Recent advancements in AI are sending tremors through the tech industry. But as we’ve learned, this technology is also fairly unreliable—robots can’t write compelling articles, and conversational AI just can’t stop lying. Well, evidently, these are the perfect qualities for a lawyer.
Update, 1/26/23: DoNotPay’s robot lawyer won’t make an appearance in court. In a Twitter post, CEO Joshua Browder explained that several State Bar associations threatened to charge him with unauthorized practice of law. After speaking with his own (presumably human) counsel, Browder realized that the robot lawyer experiment could land him in prison for half a year or more, so it’s canceled.
DoNotPay, a company that helps people cancel subscriptions and asks for refunds using AI, is building a AI bot that listens to court hearings and feeds answers to defendants through a pair of AirPods. The robot lawyer will debut next month at a hearing for a speeding ticket. (Previously, DoNotPay launched an AI that writes legal contracts and disputes parking tickets.)
The CEO of DoNotPay, Joshua Browder, claims that robot lawyers could provide low-cost legal assistance to low-income families. It’s certainly an interesting idea; as USA Today notes, the American Bar Association claims that around 80% of low-income individuals can’t afford legal help.
Anyone with a speeding ticket hearing coming up, please DM me.
We want to build a @donotpay bot that listens to the court hearing via your AirPods and whispers what to say with GPT-3 and LLMs.
We just want to experiment and will pay the ticket, even if you lose!
— Joshua Browder (@jbrowder1) December 13, 2022
But electronic devices (especially recording devices) are barred from most courtrooms. This scheme is legally-dubious at best, which is why DoNotPay sifted through 300 applicants to find someone with a hearing in a relatively relaxed county. The company is also keeping the time and location of this experiment under wraps to avoid pushback from state bars.
This experiment could go wrong, obviously. Conversational AI is still pretty stupid, and more importantly, we don’t have any legal precedent to guide the use of “robot lawyers.” If the court believes that this is illegal or obstructive, this speeding ticket could escalate into something much more serious.
And against all logic, DoNotPay is offering $1 million to anyone who’s willing to use the AI in a U.S. Supreme Court hearing. Electronic devices are banned in the Supreme Court—you can wear assistive hearing devices, but only if they fit certain specifications. (And while I hate to make assumptions, the Supreme Court probably won’t be amused by this kind of thing.)
Anyway, DoNotPay’s AI lawyer will head to court sometime in February. We’ll see how things go next month, assuming that the bar doesn’t shut down this experiment.