London whizz kid bids to revolutionise law industry
The UK’s first “robot lawyer” has been launched — and it’s very good at travel delay compensation advice and the law surrounding badgers, but not so great on other areas.
Nevertheless, it’s early days yet, and its young creator has told Legal Cheek that “lawyers all over the world should be very scared of this technology”.
Designed by London-born 19 year-old Joshua Browder, the robot provides 24 hour legal access to the general public for free, with its core specialisms advertised as parking fines, delayed flights/trains and claiming payment protection insurance.
Browder — who is currently studying towards a degree in economics and computer science at prestigious Stanford University in the US — was inspired to design the robot after the success of his website ‘DoNotPay’.
The site, which assists members of the public in appealing unfair parking fines, gained widespread media coverage, resulting in Browder being inundated with further legal queries.
Unable to respond to them all — and without even a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) to his name — the British teen set about creating the UK’s first robot lawyer. He has been promoting it on Twitter this week.
Big update: excited to launch the first ever lawyer robot in the UK! https://t.co/L2gbxcQQgM
— Joshua Browder (@jbrowder1) January 13, 2016
Keen to find out if vast swathes of Legal Cheek’s readership would soon be out of a job, we logged on and tested the robot out.
Greeted by something that looks more like a WhatsApp conversation than Johnny Five, we asked the robot lawyer a few classic law student conundrums, kicking things off with a trust law query.
Law students will no doubt be sympathetic to the response: the robot claimed it didn’t “fully understand”. Perhaps tort law was more its bag.
OK, maybe not. Perhaps the UK’s first lawyer robot is a European law specialist?
Struggling with some fairly basic legal questions, perhaps the robot knew something about the law surrounding badgers (hat tip to Mashable for suggesting this topic)?
Finding its specialism, the robot fired back a succinct response, warning that if anyone at Cheek HQ decided to go out kill a badger tonight, they could face “six months imprisonment or a substantial fine”.
The robot works by using a computer algorithm to identify key words that in turn trigger set responses. If unable to help, Browder receives an email flagging up the legal query — and goes off to do some old fashioned research. So presumably at some point someone wanted to know whether they could legally kill a badger and the computer-whizz teenager updated the bot accordingly.
Badgers aside, the robot does offer some useful basic legal assistance. Pretending that Legal Cheek was recently subjected to a flight delay to Benidorm, the online system responded by producing an appeal letter that could be used to seek compensation. Certainly, this is pretty impressive work from a first year undergraduate. And who knows where it could lead?
Browder — who clearly isn’t a fan of lawyers — told Legal Cheek:
Lawyers all over the world should be very scared of this technology. Eventually when it gets perfected, many of their services will be 99.99% cheaper by going to a computer. At the early stages, it’s still crude, and I am working with some of the same professors at Stanford who helped found Google to make it better. Artificial intelligence is like human intelligence and it takes more questions to train the computer to make perfect responses.