This 'Free Lawyer Robot' Is Making Legal Help More Accessible, One Parking Ticket At A Time

Now you can get legal help in under 30 seconds.

Got a parking ticket? Instead of calling a traditional lawyer, you might be contacting a robot. Stanford student Joshua Browder has developed DoNotPay, a "free online robot lawyer" that is helping people deal with their parking tickets. The bot boasts 60 percent success rate with more than 200,000 tickets overturned in cities around the world.



The Telegraph reports that Browder developed the robot in the three months before he went off to college. He originally created it to help his friends and family in London who were issued parking tickets.

"It was a huge challenge," he said, because he had to create a robot that would understand human messages.

In 2015, Wired described building machines that understand natural language as "AI's next frontier." And while the technology has advanced significantly, bringing with it Siri, Alexa, Google Home, as well as Facebook chatbots, it's easy to see where legal assistance would represent a uniquely challenging proposition. "Siri, what time is it?" is a significantly less heady question than those that lawyers are typically paid to deal with.

But of course, lawyers are costly. As The Atlantic reported in 2014, many Americans can't afford to hire one, and as a result go to court without legal representation, or never go to court at all. Democratizing services like DoNotPay could change that.

After the idea of DoNotPay took off with Browder's family, he decided to expand on it. So far, DoNotPay is set up to handle parking issues in London, New York, and Seattle with Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Denver launching shortly. To make these launches possible, the 20-year-old is currently conducting field research and looking for streets with confusing parking signage.

When someone would like to contest a parking ticket in one of those cities, they can log on to DoNotPay. They will then be asked questions about the incident, then the robot will generate a letter. The DoNotPay website boasts that you can get legal help in "under 30 seconds."

While the "lawyer robot" is focusing on parking tickets at the moment, Browder would like to expand the website to help Syrian refugees in their applications for asylum. According to IBM, the Stanford student plans make use of the tech company's Watson Language Translator, which generates translations based on statistic analysis of bilingual texts, to make the asylum application service available in Arabic.

His ultimate goal is to democratize legal aid so everyone will be able to get help, no matter their financial status. He told NPR that he wants to "level the playing field so anyone can have the same legal access under the law."

Cover image via posteriori / Shutterstock / bikeriderlondon.

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