A robot lawyer powered by artificial intelligence prepares to argue in court. Real lawyers shut him down. : NPR

Joshua Browder’s AI startup, DoNotPay, had planned to argue an AI-powered bot on behalf of a defendant in a case next month, but he says threats from bar associations have forced him to halt his efforts.

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Joshua Browder’s AI startup DoNotPay planned to have an AI-powered bot argue on behalf of a defendant in a case next month, but it says threats from bar associations have forced it to halt its efforts.

Provided by Joshua Browder

A British man who planned to hire a “robot lawyer” to help a defendant fight a traffic violation has called off his efforts after being threatened with possible prosecution and jail time.

Joshua Browder, CEO of New York startup DoNotPay, has created a way for people fighting traffic tickets to use AI-powered arguments in court.

How it was supposed to work: The person challenging the speeding ticket would wear it smart glasses that both record court proceedings and dictate answers into the defendant’s ear from a small speaker. The system is powered by several leading AI text generators, including ChatGPT and DaVinci.

The first AI-powered legal defense was to be held in California On February 22, but not anymore.

As soon as word got out, Browder said, a worried buzz began to emerge among various state bar officials. He says that angry letters have started to arrive.

“Many state bar associations have threatened us,” Browder said. “One even said that a referral to the district attorney’s office and prosecution and jail time would be possible.”

Specifically, Browder noted that one state barrel official said trespassing is a felony punishable by up to six months in jail in some states.

“Even if that didn’t happen, the threat of prosecution was enough to put him off. “The letters became so frequent that we thought it was just a distraction and we should move on.”

State Bars license and regulate attorneys to ensure that people hire attorneys who understand the law.

Browder declined to say specifically which state bar associations sent the letters and which official threatened possible prosecution, saying his startup, DoNotPay, is being investigated by several state bar associations, including California.

California State Bar General Counsel George Cardona said in a statement that the organization has a duty to investigate possible cases of unauthorized practice of law.

“We routinely notify potential violators that they may face civil or criminal prosecution, which is entirely up to law enforcement,” Cardona said.

Leah Wilson, executive director of the State Bar of California, told NPR that there has been a recent increase in low-cost, low-quality legal representation that the association has launched a new crackdown on, but she would not comment on whether DoNotPay is part of it. of this effort.

“In 2023, we see well-funded, unregulated providers rushing into the market for low-cost legal representation, again raising questions about whether and how these services should be regulated,” he said.

Move away from legal protection with artificial intelligence between threats

Instead of helping traffic offenders use AI in the courtroom, Browder said DoNotPay will focus on helping people dealing with costly medical bills, unwanted subscriptions and issues with credit reporting agencies.

Browder still hopes the road isn’t over for artificial intelligence in the courtroom.

“The truth is, most people can’t afford a lawyer. “This could change the balance and allow people to use tools like ChatGPT in the courtroom, which could potentially help them win cases.”

The future of robot lawyers faces uncertainty for another reason that is more straightforward than the Bar’s existential questions: courtroom rules.

Audio recording during live proceedings is not permitted in federal court and is often prohibited in state courts. The artificial intelligence tools developed by DoNotPay require you to record the audio of the arguments so that the machine learning algorithm can generate the answers.

“I think calling the tool a ‘robot lawyer’ really pissed off a lot of lawyers,” Browder said. “But I think they’re missing the forest for the trees. Technology is evolving and courtroom rules are very outdated.”

DoNotPay has raised $28 million, including funding from prominent venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, according to analyst firm PitchBook, which estimates DoNotPay is worth $210 million.

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