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How a 19 Year Old Developed A Robot Lawyer

Robot lawyers may seem a little scary . . but for a 19 year old student he has a robot lawyer that has already appealed $3 million in parking tickets.

The saving in costs for such an appeal – estimated to be from $400 – $900 – is massive.

Joshua Browder - Image: nyli.org
Joshua Browder – Image: nyli.org

And Joshua Browder, a Stanford University student, the robot lawyer creator, set up his “bot” in late 2015 and started accumulating “appeals” handled by it that steadily climbed.

Once signed in, the bot asks some key questions – just like a lawyer, actually – such as:  “Were you the one driving?” and “Was it hard to understand the parking signs?”

It then spits out an appeal letter, which you mail to the court.   And if the robot lawyer doesn’t understand you, it simply directs you to contact Browder directly.

If the robot is completely confused, it tells you how to contact Browder directly.

The robot takes advantage of the public availability of laws, which means the bots can automate some of the simple tasks that human lawyers have had to do for centuries.

Browder is not the first to develop such bots.  The startupAcadmx’s bot creates perfectly formatted legal briefs for filing, while  Lex Machina does data mining on judges’ records and makes predictions on what they will do in the future.

As Business Insider reports, Beyond parking tickets, Browder’s bot can also help with delayed or canceled flights and payment-protection insurance (PPI) claims. Although the bot can only help file claims on simple legal issues — it can’t physically argue a case in front of a judge — it can save users a lot of money.

Browder programmed his robot based on a conversation algorithm. It uses keywords, pronouns, and word order to understand the user’s issue. He says that the more people use the robot, the more intelligent it becomes. Its algorithm can quickly analyze large amounts of data while improving itself in the process.

Although Browder programmed the bot according to UK law, he says it can be helpful in the US, too. For example, if a flight is delayed from New York City to London, the ticket holder can use the robot to claim compensation. Browder is working to program US city laws into the bot, starting with New York.

Although many of these bots are tools that can rapidly crawl public records and serve up legal information they are unable to provide full and genuine legal counsel, and it will likely take them several decades to become as sophisticated as humans, says Samuel Woolley, who tracks and studies political bots.

“Bots can’t fully replace human actors — not in the foreseeable future, at least,” he tells Tech Insider. “They can’t provide nuanced social insight because they can’t really understand humor or emotional subtleties.”

The trend towards robot lawyers and doctors is something that we should embrace, say futurologists like Daniel Susskind.

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