Legal Role-Play:

Baker & Irwin v. Department of Human Services


Bruce Deming

Two-party negotiation between attorneys for a state agency and a gay advocacy group regarding a state policy that led to the removal of two foster children from the home of a gay couple


Please note: you must order a copy (a.k.a. license/usage fee) for every person participating in the simulation in your course. This simulation has multiple roles, so you will be unable to complete your purchase without meeting the minimum quantity requirement of copies per role.

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PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.

Bulk Pricing Discount

For bulk orders, we offer the following pricing discounts. Please note that these only apply to bulk orders of the same simulation.

  • Between 100-250 copies – 10% discount
  • Between 251-500 copies – 25% discount
  • More than 500 copies – 50% discount
Log In or Register to download the free Teacher's Package Sample.


The Department of Human Services is the state agency charged with, among other things, the selection of foster parents in whose homes children will eventually be placed. The need for foster parents is high and is growing. The DHS interviews Baker and Irwin, a gay couple, finds them to be very qualified, and places two foster children with them. The World publishes and article on the foster placement, and an uproar ensues. DHS announces a new policy which limits social workers' discretion in approving foster parents and states that homosexuality is a detrimental factor in determining eligibility. The two children are removed from Baker & Irwin's home and are placed with another family. The attorney from the Lesbian and Gay Advocates and Defenders meets with an attorney from DHS to discuss possible out of court settlements to the lawsuit brought by Baker and Irwin. The parties have competing interests, both with each other and internally. LGAD is anxious to have high publicity, but Baker and Irwin would prefer to be out of the spotlight. DHS has a potential conflict between the interests of the department and those of the governor, who is running for President and wants only positive publicity. Resolution of the situation is possible, but will require that each party address the competing concerns at both levels.



The exercise is designed to work with one attorney per side. The parties' instructions require 20-30 minutes to read and analyze. Negotiation takes about 1 hour, and review can run anywhere from 40-90 minutes.



For all parties:

  • General Instructions


Role Specific:

  • DHS Attorney
  • LGAD Attorney


Teacher's package (18 pages total):

  • All of the above material
  • Teaching notes



  • When the interests of constituents and clients are in competition, negotiators are in a difficult position. This difficulty is compounded when the negotiator's own values or interests in an issue are strong. Participants can discuss how these multiple interests affected their approaches to the negotiation and eventual settlement.
  • Different perceptions and different interests may lead to different conclusions about the desirability of negotiated settlements over litigation. Participants can explore the potential impacts of each method on the interests of their parties, and can discuss how to balance these interests.
  • Negotiators who must present settlements to the public may feel different levels of flexibility than those who negotiate in public. Participants can discuss how the impending press conference altered their behavior during the negotiation and how it impacted the final drafting of a settlement.



Difference Issues; Fairness; Interests; Legitimacy; Options, generating; Power imbalance

Baker & Irwin v. Department of Human Services Attributes

Time required: 1-2 hours
Number of participants: 2
Teams involved: No
Agent present: Lawyer
Neutral third party present: None
Scoreable: No
Teaching notes available: Yes