Encyclopedia of Law and Economics

2019 Edition
| Editors: Alain Marciano, Giovanni Battista Ramello

Tournament Theory

  • Martin SchneiderEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-7753-2_482


In tournament theory the effects of competitions in which the best performers are awarded a fixed prize are studied. The tournament idea has been used to explain career patterns in large US law firms and in European judicial hierarchies. It has also been suggested in a prescriptive way as a method to select judges for the US Supreme Court. Tournaments theory helps to understand under which conditions lawyers and judges engage in a rate race to achieve promotion. But important assumptions of the formal tournament models are not met in practice, so real tournaments are unlikely occur in practice. The theory should therefore not be interpreted as an exact descriptive or prescriptive model of behavior but rather as a useful metaphor to help understand empirical patterns.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Choi S, Gulati M (2004a) A tournament of judges? Calif Law Rev 92:299–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Choi SJ, Gulati GM (2004b) Choosing the next Supreme Court justice: an empirical ranking of judge performance. South Calif Law Rev 78:23–117Google Scholar
  3. Connelly BL, Tihanyi L, Crook TR, Gangloff KA (2014) Tournament theory: thirty years of contests and competitions. J Manag 40:16–47Google Scholar
  4. Galanter M (1994) Tournament of lawyers: the transformation of the big law firm. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  5. Galanter M, Henderson W (2008) The elastic tournament: a second transformation of the big law firm. Stanford Law Rev 60:1867–1929Google Scholar
  6. Galanter M, Palay TM (1990) Why the big get bigger: the promotion-to-partner tournament and the growth of large law firms. Va Law Rev 76:747–811CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gibbs M (1994) Testing tournaments? An appraisal of the theory and evidence. Labor Law J 45:493–500Google Scholar
  8. Lazear EP, Rosen S (1981) Rank-order tournaments as optimum labor contracts. J Polit Econ 89:841–864CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Levy MK, Stith K, Cabranes JA (2010) The costs of judging judges by the numbers. Yale Law Policy Rev 28:313–323Google Scholar
  10. Rosenbaum JE (1979) Tournament mobility: career patterns in a corporation. Adm Sci Q 24:220–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Rosenbaum JE (1984) Career mobility in a corporate hierarchy. Academic, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Schneider M (2004) Careers in a judicial hierarchy. Int J Manpow 25:431–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Schneider MR (2005) Judicial career incentives and court performance: an empirical study of the German labour courts of appeal. Eur J Law Econ 20:127–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Solum LB (2004) A tournament of virtue. Florida State Univ Rev 32:1365–1400Google Scholar
  15. Wilkins DB, Gulati GM (1998) Reconceiving the tournament of lawyers: tracking, seeding, and information control in the internal labor markets of elite law firms. Va Law Rev 84:1581–1681CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty for Economics and Business AdministrationUniversity of PaderbornPaderbornGermany