Speed Reads

But, is it legal?

A.I. powered 'robot lawyer' will appear in a U.S. court for the first time

A chatbot powered by artificial intelligence will appear in court next month to help a defendant fight a traffic ticket, CBS News reports. The "robot lawyer," the first of its kind, is an experimental step toward exploring the capabilities of increasingly sophisticated AI tools. 

Consumer-focused tech firm DoNotPay is behind the AI-powered legal assistant. The company's CEO, Joshua Browder, says the company's creation runs on a smartphone that listens to court arguments. The information is then fed through an AI program that outputs legal arguments to the defendant through wireless headphones in real time.

When asked by Gizmodo if the court would be aware of the AI legal advisor during the hearing, Browder replied, "Definitely not." Phones and internet-powered devices are banned from court proceedings in many countries and jurisdictions globally. To circumvent restrictions, Browder said his company sought out a court that allowed Apple Airpods for hearing accessibility, per Gizmodo. 

Browder says the ultimate goal of his creation is to make legal representation free and accessible. However, given the current legal barriers, he doesn't have plans for commercialization soon. "This courtroom stuff is more advocacy," he explained to CBS. "It's more to encourage the system to change."  He's also aware that "there are a lot of lawyers and bar associations that would not support this." 

Nicholas Saady, a litigator at Pryor Cashman who advises on using AI in business and legal practice, said that Browder's plan risks violating state laws requiring lawyers to be licensed."Is it the unauthorized practice of law?" he asked Politico. In his opinion, people are better off hiring real-life lawyers, no matter how advanced the AI gets. Without the ability to read body language or make strategic decisions in real-time, "It doesn't seem like AI is ready to get on its feet in court," he said.

On the other hand, Boston attorney Matt Henshon believes that the AI-powered litigator is a promising innovation. Henson, the chair of the American Bar Association's Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Committee, said that DoNotPay's chatbot could provide legal assistance in lower-stakes scenarios where people would otherwise go unrepresented. 

"There are plenty of legal wrongs that don't get righted because it's not worth it for a lawyer to get involved," Henshon said.