Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

Article Title

An Introduction to International Civil Practice


Detlev F. Vagts


An international lawsuit can be broken down into stages, each representing a branch in the tree of successive decision making. The emergence of a sense of grievance in the plaintiff's mind starts the first stage. He has been hurt and wants to sue somebody. That attitude leads to a consultation with a lawyer, presumably in the plaintiff's vicinage. The lawyer should recognize any foreign element in the case which could mean that the lawsuit should be tried before a foreign court. Taking the case to a foreign court would involve the transport of United States input--legal rules, testimony, documents--abroad. Conversely, the case might well be better tried in the United States, at least from the plaintiff's point of view. This location for the case would require the introduction of foreign elements in the United States.

Making this forum decision necessitates the understanding of some elements of foreign law, both substantive and procedural. To acquire this knowledge, United States attorneys must consult foreign counsel because it would be foolish to try to make decisions in these fields without training or practice.