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Litigants With Diverse Needs


Touro Law Center - November 2016

On November 15, 2016, the NYS Courts Access to Justice Program conducted a Poverty Simulation training for the entire first year class enrolled in the full time program at Touro Law Center. Each student was assigned a role in a particular “family.” Families ranged in size from one to five members. Volunteer faculty, second and third year law students played the roles of different governmental agencies, community organizations and private companies. The goal of the simulation was for the future lawyers to rethink poverty. Each family was given a packet that included a description of each family member, a synopsis of the family’s situation as well as the family’s financial obligations for the month. The students were forced to strategize and make the difficult choices that folks living in poverty make every day. The more exposure and training that future lawyers receive allowing them to recognize and understand the harsh realities that New Yorkers in poverty face, the better they will be able to understand how poverty limits the interaction that many people have with the court system and in effect creates a more equitable justice system. Although there is no way to replicate every aspect and hardship that people living in poverty struggle with, the training provided future lawyers with a glimpse into some of the struggles faced. Following the poverty simulation, a debriefing was held during which the law students and volunteers revealed what they learned from the training.



Comments from Participants 

  • “Eye opening."
  • “[The most useful part of this experience was learning] the amount of energy it takes to provide for my family.”
  • “I have a better understanding of what a family may go through in an effort to survive.”
  • “[It was most useful] to understand the lives of people we may interact with as lawyers.”
  • “The amount that one juggles is eye opening.”
  • “[The most valuable part of this experience] was the realization of how hard it is [to live in poverty] and how much time and work it takes.”
  • “[The Poverty Simulation] makes us aware of the problems other people face.”
  • “[The most useful aspects of the Poverty Simulation was] evaluating the expenses and the difficulty to survive in our modern society.”
  • “Being reminded of factors that impact your personal life outside of a person’s control [was very useful.]”
  • “[The most useful aspect of the Poverty Simulation was] actually seeing how hard it is to get help.”
  • “It becomes very relatable as a 3L in the clinic setting.