Robot Lawyer Stunt Cancelled After Human Lawyers Objected

Robot Lawyer Stunt Cancelled After Human Lawyers Objected

DoNotPay has cancelled plans to have its AI-powered “robot lawyer” represent a defendant in a U.S. court after several human lawyer organizations objected to the experiment, according to company founder and CEO Joshua Browder.

Browder hoped to make history by becoming the first lawyer to use artificial intelligence (AI) to argue a case in a court of law. As MetaNews previously reported, the plan was to use the company’s AI chatbot in a traffic case scheduled for Feb. 22.

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“After receiving threats from State Bar prosecutors, it seems likely they will put me in jail for 6 months if I follow through with bringing a robot lawyer into a physical courtroom,” he tweeted on Jan. 25. “DoNotPay is postponing our court case and sticking to consumer rights.”

In the now abandoned case, DoNotPay intended to feed audio of the court arguments into its AI chatbot. The robot lawyer would in-turn provide responses to the unnamed defendant through an earpiece. The chatbot runs on a smartphone.

Robot lawyer founder risks jail time

According to Browder, several U.S. state prosecutors did not approve of his planned experiment. They wrote to him and cautioned that he risked breaking the law. The lawyers warned Browder he could be prosecuted for unauthorized practice of law.

In some states, the crime carries a prison term of up to six months. After the warnings, Browder opted to stay out of jail and abandoned his proposed plan. He did not say which state prosecutors opposed the robot lawyer court appearance.

“Even if it wouldn’t happen, the threat of criminal charges was enough to give it up,” Browder told NPR.

For the traffic legal challenge, Browder was using an open source AI model known as GPT-J, which was released in 2022. The attorney said his company utilized models from OpenAI for what he described as “less sensitive applications.”

But not everything the bot said was to be repeated verbatim by the defendant, according to Browder. DoNotPay added features such as a two-second delay during which a user can reject an AI’s suggested response to ensure humans still retained control of the final results.

Prosper Mwedzi, a tech lawyer with the UK Treasury Department, told MetaNews recently that there are still issues of bias in algorithms, introduced by the person who trained the bot.

An AI lawyer “can only be as good as the data the algorithm is trained on. Therefore, the quality of its decisions rely on good data,” he said.

Mwedzi explained that one potential downside of using the robot lawyer in a court of law was that it could not take into account specific circumstances of a case and will lose what he called the “human element.”

DoNotPay shifts focus

DoNotPay is a consumer-empowerment startup that utilizes AI to help ordinary people “fight against large corporations and solve their problems.”

The company won more than two million customer service disputes and court cases on behalf of ordinary people against corporate organizations, as per a CBS report.

DoNotPay used AI to generate form letters and chatbots to help people get refunds for WiFi that did not work during a flight. Joshua Browder said the template also worked for disputes involving parking tickets, utility bills and other issues.

Following the collapse of its planned court appearance, DoNotPay appears to be shifting its focus. Browder announced on Twitter that the company will now only handle cases relating to consumer rights law going forward, removing all other services “effective immediately.”

“I have realized that non-consumer rights legal products (e.g defamation demand letters, divorce agreements and others), which have very little usage, are a distraction,” he wrote.

Specifically, the company will focus on “lowering medical bills, cancelling subscriptions, disputing credit reports, among other things, with A.l. Unlike courtroom drama, these types of cases can be handled online, are simple and are underserved,” said Browder.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.