A Bangkok-based regional law firm says it will expand to Cambodia in the coming weeks, despite the local bar association’s renewed drive to clamp down on foreign lawyers practising “illegally” in the country.
Law firm Tilleke & Gibbins said it expected to enter the legal scene around July, focusing mostly on helping multinational firms register their products in Cambodia.
“With Cambodia’s recent accession to the Madrid Protocol, now is an exciting time for the development of the country’s IP [intellectual property] laws,” said Tilleke & Gibbins spokesperson Andrew Stoutley.
Tilleke & Gibbins said it was well aware of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia’s (BAKC) campaign against foreign lawyers providing legal services without registering with the local bar.
“We understand and fully respect the local regulatory requirements set forth by the Cambodian Bar Association, and therefore our primary focus after we open our office will be on providing advice related to intellectual property,” the firm said. “When necessary, we will collaborate with licensed Cambodian lawyers to deliver the legal services required by our clients.”
“We have to be careful because we’re not going to trespass on the licensed lawyers work.”
However, Ly Tayseng, president of local firm HBS Law and former secretary-general of the BAKC, said practising intellectual property law still required foreign firms to register.
“Providing advice on IP law is legal advice, so it should be covered by the Law on the Bar,” he said. “I think Cambodia has a lot of qualified lawyers who can speak very good English – I don’t see IP as a kind of too- complicated issue that they [foreign lawyers] must come and help. I think that view is completely wrong.”
Current BAKC president Bun Honn – who declined to comment specifically on Tilleke & Gibbons – told the Post that the issue of dealing with unregistered foreign lawyers was still under discussion at the Bar’s council.
“In response, we would like to reiterate that we are fully committed to ensuring that all of our business activities in Cambodia comply with local regulations,” Stoutley, the law firm’s spokesman, said in an email.
The BAKC recently pushed for more action on the issue, publishing a letter in April from a judge informing all city and provincial prosecutors to “eliminate the anarchy” of foreign lawyers operating illegally.