DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary has hired eight lawyers - three partners, four associates and one assistant - to double its presence in Thailand.

The three new partners are: Dr Chanvitaya Suvarnapunya, a former law school dean with extensive corporate experience; Chatchai Inthasuwan, a telecoms specialist; and Lampros Vassiliou, an insolvency and debt expert who is a consultant for the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the OECD.

Joining the partners are four associates - Kanokrat Sukthon, Panuwat Rattanawechasit, Kitti Pittayaporn and Weeravej Sirichatchai - as well as legal assistant Nithatip Rakbamrung.

According to the firm, this is one of the largest recruitment drives in Thailand's legal sector in recent years. Indeed it reverses a trend where many of the larger multinational UK and US firms have actually been cutting back staff, even in some cases sacking partners, in their Thai offices. For DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, the expansion increases the number of fee earners in the Bangkok office to16.

"We want to be where our clients are and these recruitments are part of that strategy," said Nick Seddon, managing director for Asia at DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. "Thailand is an increasingly important market for our clients - multinationals with global operations, Asian companies and Thai businesses operating locally as well as offshore - and our presence there needs to match their needs for quality legal advice anywhere, anytime."

According to Seddon, the time is now right for the firm's expansion in Thailand. "Thailand's economy is performing well, we are encouraged by signs of a sustained recovery and client demand is growing. Clients such as the supermarket chain Tesco view Thailand as a key part of their international growth strategy and we want to ensure they continue to receive the high level of support and counsel DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary is well known for providing clients," he said.

The firm's Thai practice is led by managing partner Chulapong Yukate. The core of its recent business has been local M&A and international arbitration. Together Chanvitaya and Chatchai have 38 years of advising on commercial areas including M&A and arbitration/dispute resolution. Both have a particular expertise in the telecom sector.

Vassiliou has focused his career on banking and finance, insolvency and debt restructuring law. He is also a consultant to leading multilateral institutions, and will continue to operate across Asia. He will cooperate with Hong Kong-based partner Prudence Mitchell who also advises on restructurings and insolvency.

Vassiliou has been the World Bank's insolvency law expert for Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and India. In December 2004, he was appointed by the Financial and Economic Committee of the National People's Congress as the only international expert consultant to assist in the finalization of the new Chinese enterprise insolvency law.

"Thailand is now fully open to international trade and investment flows and clients increasingly want access to not only international best practice but also a network of lawyers which matches their geographic operations and sources of funding," said Chanvitaya, a former Dean of the law school of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.