AI Lawyers: It Starts as an Experiment, but There’s a Real Need

Next month, AI will enter the courtroom, and American law may not be the same.

A highly intelligent chatbot, a technology equipped to answer questions and hold a conversation, is expected to advise two people who are fighting speeding tickets in courtrooms in undisclosed cities. The two will wear wireless headphones, which will communicate the judge’s story to a chatbot operated by DoNotPay, a company that often helps people buy car tickets by mail. The headphones then play the chatbot’s suggested answers to the judge’s questions, which each person can choose to repeat in court.

A statue. But it also has the potential to change the way people interact with the law, bringing many other changes over time. DoNotPay CEO Josh Browder says the high legal fees keep people from hiring regular lawyers to fight for them in traffic court, which often involves fines of up to a hundred dollars.

So, his team wondered if an AI chatbot, trained to understand and argue the law, could intervene.

“A lot of people can’t submit to the law,” Browder said in an interview. The use of AI in a real judicial setting “will be a proof of concept for courts to allow the technology in the courtroom.”

Even if Browder is successful – he says he will be – his company’s actions mark the first of what will likely be many other efforts to increase AI in our daily lives.

Modern life is filled with technology. Some people wake up to a song chosen by AI-powered alarms. Their news is often compiled by a computer program, too, one that learns to choose what they find most interesting or that they will be more likely to show and share through social media. AI chooses images to show us on our phones, asks us if we should add a meeting to our calendars based on the emails we receive, and four remind us to write a birthday greeting to our loved ones.

But advocates say that AI’s ability to sort through information, see patterns and quickly pull up data means that in the short term, it could become a “copilot” for our daily lives. Already, coders on Microsoft-owned GitHub are using it AI helps them create programs and solve technical problems. Social media is relying on AI to help determine the best time to post new content. Even We here at CNET are testing whether AI it can help to write descriptive essays about the changing world of money.

So, it may seem like only a matter of time before AI finds its way into research-heavy industries like law as well. And think about that 80% of Americans are low income legal aid is not available, while 40% to 60% of the middle class still struggles to get such help, the need is clear. AI can help meet that need, but lawyers shouldn’t feel like new technology will take business away from them, said Andrew Perlman, dean of the law school at Suffolk University. . It’s just a freebie.

“There’s no way a lawyer can provide all the legal services people need,” Perlman said.

How will AI approach the legal profession?

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Turn to AI

DoNotPay started its latest AI research in 2021 when it gave businesses early access to GPT-3, the same AI tool used by the OpenAI startup to create ChatGPT, which went viral due to its ability to answer questions, write essays and even create new computer programs. In December, Browder expressed his opinion by a tweet: ask someone to wear an Apple AirPod in the traffic court so that the AI ​​can listen to what is happening through the microphone and feed the answers through the ear.

Aside from people mocking him for the move, Browder knew he would have other challenges. Many states and counties limit legal counsel to those licensed to practice law, a clear obstacle that UC Irvine School of Law professor Emily Taylor Poppe said could cause trouble for AI. DoNotPay.

“Since the AI ​​will provide information in real time, and since it involves the application of appropriate rules to the virtual reality, it is difficult to know how to avoid the view of giving advice legally,” Poppe said. In fact, AI would be legal to practice law without a law license.

AI tools also raise privacy concerns. The computer program needs to record audio to interpret what it hears, an activity that is not allowed in most jurisdictions. Lawyers are also expected to follow applicable laws that prohibit them from sharing confidential information about clients. Can a chatbot, designed to share information, follow the same rules?

According to Perlman, many of these concerns can be answered if these tools are used carefully. If successful, he argued, these technologies could also help with the mountains of paperwork lawyers encounter each day.

Ultimately, he argued, chatbots could be as helpful as Google and other search tools today, saving lawyers from physically traversing law libraries to find information stored on the shelves.

“Lawyers trying to provide legal services without technology will not be sufficient to meet the legal needs of the public,” said Perlman. Ultimately, he believes, AI can do more good than bad.

The two cases in which DoNotPay is involved may affect much of that discussion. Browder declined to say where the proceedings will take place, citing security concerns.

Neither DoNotPay nor the defendants plan to notify judges or anyone else in court that an AI is being used or that it is being hacked. It is silent, a reality that raises moral concerns. This led to pushback on Twitter when Browder asked for volunteer tickets in December. But Browder said the courts selected by DoNotPay seem to be more complacent if they know.

A robot arm holds the letters 'AI' in front of law books and a statue of a blind judge.

AI has great potential to democratize legal aid, advocates say.

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The future of law

After these traffic ticket fights, DoNotPay plans to create a video designed to encourage the use of technology, ultimately with the goal of changing laws and policies to allow AI in courtrooms.

States and legal entities, meanwhile, have been debating these questions for a long time. In 2020, the California task force is committed to exploring ways to expand access to legal services. recommended allowing designated unlicensed physicians to represent clients, among other changes. The American Bar Association tell judges to use AI tools to consider biases built into the tools themselves. UNESCO, the international organization dedicated to the preservation of culture, has free online courses including the basics of what AI can offer legal systems.

For his part, Browder said AI chatbots will be so popular in the next two years that the court will have no choice but to allow them. Maybe AI tools will have a seat at the table, instead of whispering in our ears.

“Six months ago, you couldn’t have imagined that an AI could respond in these detailed ways,” Browder said. “No one has imagined, in any law, what this would be like in real life.”

Editor’s note: CNET uses an AI engine to create personal finance reports that are modeled and analyzed. That’s where our editors are. For more information, see this post.

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