Moshe is telling Yitro about his experiences in judging the people. He says: KI YIHIYE LAHEM DAVAR, BA ELAI VESHAFATETI … , “when they have a matter, one comes to me and I judge …”. (Ex. 18,16) There is an obvious observation that stares one in the eye. He starts by saying, “when they have”, and continues by saying “one comes”. Why start in the plural and end in the singular? The answer is, when two people have a dispute (plural) usually one (singular) ends up coming to court to sue the other.
A famous Rabbi, Israel Salant, commented that it is a strange phenomenon. In a financial suit one side calls the other to a DIN TORAH and often the other side refuses to come for fear he will be found at fault and will lose money. Yet the same person, when he has a SHE’ELA about a chicken or a pot or and Etrog, he will not hesitate to go to the Rabbi to ask if it is kosher or Tref or Pasul. If the Rabbi finds it unacceptable he will lose money. Why then does he not hesitate to go to ask of the Rabbi?
The answer lies in the fact that when he has a question about Kashrut, if the Rabbi decides against him he loses money but nobody gains. In a Din Torah, if he is found at fault his opponent ends up a winner. That he cannot accept.
It is strange human nature. We do not mind losing as long as someone else does not gain from our loss. This, of course, is a bad trait that we must strive to overcome.