fivehundred magazine > > Interview with… Kudun Sukhumananda, Kudun & Partners

Interview with… Kudun Sukhumananda, Kudun & Partners

How has your role / involvement in client-facing work changed since setting up your firm?

Established since 2015, my role and the firm’s take have been the same since its inception; to be a legal service provider with a business mind. More than ever since our inception, we delve deep into understanding our client’s business and the root cause of their problems and find solutions to their problems. We still and firmly believe in shifting the traditional paradigm of offering more than just legal advice to our client, balancing our advice with commercial practicality and finding out-of-the-box remedies, and in return gaining the client’s trust and their confidence to continuously engage us for their legal matters.

Our rates are competitive in the market but at the same time, we provide flexibility for clients in providing different pricing options as we understand clients no longer find it justifiable to be paying through the nose for legal services.

Over five years, we have grown from just 4 partners to 11 partners with over 40 associates and 40 business support professionals. Senior lawyers from some of the largest international law firms such as Allen & Overy, Baker McKenzie, Herbert Smith Freehills and Hunton Andrews Kurth have since joined us because they believe in the same vision as Kudun and Partners. With them on board, we have expanded a full-service law firm, catering to the needs of our clients requiring a one-stop service solution provider in different areas of law including capital markets and securitization, corporate and commercial, financing, mergers & acquisitions, dispute resolution, litigation and arbitration, and tax and restructuring.

What are the biggest challenges facing firms in Asia Pacific and specifically in Thailand?

On the macro level, Asia Pacific has long been embroiled in an extended global policy uncertainty and trade distortion due to geopolitics, impacting the way businesses are conducted in Asia Pacific. The biggest challenges currently faced by firms in Asia Pacific — stiff competition and pricing pressure. Due to the tremendous growth in Asia Pacific over the years, led by China, India and Indonesia, global firms have been looking toward this region for expansion. With the influx of businesses pouring into Asia Pacific and specifically in Thailand, we have seen the entrance of global and regional law firms taking advantage of the burgeoning need for legal services. Of recent, we have seen Nishimura and Asahi’s acquisition of SCL Group, Thailand to further expand their presence in the kingdom, causing many law firms focusing on Japanese clients scrambling to keep their clients.

With the COVID19 pandemic turning the world upside down, firms are further strained to keep up with their existing overheads and ensuring profitability. It is no longer easy to be demanding billable hours nor continue to serve only your existing clients. It is becoming critically important to have the ability to expand to cover new blue ocean practices and innovate.

The global pandemic has clearly changed the way in which organizations tend to operate. What impact has this had on your clients and your approach to advising clients?

Based on WorldBank’s latest update, Thailand’s GDP is expected to shrink by at least 5 percent in 2020 and will take more than two years to return to pre-COVID-19 GDP output levels. While many Thai companies are trying hard to sustain their business with hopes of weathering the storm, some are taking a hard stance to re-organize and re-strategize their long terms plans. Some industries which are directly impacted by the pandemic are forcing companies to reconsider their business model. We have been approaching our clients, both existing and new, to reevaluate plans intended for expansion or fund raising, and to consider restructuring their business to be more sustainable and pandemic proof, and to diversify their reliance on a single source of income.

What do you do differently from other firms? What do you think separates you from your competitors?

We treat our clients like partners. We believe we are only successful when our clients have successfully achieved their goals. We ultimately want to solve our client’s problems, not merely just be a legal advisor. We continuously add value to our services, as we draw upon strategic and commercially sound advice from our senior partners in our core practices; Banking and Finance, Capital Markets, Corporate and M&A, Dispute Resolution, and Tax and Restructuring. We believe with every problem, there is an opportunity in disguise and we help find that for our clients.

On the inside, our four mottos are:

· Passion – We are passionate in our client’s business and are focused on providing the best of services and commitment for excellence to our clients.

· Daring – We believe for every problem, there is an opportunity in disguise. We dare to offer the most compelling and innovate solutions for our clients.

· Family – We have a highly collegial working environment. Our senior partners are always available to assist our lawyers whether it is a client-facing or personal matter. We communicate both ways.

· Respect – We respect the needs, motivations and expectations of everyone we work with.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

As rules and regulations continue to evolve to adapt to the new normal with increased demand for service excellence, law firms are no longer seen by companies as an outsourced entity providing third party services only when needed, but part of a company. By understanding our client’s business deep down, fostering a relationship beyond business but friendship, we can then only offer the best solutions to them.

Our firm has grown exponentially over the years and while many companies have frozen their headcount or retrenched employees in this situation, we still retained our headcount as we believe our employees are our asset and without the family and friendship we have fostered over the years, we are nothing. In three years’ time, I foresee further growth in headcount, recruiting experts from different practices we are lacking and further expansion in practice areas that we have yet to cover. At this moment, we have just launched our new Startup practice in collaboration with a startup advisor and a financial advisor, aptly called Entrepreneur Advisory Center that primarily focuses on helping Startups achieve their goals through a single point of resource.

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