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Bad Lawyer Review: The case of the UNENGAGED lawyer

A good while ago we were in the process of buying and subdividing some land and had some need for a legal consultation + help in doing the transfer. Today would not go the lawyer route. At that time I stopped by a recommended Thai lawyer who was in the area, just to ask some basic questions. The land was already under contract and was scheduled to close in about 1 week. At the time before engaging the said lawyer (who was recommended by some acquaintances doing a large project + others on various other forums) I asked what the costs would be for the envisioned services….. the response ‘not much, don’t worry, not expensive’.

At that point he requested a copy of the chanote which was under contract. After he had a chance to consult/review with his staff we were going to meet again and he was going to make his proposal. Know it sounds awfully involved, but all it really was just me dropping in and him saying ‘not expensive, don’t worry’, ‘let me see the chanote’ and then come back later for follow up. No red lights yet. What could go wrong, nothing signed, had not engaged said lawyer, etc. etc. etc????

So, what did go wrong? Upon follow up visit (this time both went) was surprised to get a quote for legal work of about 400,000 baht for what we were expecting at most about 10,000 (even this may seem expensive, but in our area even a trip to the land office simple transfer is 5,000 standard, this particular transaction was more involved than that). Well, we almost had heart failure. Shocked at the suggestion. What was this UNENGAGED lawyer on? After a polite exit and later trip to the land office we found out (and subsequent telephone conversations with the lawyer).

The land office had ‘lost/misplaced’ the internal land folder. What most people don’t realize is that even if a buyer and seller show up to the land office with all their paperwork in order, the land office simply CANNOT do/complete the transfer unless they can find their internal folder for that land plot. What further came to light is our UNENGAGED legal advocate had taken it upon himself to meet with officials at the land office, whereby shortly thereafter, perhaps coincidentally, the internal folder went missing. The land office was quite helpful in assuring us that the said missing folder would be located within one weeks time.

What did it mean? That we could not complete the transfer by the end contract date, potentially the seller would be able to keep the deposit amount since this possibility had not been specifically referenced in the sales contract (ie. unable to transfer due to missing folder at the land office). In a telephone conversation, the UNENGAGED lawyer stressed his skill at being able to aid the land office in the location of missing documents.

While we did find the land office staff quite helpful and sympathetic during this 1 week time period, nothing further could be done to rush along the process. It ended up taking just 1 hour short of the 1 week time period to recover the missing folder.

Luckily we had a reasonable seller and everything in the end turned out OK. By the way, we did pay off the lawyer with a small amount for any work/inconvenience lost as we figured it was a small price to pay to become totally UNENGAGED from the UNENGAGED lawyer.

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