This column explores the concept of an agent ad litem as it is recognised and applied in mainland China and common law jurisdictions. The concept has a limited scope in common law jurisdictions compared with mainland China, where it is used to describe agents who are appointed by agreement, as well as agents who are appointed by law. This column explains the meaning of the term “agent ad litem”, and then examines its use in mainland China and common law jurisdictions.
Meaning of the term
In both Chinese and English, the term “agent ad litem” refers to an agent who represents the interests of a party in litigation or legal proceedings. As used in the English term, the words “ad litem” are derived from the Latin words “ad”, meaning “for”, and “litem”, meaning lawsuit. The literal meaning of the words “ad litem” is therefore “for the lawsuit” or “for the purposes of the lawsuit”.
The word “litem” is the accusative case of the word “lis”, which means a lawsuit or legal action. It is related to the Latin word “litigare”, which means to dispute or quarrel, and from which the word “litigation” in English is derived [for a discussion about the use of terminology in Chinese and English to describe disputes, see China Business Law Journal volume 2, issue 9: Mediation or conciliation?].
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Andrew Godwin previously practised as a foreign lawyer in Shanghai (1996-2006) before returning to his alma mater, Melbourne Law School in Australia, to teach and research law (2006-2021). Andrew is currently Principal Fellow (Honorary) at the Asian Law Centre, Melbourne Law School, and a consultant to various organisations, including Linklaters, the Australian Law Reform Commission and the World Bank.