Keo Sothie, a former deputy public defender in the US state of Colorado, returned recently to his home country. He said yesterday he was setting up a law firm in Cambodia and was committed to using his knowledge to help society.
Speaking to Khmer Times during a Cross Talk discussion on “Practical International Judicial Systems” yesterday, Mr Sothie said he wanted to use his knowledge to help people.
“The lawyer that I want to be is the lawyer who has influence and helps to contribute the most to society,” he said.
“A lawyer can contribute to society in different ways in the United States.
“I was a public servant. I contributed to American society by being a common attorney and being a trial lawyer as a public defender.”
Mr Sothie graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science at the University of Washington in Seattle before completing his JD (Juris Doctor) and Masters of Law in International Human Rights at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago.
This year he returned to Cambodia to set up his own company, the Keo Law Firm.
“Over here, I’m hoping to contribute in a very different way. “I hope to set up my own law firm and contribute to the business side of things,” he said.
“I think Cambodia is a goal for investment in Asia at the moment. GDP has been increasing by a straight seven percent.” Many investors are interested in investing in Cambodia.
“I feel there is a very great need for lawyers who know international investment law, business law and corporate law to facilitate investment,” he said.
Mr Sothie is in the process of registering as a member of the Kingdom’s Bar Association which brings together all lawyers who establish firms in Cambodia.
He is also in the process of registering his law firm in Cambodia and is optimistic that his company will exist soon.
Asked about the different working environments in the US and Cambodia, Mr Sothie said both countries had separate systems.
“I believe that each country has its own system,” he said adding that he does not think that Cambodia is not as free as the United States.
“I just believe that it is a different system. Cambodia has its own system.”
When asked if the US court system was clean or corrupt Mr Sothie said there was middle ground.
“I won’t say that there is widespread corruption but there are a lot of issues in the criminal justice systems in the United States,” he said, before talking about some corruption by US judges.
Mr Sothie said that after his law firm was established in Cambodia, he expected to work for both Cambodian and foreign entrepreneurs.
“I hope to facilitate mainly foreign investors and also Cambodian entrepreneurs,” he said.
“There are a lot of Cambodia entrepreneurs who are hoping to start growing in Cambodia and expand to other countries, specifically in Asean.
“I have spoken to Cambodian entrepreneurs and they need lawyers who understand international law, laws in other countries and corporate law to expand their business.”
According to the Bar Association, Cambodia has 1,329 professional lawyers and 252 who are in training. There are only 22 law firms with 252 branches across the Kingdom.