David Lyman is one of the senior partners with the law firm of Tilleke and Gibbins, the oldest (since 1893) and largest independent law firm in Thailand and which, commencing in 1989, opened offices in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Phnom Penh. Lyman lives the law, he eats it, it consumes him, he embodies it and at Tilleke and Gibbins he is the law. Scott Murray had an opportunity to sit down and talk with the noted solicitor.
You have written and delivered a lot of addresses on the environment - how do you see the state of general environmental awareness in Thailand today?
you go through the environmental educational process you will realize that
stage one of indoctrination is to make people aware of the problems and the
needs. Certainly people are a lot more aware today than they were just
a few years ago. So now they are saying "OK, You have my
attention. What am I supposed to do?"
is a wealth of information out in the marketplace where people can find out
what they should be thinking about to help the environment and concurrently
maintain economic progress. An example is the Thailand Business Council for
Sustainable Development (TBCSD) (Iím one of the founder board members)
which is a group of the 60+ top companies in the country. Their CEOs or
appointed senior people participate and their companies look to ISO 14000
for guidance. For the middle-of-the-road, or small-to-medium-size companies
you have the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI), which acts as a
secretariat for the TBCSD but exists separately on its own and is an
and more importing countries are requiring compliance with the ISO standards
from their suppliers overseas. European firms seem to be more
environmentally concerned than the North Americans (remember Chernobyl). The
Germans are by far the most environmentally conscious of the Europeans, and
they have an enormous influence throughout Europe. Europe is more sensitive
as its forests, if not yet decimated, have been heavily damaged by such
things as acid rain, and its leaders, such as the former Norwegian prime
minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, are right there on the front line fighting
for environmental compliance.
Thailand there is growing grass roots interest now particularly from
upcountry people - villagers who want to save their forests, or villagers
who do not want dams built that disrupt their livelihoods. They have taken
to protesting against government sponsored projects which are viewed as
disruptive, economic or ecological disasters or otherwise unproductive or
which are just treasure troves for draining by corrupt politicians,
bureaucrats and businesspersons.
did you become a lawyer?
a youth I shunned the idea of becoming a lawyer. For 3 generations my
heritage was the legal profession. My father was a lawyer; so was my mother,
two uncles, an aunt, and my grandfather, and so on. But I did everything I
could to avoid becoming a lawyer. Seeing the amount of time that my parents
put into the law, and their devotion to the practice of it, I realized the
law was an all consuming profession.
I became a submarine officer in the US Navy, having graduated from
university with an electrical engineering degree. I was brash and outspoken,
which free thinking style was acceptable only as long as I was just a junior
naval officer. But with those characteristics I knew I would evoke trouble
for myself as a more senior officer where and when you have to toe the line
much more. Back then in 1962 the Navy had a program whereby I could take an
indefinite leave of absence for up to three years with no loss of seniority
as long as I was enrolled in an educational institution. So I ventured out
to test the world before deciding whether or not to make a career out of the
U.S. Navy. My foray was to enter Hastings College
of the Law in San Francisco; after my first semester of this three year
course I knew I had finally found my calling. It was the law after all. I
have never regretted that decision.
do lawyers have such a bad reputation?
as a profession lawyers do have a tarnished reputation, deserved by some
individuals but certainly not by all. Very few people love lawyers (mothers
and some spouses excluded!). When a doctor fixes your problem there is a
tangible result as something in your body feels better. When a lawyer fixes
your problem he or she usually saves you from future problems or he or she
has gotten you out of a mess of some kind. Over the passage of time some
clients tend to believe, "Look, I really didn't need a lawyer in the
first place, why should I pay this guy? Why do I have to pay him
money." There is a cultural aversion in Asia to paying for any
services, much less legal services. But this long standing reluctance is
relaxing as services of all kinds are beginning to dominate the world of
business and development.
are foreigners not allowed to buy land in Thailand?
is a great deal of national pride surfacing when it comes to foreigners
buying land in Thailand. The Thai authorities are scared that many rich
foreigners will rush in and buy up lots of land thereby depriving Thais,
particularly rural people, of what is, in effect, their birthright.
other issues are really important to you right now?
I am on the World Economic Forumís ad hoc committee dealing with crime and
corruption. The World Economic Forum considered developing a set of
standards for businesses that have to deal with bribery and extortion. The
International Chamber of Commerce, headquartered in Paris, has already
developed guidelines in the form of the ICC Rules of Conduct for Preventing
Extortion and Bribery in International Business Transactions. I sit on the
ICC Standing Committee on Extortion and Bribery. Transparency International,
with its head office in Berlin, spends full time on corruption issues and
curbing this blight on the social fabric of our society.
are some Thais that you admire?
Surin Pitsuwan, the current foreign minister. Also, Dr Charoen Kanthawongs
who has been deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives; and Minister
of Science, Technology and Environment, and is currently chairman of the
House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee. He works with us as
ď Of CounselĒ. I also admire past Bangkok Governor Bichit Rattakul who
is dedicated to environmental causes, and was elected on that platform. And,
Anand Panyarachun, ex-Prime Minister, Meechai Viravaidya, and Khun Ying
Kalaya Soponpanich, of course, among many others. These are all personal
friends of mine.
You are an avid photographer. What places do you like to shoot and why, and how long can you go away for?
areas such as Tibet, and parts of Western China, Nepal and New Zealand,
Australia and Pakistan attract me because there are still great natural
settings there. Bali is also a photographer's paradise as every place you
look is a picture postcard. My trips last for about twelve days; any longer
than that and I get nervous about the state of the law firm.
about your hobbies, health and the things you still want to do?
am interested in alternative medicine and developing a storehouse of
knowledge about the mind, body, spirit, managing stress, coping with aging
and developing the potential power of the mind. I've studied a bit about
Reiki, which is a healing process for both self-healing and with others. It
is a meditation process developed by a Japanese scholar using the chakras
and old Tibetan techniques. Tai
Chi (Taiji)/Chi Qong (Chi Kung) are disciplines Iíd like to study.
realize that I won't be around forever. So I am working to prepare the law
firm for its leadership position in the 21st century. After many
years at its head, it is time for me to step aside so that the firm will be
able to survive and thrive under new partners without me. Eventually I want
to decrease the time I spend with the law but because it is so
intellectually stimulating, and just plain fun, I could never retire from it
altogether. By the end of 2001 I intend to become ďSenior Partner At
LargeĒ leaving all management and operational responsibilities of the firm
to my successors.
nice thing about the law is, as my father taught me, that there is a place
in it for every kind of character and personality. As long as you have your
brain and mind intact, even though you may have lessened or lost your other
faculties, you can still stay with the law.
is no doubt about it - I am slowing down. I have the same desires and the
same drive which have sustained me for years but I don't have the same
physical capabilities anymore. I'm not exercising as much I should, though I
am eating a much more sensible diet now. And I am in pretty good physical
and mental shape, despite a chronic but non-debilitating condition or two.
scuba diving, and more underwater photography are in my future. The firm has
a large mainland Southeast Asian textile collection and I have a great
interest in oriental carpets and textiles, so I want to learn more about
them. I also want to learn more about tropical forestry and wild animals as
well. Because of such interest I have become the Secretary General of the
Thailand Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
I know that I operate at a level where I can make an impact in this country,
one of the things I have helped to set up within our law firm is a
reforestation program in conjunction with the Rajapruek Foundation, a Thai
NGO. We hope to be able to plant in total at least 500,000 trees. The
villagers in the areas we chose have to support the program, and take care
of the new forests which will eventually earn money for them. Our first
planting was in the buffer zone of the Huay Kha Kwang National Park in the
West; our next was 100-200 rai near Loei in the North and now we have
started a third reforestation project in Lopburi in the Central part of the
makes Tilleke & Gibbins so successful?
answer that question you should ask our clients. My hope is they will say
that we sell good, reliable, honest and relatively prompt service at a
reasonable price performed by some dedicated, knowledgeable and helpful
people. A sizable share of good luck also helps.
for me, I've lead a full and exhilarating life; and I have been extremely
fortunate and lucky. Sure, Iíve had my failures, mistakes, losses and wear
more than a few battle scars. Now looking at the sunset, there are still
many loose ends to tidy up before my next life begins. With regards to
Thailand, well, one of this country's saving graces is that no matter how
many things go wrong, Thailand always seems to land on its feet. Letís
hope that good fortune continues unabated.
Tilleke & Gibbinsí Museum of Counterfeit Goods was established in 1989
at the firm's Bangkok, Thailand office. However, long before that time, the
firm already had in hand the main prerequisites to start a museum, in the
form of a large volume of counterfeit and pirated goods accumulated over the
years from raids conducted on behalf of the firm's clients. The goods, which
were used as evidence in court, were then stashed away in boxes, taking up
valuable storage space while serving no purpose whatsoever. With the
collection growing steadily, it became apparent that a way should be found
which would take advantage of having
these counterfeit products and turn them from the liability they were posing
to a useful purpose.
idea of creating an in-house museum took root in the mid 1980s when Tilleke
and Gibbins senior partner David Lyman visited the offices of Anthony R.
Gurka, principal partner of the Hong Kong investigative firm then called
Commercial Trademark Services (CTS). Through Mr. Gurka's efforts, beginning
in the early `80s, CTS had successfully built up an internal collection of
infringing goods. Upon seeing the CTS collection, it occurred to Mr. Lyman
that the counterfeit goods held at Tilleke & Gibbins could very well
prove useful as educational tools if properly displayed and accessible for
public viewing. Thus inspired, Mr. Lyman worked with members of the firm's
Intellectual Property Department - and the Tilleke & Gibbins Museum of
Counterfeit Goods came into existence.
the outset, the collection consisted of approximately 100 displayable items
which were separated into four categories: clothing, leather goods,
electronics and toiletries. However, with new items gathered on a continuing
basis from raids overseen by the firm, plus samples of the genuine goods
which the firm obtains, the collection has rapidly grown. At present, the
museum shows between 500-600 pieces of infringing trademark and copyrighted
goods, making it the largest one of its kind in Thailand, and one of the few
in the world. The collection now covers more than ten categories of goods
which, in addition to the four mentioned above, include footwear, perfumes,
watches, household appliances and equipment, sound systems, automotive and
machine parts, decorative ornaments, foods, pharmaceuticals, alcohol,
chemical products and stationary.
Museum of Counterfeit Goods has received both local and international
interest, and major television broadcasting companies (CNN, BBC, CNBC,
Australian, Danish, Japanese and Thai Television) have featured the museum
in their documentaries concerning the counterfeit situation in Thailand.
Many local and international newspapers and periodicals have also published
articles on the Tilleke & Gibbins museum. The U.S. based Journal of
Commerce, for example, featured the museum on its front page.
property officers of the Pacific Rim countries have visited the museum as
part of a
training course organized by the World Intellectual Property
Organization (WIPO) and the Department of Technical and Economic Cooperation
in Thailand. Not only is the museum attracting those involved in the
intellectual property field, but it is also well frequented by Thai and
foreign police, Interpol officers, judges, government officials, law
students, clients, and other individuals from the private sector.
1989 old ethnic textiles were brought to the new Tilleke & Gibbins
Building in Bangkok, Thailand for aesthetic purposes. Little then did the
firm realize the significance of this move - creation of a new awareness of
local handwoven textiles as an important art form. Soon after, the firm
decided to seriously collect and conserve textiles with the objective of
assembling a museum-quality collection.
Tilleke & Gibbins mainland South-East Asian Textile Collection is
composed of both typical and rare textiles principally of the Tai, an
ethnolinguistic group found in regions of Thailand, southern China, and
Myanmar. The collection also includes pieces made by Khmer, Burmese, and Mon
ethnic groups, Vietnamese ethnic minorities, and hilltribes. Today, this
growing collection consists of about one thousand pieces, which are
displayed in the firmís offices a few at a time on rotation.
each and every piece in the collection has been selected for its high
quality of design and execution of craft, there are a number of textiles of
exceptional quality and some pieces that are unique examples of their kind.
The pha biang (head cloths) of the Tai produced during the early twentieth
century are especially noteworthy, including one extremely rare base indigo
cloth. Several Cambodian sampot hol (ikat hip wrappers) and Cambodian pidan
(ikat wall hangings) are examples of a very high quality weft ikat that is
no longer produced.
care is taken in the handling and displaying of the textiles. To prevent
deterioration of the textiles caused by the harmful effects of light,
ultraviolet filters have been placed over the office light bulbs, and the
pieces are on display for only limited time periods. Archival materials are
used in storing the textiles.
You can contact David Lyman c/o:
& Gibbins International Ltd.
64/1 Soi Tonson