An arbitrator in over 120 cases, Crenguta Leaua is listed at WIPO and in the US, Austria, Bulgaria, China, Malaysia, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovenia. She is a former vice president of the ICC Court (2015-2018), and a managing partner of Leaua Damcali Deaconu Paunescu – LDDP (a GAR 100-listed firm). She acts as counsel in both investment and commercial arbitration. She is an associate professor at two Bucharest universities, teaching comparative international arbitration, construction arbitration and business law.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER IN ARBITRATION?
I was fascinated by the flexibility of the procedural rules, and the possibility to adapt them to the needs of a specific case.
LOOKING BACK OVER YOUR CAREER, WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE ARBITRATION CASE YOU HAVE BEEN A PART OF?
The first investment arbitration case, as it happened to involve almost all the major institutions of the state. The experience of reaching a very deep understanding of the functionality of state was invaluable.
HOW HAS YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE AS THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE ICC INTERNATIONAL COURT OF ARBITRATION ENHANCED YOUR WORK AS AN ARBITRATOR?
This experience generated an enormous respect for the work of the ICC Court and Secretariat. During my term as vice president of the Court, I realised the immense effort made to ensure the efficiency of the arbitral proceedings, and to maintain the high quality of the arbitrators’ work in the management of every single case, while the institution was undergoing significant institutional progress on the promotion of young arbitrators, gender parity and meeting the needs of geographically diverse parties by the creation of a wide geographical network of ICC offices. Due to this experience, I think I’ve gained a better understanding of the purpose and value of the various rules and guidelines. I also realised that in institutional arbitration it is not only about the autonomy of arbitrators – it is about the functionality of a whole system designed to help the parties in solving their dispute efficiently.
WHAT DO CLIENTS LOOK FOR IN AN EFFECTIVE PANEL OR SOLE ARBITRATOR?
I notice that efficiency is usually perceived by clients subjectively – as a relationship between expectations and reality in terms of effort and time. Hence, what different clients define as efficiency differs based on their expectations. Arbitral institutions, using their data, tend to look at the matter of efficiency more objectively, and set up some margins – usually time-related. I don’t think that either concept (subjective expectation or statistical margins of expectations) is appropriate for the very purpose of arbitration: a dispute-resolution system shaped to meet the needs of the parties to a specific dispute, as opposed to the standardised system of the courts of law. Perhaps one thing that we could all do – arbitrators, counsel and arbitral institutions – is to help parties understand, from the very beginning of a case, the concept of realistic expectation.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF CONDUCTING AD HOC ARBITRATIONS UNDER THE UNCITRAL RULES WHEN COMPARED TO THOSE CONDUCTED UNDER THE RULES OF ARBITRAL INSTITUTIONS?
Ad hoc arbitration may be problematic if the arbitration agreement is poorly drafted, particularly if the appointing authority is not clearly defined. I favour, for this position, the arbitral institutions with clear procedural rules as appointing authorities, and with a direct view as to how the proposed arbitrators acted in previous cases. In any event, choosing as an appointing authority an individual or organisation without consulting it beforehand on its willingness and ability to act in this capacity is a recipe for disaster.
AS MANAGING PARTNER OF LDDP, WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN PRIORITIES FOR THE FIRM’S DEVELOPMENT OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
It is our intention to maintain the focus on international arbitration, but to continue to strengthen our capacities for international transactions and dispute avoidance. We expanded the partnership at the end of 2018 as to include more focus on transactional work and, geographically, to reach the input of capital outside the EU as well. Our partners have strong experience in assisting clients from both the US (particularly in the energy, aviation, IT and film industries) and China (in response to the flow of capital under the Belt and Road Initiative).
YOU HAVE ENJOYED A VERY DISTINGUISHED CAREER SO FAR. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE THAT YOU HAVE NOT YET ACCOMPLISHED?
I don’t think I ever thought of my career in terms of accomplishments, but rather in terms of flow of knowledge and understanding. In recent years, I have enjoyed familiarising myself with the new frontiers of science and technology. I was already specialised in construction law, aviation law and the IP aspects of new technologies. To this I added the new legal aspects of the IT industry – blockchain technology and artificial intelligence, and the disruptive business models they generate. Once somebody has entered this world of IT law, I am afraid they cannot do anything but learn continuously, as developments are very fast. In this context, I very much cherish the dialogue I have with my fellow professors, and my students, of cybernetics and economic informatics at the Bucharest University of Economics, where I am currently teaching, and I plan to spend more time working alongside them.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNGER ARBITRATORS HOPING TO ONE DAY BE IN YOUR POSITION?
In brief: define intellectual comfort as danger. We do not achieve any progress and we do not improve ourselves in our comfort zones. My advice is to keep on investing energy in understanding an incorporating novelty, from wherever it comes – new legal developments, new legal systems, new industries, new clients or simply new generations to interact with.
Crenguta Leaua is acclaimed by respondents for being "such a force in Romania, and a great practitioner". Peers are "very impressed by her accomplishments as counsel and arbitrator".
Crenguta Leaua has acted as counsel in commercial arbitral proceedings under the rules of the ICSID, ICC, WIPO, VIAC and the Court of International Commercial Arbitration by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Romania. She has also acted as counsel in ad hoc arbitrations under UNCITRAL rules or various national laws.
Crenguta is a past vice president and member of the ICC Court, and a current member of the ICC commission on arbitration. She is a member of the ICC task force on climate change and arbitration, and was a member of the ICC task force on decisions as to costs and of the task force on criminal law and arbitration. She has acted as a member of the IBA subcommittee on conflict of interests in arbitration. She is a member of the panel of arbitrators of the Romanian Court of International Commercial Arbitration, of which she has also been vice president (2008–2012). She is a member of the panel of arbitrators of the Vienna International Arbitration Centre; the Bulgarian, Polish, Moldavian and Slovenian courts of arbitration attached to the chambers of commerce of these countries; the WIPO list of neutrals for intellectual property disputes; and the CIETAC and SHIAC (China) lists of arbitrators. She was appointed as arbitrator in cases under the rule of the Danish Institute of Arbitration and in ad hoc arbitrations.
She has written numerous publications and made numerous presentations in conferences on international commercial arbitration, including “Arbitration of Foreign Investments Disputes and Romania”, “The Right to a Fair Trial in International Commercial Arbitration – Introductive Considerations”, “The Appointing Authority in International Commercial Arbitration”, “The Party Autonomy in the Appointment of Arbitrators” and “The un-constitutionality exception and arbitration” . She has also authored or co-authored several books including Arbitration in Romania – A practitioner’s guide (Kluwer International, 2016); Commercial companies: special proceedings (2008, 2009); a reference book on Romanian intra-corporate litigation; and Business Law: General Notions of Private Law (2012).
She graduated from the faculty of legal and administrative sciences at Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, and the law faculty of Ecological University, Bucharest. She received her licence from Alexandru Ioan Cuza University Law School in Iasi, Romania. She holds a PhD, magna cum laude, in corporate litigation from Bucharest University Faculty of Law. She also attended the executive education programmes of the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the London School of Economics. Currently, she is an associate professor in business law at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies, and a visiting professor of international comparative arbitration and construction arbitration on the international arbitration LLM programme at the Bucharest University Faculty of Law. She has been invited to lecture students at various universities such as Sciences Po and Georgetown, and also was a visiting scholar at Columbia Law School (New York).
She is fluent in Romanian, English and French, and has a good command of Italian and basic knowledge of German.