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THAILAND'S LEGAL SYSTEM: REQUIREMENTS, PRACTICE, AND ETHICAL CONDUCT
By Charunun Sathitsuksomboon
Being a member of the Law Society of Thailand means a lawyer (member) must abide by the code of ethics, called the Regulation of the Law Society of Thailand on Lawyer's Ethics B.E. 2529 (AD 1986), which is overseen and supervised by the Committee on Professional Ethics.(11) The types of professional and ethical conduct described are:
(a) ethical conduct in court and towards the court, which generally means a lawyer can not refuse to represent a defendant when asked to do so by a judge in a criminal case UNLESS the lawyer has a justifiable reason, or act in any way that shows disrespect to the court, or act in contempt of court or to a judge, and/or cooperate directly or indirectly to forge documents or evidence. (b) towards the client: a lawyer can not encourage litigation without justifiable cause, threaten and/or mislead the client, and/or make false promises and/or reveal client's secrets and/or abandon a case intentionally. (c) towards fellow lawyers: a lawyer can not try to take another lawyer's client UNLESS there is consent by the previous lawyer, or there is justified cause to believe that the client has already withdrawn the former lawyer, or that the former lawyer has already rejected the client's case. (d) towards litigants in general: a lawyer can not make promises to people or pay them to bring in clients or to advertise legal service fees, or to advertise in a boastful way names, qualifications, position, residence, or office. (e) personal behavior: a lawyer should not behave contrary to good morals or jeopardize the good name of the legal profession. (f) appropriate attire: a lawyer shall dress modestly. A male lawyer shall wear suits of solid and somber colors (e.g. white, black, gray, blue); a female lawyer shall wear dresses in modest solid colors.
All members of the Law Society of Thailand must abide by the above Regulations. A breach constitutes professional misconduct. If any lawyer violates any of the professional ethics prescribed under the said Regulations, it may result in any of the three types of penalties: probation, suspension of practice not exceeding three years, or deletion of name from register.(12)
A lawyer's license is usually valid for 2 years from the date of issuance. Such a license can be renewed within 90 days prior to its expiration. To avoid periodic renewal, lawyers may apply for a "lifetime membership".
Regarding termination of a lawyer, the following matters can result in a lawyer's losing membership in the Law Society of Thailand:
(1) death; (2) notification of termination of practice; (3) failure to renew lawyer's license; (4) removal of name from register; or (5) disbarment.(13)
(11) Sections 54 and 55 of the Lawyers Act B.E. 2528 (AD 1985) provide as follows:
"Section 54. There shall be appointed a Committee on Professional Ethics composed of a Chairman, a Vice-Chairman and at least 7 other Committee members fixed by the Board.
Each Committee member shall be appointed by the Board from a pool of lawyers having the following qualifications:
(1) Having been a lawyer for a total period of not less than 10 years.
(2) Never having been subject to any disciplinary action or penalty on account of professional misconduct or excluded from the Register."
"Section 55. The appointment of the Committee members under Section 54 shall be effective only upon an approval of the Chancellor."
(12) Section 64 of the Lawyers Act B.E. 2528 (AD 1985) provides as follows:
"Section 64. An injured party or a lawyer may bring charge against another lawyer on account of breach of professional ethics. The charge must be made in writing to the Chairman of the Committee.
The right to bring charge under paragraph one shall be extinguished upon the lapse of one year after the knowledge of the breach and the alleged offender have become known to the person possessing such right, provided that the charge is brought within 3 years after the breach.
A withdrawal of the charge brought under the first paragraph shall terminate the case of breach of professional ethics only if such withdrawal is approved by the Committee's resolution passed by affirmative votes of not less than half of the total Committee members."
Generally, when a charge of professional misconduct is filed against any particular lawyer, the Committee on Professional Ethics will appoint an investigation team consisting of not less than 3 lawyers to investigate the case, and if they decide that the charge is a valid one, the case will be sent before the Disciplinary Committee consisting of at least 9 of its members. If the Disciplinary Committee decides that the facts established constitute unethical conduct, the Disciplinary Committee, with an order from the Board of Governors of the Law Society of Thailand, is empowered to decide and order according to the gravity of the offence, parole, suspension of practice for not more than 3 years, or deletion of name from register.
(13) Section 44 of the Lawyers Act B.E. 2528 (AD 1985)