The RePresent Games
With no access to affordable legal representation, increasing numbers of people must represent themselves in legal proceedings. The justice community in the United States has responded by expanding resources to help self-represented parties navigate the system and get their day in court. However, with no experience addressing a judge, questioning a witness, or offering documents into evidence, self-represented parties find themselves facing these tasks for the very first time in a real-life hearing environment, with a lot at stake. Across the U.S. the problem is acute. Nationally, more than 80% of litigants appear without lawyers in matters as important as evictions, mortgage foreclosures, child custody and child support proceedings, and debt collection cases. In New York State Courts alone, 1.8 million litigants appear without an attorney annually, accounting for nearly 10% of the state’s population. Last year, there were 28,469 cases in Connecticut’s family courts with at least one self-represented party, and nearly half of those cases had two or more self-represented parties. An additional 20,000 civil cases in Connecticut courts had at least one self-represented party. The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index confirms what we all know: lack of affordable legal counsel is a global problem.
Back in 2014, we thought self-represented parties could benefit from an online interactive “serious game” simulating aspects of an actual legal proceeding. Self-represented parties “are asking for practical tools and skills that they can apply in practice” (Macfarlane, 2013). Games have proven to make a positive impact on cognition and behavior because they are experiential learning environments that allow users, through trial and retrial, to attain the necessary (virtual) experience that will help guide future action in reality.
Our idea was twofold: (1) use gaming technology to provide self-represented parties with some foundational advocacy experience before doing it for real; and (2) use a highly collaborative design process that contributes to building a community of support around the needs of self-represented parties. Thanks to support from the Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grant Program, we now have two games available for play:
RePresent - teaches people in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine how to represent themselves in non-criminal court cases.
RePresent: Renter - teaches tenants in Connecticut and Maine how to defend themselves against an eviction.
Would you like to create a version of either game for your state or another type of legal case? Contact us using the button below and we’ll be in touch.