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EXPATRIATE VICKERY FINDS SUCCESS IN THAILAND
|by Larry Teitelbaum|
When Harold K. Vickery, Jr., L’66 decided to start a law firm in Thailand in 1975, he consulted an astrologer for an auspicious date on which to open his practice.
Vickery has been following local custom and adapting his education to a different culture and legal system ever since.
His firm, Vickery & Worachai Ltd., provides legal advice to businesses on matters such as financing, contracting and regulatory issues. Areas of specialty include energy, communications and intellectual property rights. The rise of multinational corporations makes him a sought-after counselor for American and other foreign businesses operating in Thailand who need expert advice on Thai law and jurisprudence. And make no mistake; Thailand’s legal system is worlds’ apart from America’s. Civil Law rules the country and bureaucrats have wide latitude in interpretation.
Into this exotic landscape walked Vickery 35 years ago – entirely by happenstance. To fulfill his military obligation, Vickery enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as the Vietnam War escalated. After a year stationed in North Dakota he was reassigned to a base in Thailand, where he adjudicated claims arising from U.S. Air Force actions that injured local people or damaged their property. In 1969, he was also one of the first military judges appointed – a position under which he presided at court martial hearings. When he left the service in 1971, Vickery, enraptured by the country, decided to stay on.
It was a smart career move. He spent but two years as an associate at a firm before striking out on his own. Judging from his partners at the time – a retired Thai Supreme Court Justice, a provincial court judge and Pramuan Thongbu, who earned his LL.M. at Penn Law in 1982 - he created a high-powered firm.
Similarly, Vickery’s pedigree as a Penn Law alumnus puts him in good company. “For more than twenty years the United States has been a magnet for Thai students,” Vickery says. “Penn Law has attracted only a few to the LL.M. program, but they are among the best and the brightest. Penn’s small, but select, group of Thai graduates have become leaders in Thailand’s judiciary and bar.” Penn Law numbers approximately forty Thai nationals among its graduates, and what an influential group they are: Supreme Court justices, judges, managing directors, partners and professors.
Vickery traces his interest in Penn Law to a University of Pennsylvania sociology professor who spent his summers in Massachusetts next door to Vickery and his family in the 1950s and 1960s. The professor promoted Penn to him, and Vickery enthusiastically pursued entrance. Vickery says Penn Law taught him how to think, research and analyze legal issues – valuable tools no matter where you practice law.
Although basic legal principles stand firm, Vickery practices in a much different environment than when he began in 1972. “There are a lot more lawyers practicing today than when I started out,” Vickery says. “In addition, an explosion of firms with multinational practices has made expertise in many areas of law available almost anywhere.”
Nonetheless, Vickery says, there’s still a place for homegrown knowledge. “True, the legal profession has gone global, but products provided usually remain local.”
Whether you are in Bangkok or Boston.