Young EFILA in conversation with… Eliana Maria Tornese

In 2021, Eliana Maria Tornese took over the position of Registrar of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA). Prior to joining the LCIA as Deputy Registrar in November 2015, she worked at the ICC International Court of Arbitration, where she spent three years as Counsel in charge of the case management team, handling arbitration matters related to Western Europe. Before joining the ICC, Eliana spent seven years in the international arbitration practice at BonelliErede in Milan. She holds a dual degree in law from the Sorbonne University in Paris and LUISS University in Rome and an LL.M. in European Law from the College of Europe in Belgium. In 2009, she was a visiting scholar at Columbia Law School.

Eliana sat down with Young EFILA to share her work philosophy and recommendations for aspiring lawyers.

Young EFILA: What attracted you to a career in arbitration?

Eliana Maria Tornese: I was interested in international law and international relationships when I was at the university. Arbitration is the one that combines those two interesting areas, so it was a natural development for me to choose international arbitration as my career. Public international law attracted me more than private international law at the start of my career, and I did a lot of ICSID cases when I was working at BonelliErede.

YE: What inspires you to work at the LCIA?

EMT: Through years of practising investment arbitrations, I also got involved in commercial arbitration and developed a passion for it. Working at the LCIA enables me to overview different stages of the proceedings. The LCIA can make a difference in arbitration by raising awareness to users on the topical issues for the arbitration community as a whole . As you may know, the LCIA was the first institution to release reports regarding gender diversity and continues to be at the “frontier” to make changes, making sure that the community’s needs from different angles are met.

YE: What was the most challenging moment of your career?

EMT: The most challenging moment should be the time when I was a practitioner at a private practice. At that time, there was a deadline for filing memos in a huge construction case, and the factual background was very complicated. The partners had a number of meetings in the afternoon and wanted these files to be sorted out when they were back. We tried our best to finalise the brief, and they were pleased with our results.

YE: How can young professionals increase their ‘luck surface area’ or exposure to opportunities?

EMT: Remain connected to your peers. Be aware of the latest developments and build great connections with the community. It is important to maintain a good relationship with your peers when other opportunities arrive.

YE: What is the best professional advice you have ever received?

EMT: Enjoy every experience, especially the one you are currently performing, instead of seeking the best opportunities. Find out enrichment in every opportunity and enjoy the opportunity while working. I make sure that I enjoy the experience, and I do everything I can to make the most of it. Make sure that you learn well from the previous experience, thus helping prepare for the next one.

YE: What would you do if you were not working as an arbitration practitioner?

EMT: I love to teach or guide users, so if I were not working as an arbitration practitioner, I would choose to teach at a university, private international law, accountancy, or marketing, etc.

YE: Could you please share with us an unpopular opinion that you hold about working in arbitration?

EMT: An unpopular opinion I share is the default rule that it should be for institutions to appoint arbitrators. It works very well in LCIA cases. The LCIA always appoints quality arbitrators and with good experience. We always supervise the work of the arbitrators through the proceedings and review the award once it has been finalised.

YE: Thank you so much for your time, Eliana!

**** This interview was conducted by Guofang Xue and forms part of Young EFILA’s Interview Series with Arbitration Practitioners ****