Court proceedings are used not only to resolve legal conflicts between individuals, but also for political purposes. In public and academic debates in Germany, this phenomenon has recently been labeled “strategic litigation”. However, it remains unclear what precisely makes a case “strategic”. This article addresses this question. It argues that the existing conceptual understandings developed in Germany and the heterogeneous legal practice described as “strategic litigation” do not translate into analytically viable criteria. Instead, a scientific concept of strategic litigation should take into account the fact that litigation is not only a progressive instrument but is also used to perpetuate power relations. Tracing additional characteristics leads to international and US legal practice and research, which are regarded as the origins of the phenomenon of strategic litigation. In concepts such as public interest litigation (PIL) and strategic (human rights) litigation, legal action is considered strategic if it serves the public interest or implements human rights. However, these concepts also remain indeterminate. Instead, the embedding of exemplary cases in findings of legal sociology reveals further characteristics beyond normative goals: the participation of organized actors and the use of litigation as a method of continuous monitoring. In this lies a change of perspective from objectives to form. In conclusion, the article proposes a concept of strategic litigation as a mode of legal mobilization by litigation collectives.