You may be familiar with DoNotPay, the free “robot lawyer” created by a teenaged British whizkid named Joshua Browder. Having previously helped people appeal $4 million worth of parking tickets and access invaluable access to government housing, Browder has now given his automated attorney the motherload of upgrades.
“People would message me asking if I could help them fight their landlord or dispute an airline charge,” Browder, who is currently studying Economics and Computer Science at Stanford University, told Digital Trends. “I couldn’t do that at the time. I realized that the only way to take this to the next level would be to expand to a huge number of areas all at once. About eight months ago, I started working with four lawyers to do exactly that. This week we delivered by starting to offer advice in 1,000 legal areas in every state in the U.S., and all across the UK as well.”
These 1,000 legal areas cover a myriad of consumer and human rights issues — ranging from claiming maternity leave to getting a refund for a faulty product, as well as the old favorite of fighting a parking ticket. The technology works like a chatbot, with users asked to type in their problem, and the bot then answering with a list of suggested solutions to the problem.
“So much of the tech world gets hung up on the technology,” Browder said. “People talk about chatbots or VR or artificial intelligence, and get very excited about it. My big thing is to make tools that are actually useful for ordinary people. In terms of the law and legal technology, there’s been almost no innovation over the past ten years. When it comes to submitting legal documents, for example, it’s still trapped in the Stone Age. This is about helping people to lead easier lives, and to stop having to pay hundreds of dollars to exploitative lawyers.”
For the immediate future, he suggests that there are still going to be times when it’s necessary to consult a breathing, flesh-and-blood lawyer — but those use-cases may be more limited than you might imagine.
“Obviously my chatbot is not going to be arguing in the Supreme Court anytime soon,” he quipped. “For that reason, I think barristers will still be needed. When it comes to preparing legal documents, though, the sky is the limit. Over the coming months, we’re going to be working in new areas — such as marriage and divorce. Ironically, it’s also really expensive to go bankrupt, so that’s something we want to help with. Ultimately, I want this to be able to offer the same service a real lawyer would provide.”
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