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THAILAND'S LEGAL SYSTEM: REQUIREMENTS, PRACTICE, AND ETHICAL CONDUCT
By Charunun Sathitsuksomboon
II. THE PRACTICE OF LAW IN THAILAND
This section is divided into three parts: (A) Thai Lawyers: Membership, Requirements, and Regulations, which discusses the requirements for candidates who want to practice law in Thailand; (B) Thai Judges: Membership, Requirements and Regulations, which explores the requirements and conditions a candidate must meet in order to become a judge in Thailand; and (C) Thai Public Prosecutors: Membership, Requirements and Regulations, which explores the requirements and conditions a candidate must meet in order to become a public prosecutor in Thailand.
A. Lawyers: Membership, Requirements, and Regulations
The Lawyers Act B.E. 2528 (AD 1985) defines a lawyer as "a person who has been registered as a lawyer, and a license has been issued to him or her by the Law Society of Thailand." Therefore, no one can become a lawyer or practice law in Thailand without an education in law, registration, and a license to practice. Unlike the United Kingdom, lawyers in Thailand are not divided into barristers and solicitors, nor are they required to pass a bar examination as they would be in the United States.
The Law Society of Thailand(8) operates to promote, educate, and supervise its members. To become a member of the Law Society of Thailand, an individual must meet certain educational requirements and be a lawyer as defined in the Lawyers Act. Educational requirements for membership in the Law Society of Thailand are that a candidate must have obtained a Bachelor's Degree in law (LL.B) or an Associate Degree in law or a certificate in law equivalent to a Bachelor's Degree or Associate Degree, from an educational institution accredited by the Law Society of Thailand. Further, the individual must also be a member of the Thai Bar Association.(9)
To be registered and to obtain a lawyer's license, in most cases the candidate must complete training in professional ethics and the basic principles of advocacy and the legal profession. The training course, run by the Institute of Law Practice Training of the Law Society of Thailand, is usually divided into two terms. In the first term, the candidate has to learn the theory of case conduct and professional ethics for not less than 90 hours. In the second term, he/she must practice working in a qualified law office for at least six months. An examination will be held at the end of each term. After completion of the training course, a candidate may apply for membership in the Law Society of Thailand.(10) An exception to the training course is given to candidates who have been an apprentice in a law firm for over a year and have passed an examination specified by the Board of Governors of the Law Society of Thailand.
(8) The Law Society of Thailand was legally established in 1985. The organizational structure of the Law Society of Thailand, its Board of Governors and members, its objectives, and its powers and duties, are prescribed by the Lawyers Act B.E. 2528 (AD 1985).
(9) Please see below under Section III the classes of membership in the Thai Bar Association.
(10) Section 35 of the Lawyers Act B.E. 2528 (AD 1985) provides as follows:
"Section 35. An applicant for registration and a License shall have the following qualifications: (1) being of Thai nationality; (2) being at least twenty years of age; (3) having a Bachelor's Degree or an Associate Degree in law or a certificate in law equivalent to a Bachelor's Degree or Associate Degree from an educational institute accredited by the Law Society of Thailand, and must be a member of the Thai Bar Association; (4) not being a person of indecent behavior or delinquent morals or a person whose conduct is indicative of dishonesty; (5) not being imprisoned by a final judgment; (6) never having been imprisoned by a final judgment for an offence which, in the Board's discretion, will impair the integrity of the profession; (7) not being bankrupt by a final judgment; (8) not having an ailment which is contagious and repugnant to the public; (9) not being physically disabled or mentally infirmed which may cause professional incompetence; (10) not being a government official or a local government official with permanent salary and position except a political official."