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Robot lawyer offering legal assistance to Equifax hack victims is UK bound

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London-born student sets sights on credit report giant

A robot lawyer offering free legal assistance to those affected by the Equifax data breach is bound for the UK, according to its 20-year-old creator.

Joshua Browder — a London-born computer science student at Stanford University, California — is the brains behind an artificial intelligence (AI) system called DoNotPay. Launched in 2016, the bot helps users with the likes of parking ticket appeals and travel delay compensation.

Computer guru Browder — who recently moved into the house Mark Zuckerberg used to rent — has helped defeat around 375,000 parking tickets in less than two years. Now, he’s moving on to potentially more lucrative claims.

Earlier this month, credit report giant Equifax revealed that around 143 million US customers may have had their personal information stolen by cyber criminals. Recent reports suggest that up to 44 million British consumers’ details may have also been compromised.

In an attempt to lend a helping hand, Browder has adapted his pioneering parking ticket programme to help victims sue Equifax without involving a lawyer.

Modifications to his DoNotPay system will help users produce the paperwork to bring claims and direct users to the court where they need to file it. Claimants can “automatically sue” Equifax for, for example, $5,000 (£3,800) in New York or $10,000 (£7,500) in California.

For those impacted outside of the States, Browder has now revealed his Equifax litigation bot will be coming to UK shores very soon. Keen to help all those affected by the breach, he told Legal Cheek:

I am looking to apply the same model to helping consumers fight the company [Equifax] in the UK. The hack unfortunately knew no borders, so neither will DoNotPay.

In a statement released last week, Equifax chairman and CEO Richard Smith said:

We pride ourselves on being a leader in managing and protecting data, and we are conducting a thorough review of our overall security operations.

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Frustrated Writer

Tom did not rush back to the office. He had put his parents in a taxi to his house share, calling ahead to make sure his mates weren’t blindsided, as Katie had been earlier. The last thing he needed was his gentle, kindly parents walking in on his mates, bunking off from their City banking jobs, playing one of their laddish drinking games in the living room. His parents would never recover from that.

Normally Tom would take the stairs up to the Legal Cheek office two at a time, easily reaching the third floor without breaking sweat. He would time himself, trying to break his personal best each day. This time though, trying to delay the inevitable, he paused on each landing, taking a moment to check out the notice boards on each floor, suddenly becoming very interested in the sales figures for 10mm Black Basalt in east Surrey, and 20mm silver granite in Romford.

When he reached the Legal Cheek office door, Tom paused for a moment to compose himself. He breathed out heavily, giving himself a pep talk much as he used to do before each rugby match he had played at university. When he could delay no more, he opened the door and entered the dingy office.

Katie was exactly where she had been an hour or so before when he had rushed off, crouched over her computer holding a cup of green tea, earphones in, the tinny sound of Coldplay drifting across the room. She had not noticed Tom enter, and wore an expression of deep concentration as she pored over a web page showing a large, beaming picture of Amal Clooney wearing a barrister’s wig and posing in front of a leaf of papers. Viewing the scene in the manner of a general surveying a battlefield before a war, assessing his options, Tom’s eye was suddenly drawn to a stapler on the floor, a large dent in the wall just above it. He did not have to ask what had happened. He knew Katie’s temper all too well. This would be a tough conversation.

Tom sidled up behind Katie as casually as he could, offering a light hearted comment. “How’s the latest article?”.

Katie visibly jumped, letting out a cry of surprise, a small amount of tea dropping onto her desk. She angrily spun around on her office chair to face Tom. “Thomas! Look what you’ve done! You made me drop my tea.”. She pointed at the tiny puddle on the desk, Tom noting that it could barely fill a teaspoon. “That was a special blend I got on that fair trade, organic cookery retreat I did in Sri Lanka! Tell me how you will replace it!”.

Tom was lost for words, thinking better of telling her that he had replaced the tea with Morrisons own brand months ago after Alex ate the original tea in a fit of the munchies, instead mumbling before seeing no response was needed. Katie had already turned her back to him, cleaning the liquid with a tissue from the box she kept on her desk.

“Look, Katie, I need to explain, what happened today…” Tom tailed off, seeing that Kate was concentrating more on lightly dabbing the desk with her tissue than listening to him.

When Katie had eventually finished, Tom, by now sat opposite Katie at his desk, tried again. “Katie, I’m sorry you got caught up in that today. You don’t deserve that.” He said apologetically. Katie was looking back at Tom, face like thunder.

“Too right I don’t, Thomas.” Katie said, bitterly. “The only reason I’m listening to you is that I’m fascinated by what ridiculous lie you’ve got lined up to explain what you’ve done, and I want you to suffer”. Katie dropped the tissue into the bin, and looked Tom in straight in the eye. “Well, I’m all ears”.

Tom grimaced then continued. “It started back in 2012. Just after uni. I’m from a small village. No one from my village had been a lawyer before. You’re doing well there if you work in the local butchers.”. Tom took a sip of water from a protein shake bottle on his desk. “My family was so proud when I left home to do the BVC. My parents took out a mortgage on their tailor’s shop to pay my fees. Everyone in the village came out for my farewell party before I left for Northumbria. Even the mayor was there. There was a ceremony and he gave me a medal. They put up a picture of me in the village hall, wearing a barrister’s wig and gown.”. He hung his head before continuing. “You know the worst thing is I was happy to take it at that time. I didn’t think it was premature. I was desperate to be a barrister, and I was so sure that I would make it. I made so many applications, visited chambers up and down the country, harassed everyone from QCs, juniors, clerks, even the chambers cleaner to get a pupillage, or even a mini pupillage, just to get me in the door. But I got nowhere.” Tom paused as his voice began wavering, eyes blinking rapidly as he held back the tears.

Katie looked on passively, not responding, although inside she was desperate to run over and put an arm around Tom. He told the story so passionately, she couldn’t help but believe him.

“My parents were so proud. So was the whole village. I couldn’t tell them their blue-eyed boy was struggling. So things kind of escalated. First, was a little white lie, just, I thought, until I got the pupillage for real. I was working at the courts at that time as an advocate, so I filled in blanks from real cases. But over time, I had to lie upon lie, making up things about bigger and bigger cases. People back home started asking me for legal advice, but I’d just wing it. My parent’s neighbour, my god mother, hasn’t realised I don’t know a thing about drafting a will, but I did it anyway. I stopped going back home in the end.”.

Tom held his protein shake bottle in both hands, not looking up. “But the pupillage never came, and the bank kept calling, wanting me to clear my overdraft, and I had to give up and take a steady job”. Katie and Tom both realised how incongruous the words in that statement were. Even a day at Legal Cheek was anything but steady, but Katie chose to let Tom continue.

“After I took the job here it was too late. I couldn’t tell my folks that I didn’t make it. They’d have been chased out of town as frauds if our village discovered I wasn’t really a barrister. They’re heroes now, the parents of a top barrister, but they’d be nothing if the village knew the truth”. Tom looked at the ceiling, lower lip quivering. “I can’t, I won’t, do that to them”.

Katie knew she couldn’t keep up the façade any longer. “Tom, you’ve got to do something” she said, sympathetically. These were the first kind words Katie had spoken to Tom in months.

“Just tell them. The truth isn’t that bad is it? You’re doing well”. Katie tried not to flinch as she said the last two sentences. “Surely people will understand? Show them your retention rate articles. They’re great”.

Tom shook his head slowly. “The articles are good, I know. But it’s far too late for that Katie. Too late”. Tom turned away so that Katie wouldn’t see his tears welling up. He couldn’t believe he had messed things up so badly again.

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Anonymous

You need to set up a blog and catalog these, I appear to have missed a few entries in the tale and I don’t know where to find them!

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@nighthawkprof

Bravo Sir! A well written story!
Keep them coming!

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Anonymous

Robots would be more interesting than some of my colleagues.

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