Litigants With Diverse Needs

Touro Law Center - October 2014

In 2014, the Access to Justice Program conducted a Poverty Simulation training for the entire first year law class of Touro Law Center. The first year class was divided into two sections for two half day trainings. Each section was then subdivided even further into groups of 1 to 5 students, with each group representing an impoverished family. The roles of different governmental and community organizations that these “families” interacted with were played by faculty and second and third year law students. The three and a half hour simulation exposed the students to the effects that poverty can have on an individual’s life. Training future lawyers to understand and recognize the dire straits that impoverished New Yorkers live in and how these limitations affect their interaction with the courts, the more equitable the justice system becomes. Although the poverty simulation is only a glimpse into the real hardships that families in poverty endure, many of the law students and volunteers felt as though the training was transformative. Below is a sampling of comments from the law students who participated in the training:

  • “I am just writing to let you know that the Poverty Simulation this afternoon was one of the most profound experiences I have had at Touro. The program itself was organized meticulously, and … was ah-maz-ing! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope that the school will endeavor to keep this program running in the future. It was an eye opener and an incredible learning experience. Thank you!”
  • “The most valuable aspect for me was how real everything was made. The situations and the way we were treated were things that can happen in the real world. It was a good experience.”
  • “[The most valuable part of this experience was] [t]hat it gave insight to other people's reality."
  • “[The most valuable part of this experience was] [g]iving the real-life situations of people in the poverty level and actually having to "live" their lifestyle. To utilize "community" help, which not many of us did during the simulation, but now know that should be a place to turn to for assistance."
  • “[The most valuable part of this experience was] becoming emotionally connected to an aspect of life I never encountered before.”
  • “[The most valuable part of this experience was] [r]ealizing that help exists, but that people don't know how to access the help (i.e. free transportation vouchers or child care vouchers).”
  • “Many times we empathize with people but having an idea of what it was actually like in the Day to Day was extremely important because it gave a better understanding of how difficult it really is.”
  • “I spoke to several students after the simulation. Most agreed that this was an eye-opening experience. It's easy to think that clients don't care about their situation because they don't always respond to their attorneys, but there are probably other issues that they are dealing with at the same time. I think this program would be beneficial to all students, not just 1-Ls.”
  • “This is great. I think every human being should do this simulation, not only lawyer candidates.”
  • “I think it was an excellent exercise and should be more widespread especially in schools.”