How the Robot Lawyer lost its first case
The difficulties and restrictions of using a robot lawyer have recently been brought to light in the media.
DoNotPay CEO and founder Joshua Browder shut down the company's robot lawyer stunt. Browder claims he was threatened with prosecution and imprisonment by multiple state bars.
Allegedly useful for those without access to legal counsel, Browder's DoNotPay provides self-help data for use in civil proceedings. A woman asserted that these self-help resources were all "smoke and mirrors," consistently misrepresented the law, and failed to deliver the results they promised.
A robot lawyer was just a joke. Browder pretended to have permission to use a traffic ticket case to test his robot attorney. According to the evidence Browder presented, he intended to have an unrepresented litigant appear in traffic court while listening to music on Air Pods. The defendant would receive legal advice (from the robot lawyer) via these air pods.
The story explains why the logistics of pulling off such a gimmick are unrealistic (at least as of today), citing the fact that judges lack the patience to wait for the time delay necessary for the litigant to receive instructions from the robot lawyer. It seems that the issue of unauthorized practice of law was also unexpected by Joshua Browder, the man responsible for creating the robot lawyer.
Browder has been silent about the nature of these threats and their origin. But despite this, he tweeted that he was ending the joke.
A woman who had previously criticized DoNotPay decided to give it another try after reading positive reviews. She signed up for the service and used all three of its features: the Defamation Demand Letter, the Divorce Settlement Agreement, and the Sue Anyone in Small Claims Court.
After entering her details into the Defamation Demand Letter and clicking "next," she was met with a progress bar stating that her letter would be ready in one hour. She pointed out that the system seems unreasonably sluggish for something that is meant to react to a judge and issue orders in real time.
The next step was to try the Divorce Settlement Agreement, which gave her a time estimate of eight hours before it was complete. She remarked that she thought eight hours was excessively long for an AI to generate a document. (Sounds like some human assistant doing some drafting)
Finally, she tried to use the app to file a claim against someone in small claims court. Seeing as how this is standard procedure in the legal profession, she was turned off by the app's claim to produce legal documents and a script to read in court. Although she was able to obtain a PDF after navigating the app's many user experience issues and illogical prompts, she was ultimately disappointed by the app's service. The documents she paid for were not ready after the initial one-hour and eight-hour time frames, and the clock icon flipped to indicate that more time was required.
While Browder's DoNotPay Robot lawyer was meant as a joke, I have no doubt that robot lawyers will become the norm in the near future. The question is whether the robot lawyer can provide only non-represented assistance to pro se litigants, or whether the robot must serve as an apprentice to a licensed lawyer, in which case when the robot lawyer is used by the litigant, the litigant has some sort of limited legal representation and the lawyer bears correspondingly limited legal responsibility for the litigant’s legal matter. As for the solution, I have none today, but I do have theories.
I look forward to seeing how this develops.