Will robots replace lawyers? Who can say? Sometimes it looks like lawyers will stay safe from the coming robot uprising, but other times it looks like attorneys will get eaten by Skynet like everyone else.
If robots do start taking our jobs, it would be easiest for them to scoop up those tasks which are repetitive and easily automated, like fighting traffic tickets. Joshua Browder, a 19-year-old British wunderkind in his second year at Stanford (you read that right – he is not a lawyer) invented a chatbot that fights parking tickets.
It wasn’t obvious at the outset that the chatbot would work or, worst still if it might be edging into the unauthorized practice of law. While the latter question remains open, at least in some states, the former question has been answered with a resounding “yes!” The chatbot parking ticket lawyer works, and it works very well. From The Guardian:
In the 21 months since the free service was launched in London and now New York, Browder says DoNotPay has taken on 250,000 cases and won 160,000, giving it a success rate of 64% appealing over $4m of parking tickets.
Now, to be fair, most people don’t hire a lawyer to fight a parking ticket. It’s likely that most people don’t fight a parking ticket, period. However, that doesn’t mean that people don’t want to fight parking tickets. People pay because it is not cost-efficient to fight about it. People pay because they don’t have the vaguest idea how to begin to fight it. A bot that automates looking up what laws apply, what address to send your letter to, what documentation to include, and other necessary pieces of data can be as successful, if not more so, than a living breathing person. And this chatbot is incredibly simple, interface-wise. When you are chatting, it works like any other messaging app.
Sometimes it cuts over to a drop-down menu, which is equally simple.
With this sort of choose-your-own-adventure format, a bot can easily guide you to some potential next steps and solutions.
Browder is planning on expanding DoNotPay both geographically and topically. The app was originally only available to fight tickets in London but became available in New York this past March. He hopes to extend services to Seattle soon as well. He’s also planning on expanding his menu of services: soon you might be able to use a chatbot robot lawyer to demand compensation for delayed flights.
Does this technology have the ability to replace any attorneys? Not as it stands, no. One of Browder’s next goals, however, is to build a bot that helps refugees apply for asylum. Now that sounds a little bit more lawyer-job-threatening, doesn’t it?