Herbert M. Kritzer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Litigation is a highly structured process of dispute resolution that invokes the power of the state, or a contractually agreed-upon private decision-maker, to provide a means to authoritatively adjudicate a dispute between two or more parties. Key theoretical issues for understanding litigation include rights, procedures, incentives, and uncertainty. Rights focus on who has access to litigation and under what circumstances; procedures deal with the processes employed in the litigation process (with a major distinction between adversarial and investigatory procedures); incentives turn on both what can be achieved through litigation and how the costs of employing litigation are determined and distributed; uncertainty reflects the strategic nature of litigation. The frequency of litigation varies among countries, but precise estimates of the quantity or rate of litigation are difficult to determine, due to differences in what is included and what is counted. Litigation is typically conducted through agents (lawyers) who have their own set of incentives. Litigants can be divided into one-shot and repeat players, with the latter enjoying a range of advantages reflecting resources, experience, and time horizon. Litigation procedures are frequently criticized as costly and slow; for these reasons, reform of those procedures occurs with some regularity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - Mar 26 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.


  • Adjudication
  • Adversary system
  • Arbitration
  • Civil law
  • Common law
  • Courts
  • Dispute processing
  • Disputing
  • Incentives
  • Inquisitorial system
  • Judges
  • Law and economics
  • Lawyers
  • Litigants
  • Litigiousness
  • Procedures
  • Rights
  • Tribunal


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