It can make art, write essays and even play chess. Now, artificial intelligence will try something new: offering legal counsel. Next month, an A.I. will make its way to the courtroom to help two defendants fight speeding tickets.
Behind this bot, called the “world’s first robot lawyer,” is the technology startup DoNotPay, which uses artificial intelligence to advocate for consumers. In a first-of-its-kind scheme, the A.I. will tell defendants how to respond to the judge in real-time using an earpiece with Bluetooth capabilities, reports New Scientist’s Matthew Sparkes.
Legal services and fees can be expensive, preventing some people from hiring a traditional lawyer to fight a case for them in traffic court, says Joshua Browder, DoNotPay’s founder, to CNET’s David Lumb.
“Most people can’t afford legal representation,” he tells CNET. The A.I. lawyer stunt “will be a proof of concept for courts to allow technology in the courtroom.”
DoNotPay’s robot lawyer will be fed audio of the court proceedings as they occur, and the A.I. will then respond with legal arguments, reports Politico’s Ben Schreckinger. The defendants have agreed to repeat to the judge exactly what the chatbot says.
The robot lawyer will use GPT-J, an open source language model released by EleutherAI, a collective of volunteer researchers, engineers and developers. GPT technology, which stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer, has made recent news with the release of OpenAI’s bot ChatGPT. These bots can “learn to model the relationships between words after having been trained on webpages scraped from the internet,” writes the Register’s Katyanna Quach.
According to Browder, this is ideal for legal applications. “The law is almost like code and language combined, so it’s the perfect use case for A.I.,” he tells USA Today’s Bailey Schulz. “I think that this is the biggest potential for GPT and large language model technology.”
DoNotPay trained the bot to argue using facts, rather than by making things up to win the case, writes New Scientist. They also programmed it to sometimes remain silent, as not everything in court requires a response.
The first case involving the robot lawyer is set for February 22, Browder revealed on Twitter last week. He didn’t identify the defendant or the jurisdiction in which the court proceeding will take place due to fears that the judge would catch on to the plan and block their use of A.I. technology.
On February 22nd at 1.30PM, history will be made. For the first time ever, a robot will represent someone in a US courtroom.— Joshua Browder (@jbrowder1) January 21, 2023
DoNotPay A.I will whisper in someone's ear exactly what to say. We will release the results and share more after it happens. Wish us luck!
When initially finding the cases, Browder identified two jurisdictions where his plan was “not outright illegal,” he tells Politico. Since some courts allow defendants to wear hearing aids, some of which have Bluetooth capacity, Browder determined that the technology could be legally used in the cases. The February 22 hearing will take place in person, and the subsequent case, of which the date has not been revealed, will happen over Zoom. DoNotPay is also looking into a third case involving eviction, reports USA Today.
Founded in 2015, the startup has previously used GPT technology to appeal bank fees and negotiate a new internet rate. The company has created templates that help people request a refund from an airline and argue parking tickets.
The upcoming hearing likely represents the first time A.I. will be used in court. However, the technology is already prevalent throughout the legal profession. For example, large law firms regularly use A.I. to review masses of legal documents during the early phases of litigation.
Nicholas Saady, a litigator at the law firm Pryor Cashman who advises on A.I.’s use in law and business, tells Politico that Browder’s plan may conflict with state laws that require lawyers to be professionally licensed by the state. Additionally, he tells the publication that a robot couldn’t replace a human lawyer’s ability to improvise or understand body language: “It doesn’t seem like AI is ready to get on its feet in court.”
Andrew Perlman, the dean of Suffolk University Law School, tells CNET the use of A.I. technology in the legal system carries more benefits than drawbacks, and it can ease tedious legal tasks, like sorting through paperwork.
“Lawyers trying to deliver legal services without technology are going to be inadequate and insufficient to meeting the public’s legal needs,” Perlman says to CNET.
Browder tells CBS News’ Megan Cerullo he’s aware of the shortcomings of A.I. technology in some cases. Given the potential risk to defendants, DoNotPay plans to pay them for their involvement and cover any fines associated with the cases.
But Browder hopes the experiment can help make legal services more accessible to those who can’t afford expensive attorneys.
“It’s not in the spirit of law, but we’re trying to push things forward and a lot of people can’t afford legal help,” Browder tells CBS News. “If these cases are successful, it will encourage more courts to change their rules.”