our own, so they stay with us for the long term.”
Kamthorn’s background is in tax, investment and intellectual property, acquisitions and joint ventures and he trained in international trade & practice during an internship in Washington DC.
And just as Kamthorn served an internship overseas, so his firm now hosts interns from around the world, including the US, Canada and the UK, as well as Thailand. “We are committed to providing a learning experience for young people coming through and to encourage them to have belief in their abilities,” he explains. Most important for the firm is finding a shared philosophy with the aspiring lawyers, who can identify with the culture of giving.
This philosophy runs through the pragmatic approach taken by the Thai firm to the challenges thrown up by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Anuchai Autchayawat, fellow partner and joint chief executive of the firm, adds: “For international matters there have been delays on many contracts and agreements while borders have been closed, from the impact on due diligence to supply chain disruption creating shortages and affecting cashflow. Our role has been helping to identify how to lubricate the process and get things moving. Despite the impact on our earnings, we walk hand in hand with the client during these difficult times and look at our long-term partnership.”
This approach is reflected with staff, too. Where income slowed down, the partners focused on necessities, which included protecting the earnings of junior colleagues, recognising they are more likely to have higher commitments and lower reserves.
Kamthorn first became involved with Eurojuris in 2019 when he was invited to help launch the Asiajuris initiative, and became the inaugural president for the network’s new Asia hub. As he explains: “I was invited to help launch Asiajuris and before giving my decision I went along to the first congress in Dubai. I was so impressed by the people I met there. Despite coming from practices across many different cultures, I found a common quality: they were proactive and sincere.”
Since that first visit to Dubai, Kamthorn has been a regular participant in both Asiajuris and Eurojuris, visiting Slovenia and Frankfurt. While the last year has forced events online, the activity continues to help Kamthorn build strong relationships with members around the world.
As he says: “The events are very enjoyable and being active in the relevant practice groups brings valuable learning. It also builds strong connections: I checked the figures and see that even with the challenges of this last year, we have had 21 referrals from other network members.”
It’s a result which demonstrates how business contingency planning can benefit from a philosophy of putting others first.