Robot Lawyer Threatened with Legal Action

California State Bar
Image Credit: State Bar of California

Plans to use an AI-powered legal tool named Robot Lawyer to defend a traffic ticket that has been dropped after state bars threatened legal action against its use.

Joshua Browder, the CEO of DoNotPay and developer of Robot Lawyer, created the tool to help defendants fight cases without an attorney. The tool works by listening to court proceedings, analyzing discussions using AI language models (including ChatGPT and DaVinci), and then telling the defendant what to say. However, state bars have put a stop to its use.

It’s the job of the state bars to regulate attorneys to make sure that they fully understand the law. State bars argue that the use of the tool is against the law because the unauthorized practice of law is illegal and punishable with up to six months in jail. This puts DoNotPay in a precarious position because the tool is unique in that, unlike other legal tools, it’s made to bypass the use of licensed attorneys. In a statement to NPR Browder said,

The threat of criminal charges was enough to give it up.

Earlier this month, Browder offered $1 million to any attorney to use Robot Lawyer in the US Supreme court, but it’s unclear how that might set a precedent for its use. If only licensed attorneys could use the tool, it would defeat the object of not needing to pay for legal defense. Not only that, but recording audio is against the rules in federal court and some state courts too.

Robot Lawyers are not Welcome in Outdated Courtrooms

Browder remains hopeful that AI will be used in courtrooms. He went on to say, “The truth is, most people can’t afford lawyers. This could’ve shifted the balance and allowed people to use tools like ChatGPT in the courtroom that maybe could’ve helped them win cases,” he also said,

I think calling the tool a ‘robot lawyer‘ really riled up a lot of lawyers up. But I think they’re missing the forest for the trees. Technology is advancing, and court rules are very outdated.

The State Bar of California’s executive director, Leah Wilson, told NPR that recently there has been a rapid increase in technology-based legal representation to help provide affordable legal advice. Wilson went on to explain:

In 2023, we are seeing well-funded, unregulated providers rushing into the market for low-cost legal representation, raising questions again about whether and how these services should be regulated.

Instead, DoNotPay will focus on helping people manage medical bills, get out of subscriptions that they don’t want, and deal with credit reporting agencies.

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