AI lawyer retires before it even has its first case in court

Artificial intelligence-powered law services will not reach live court sessions in the US anytime soon. Real lawyers seem to have shut down an ambitious idea to introduce a “robot lawyer” in a courtroom.

It was all very secretive when announced by Joshua Browder, the founder of DoNotPay, a company utilizing AI to assist users in resolving parking tickets, delayed flights, and potentially unjust charges.

Browder said DoNotPay would unleash its “robot lawyer” in a real courtroom where a hearing of a speeding case will take place.

He cautiously guarded the identity of the defendant and the name of the jurisdiction due to fears that the authorities would stop the experiment – but was generous in giving details of how this would work.

The company was planning to input audio of the proceedings into an AI that would then generate legal arguments for the defendant to repeat verbatim in court – the judge would supposedly be unaware of what’s going on.

“On February 22nd at 1.30PM, history will be made. For the first time ever, a robot will represent someone in a US courtroom. DoNotPay AI will whisper in someone's ear exactly what to say. We will release the results and share more after it happens. Wish us luck!” Browder proclaimed on Twitter.

The entrepreneur explained that some US courts allowed defendants to wear hearing aids, some of which are bluetooth-enabled. That’s why, Browder said, DoNotPay’s tech – based on GPT-J, an open source AI model – can be legally used.

Alas, Browder now says he will not be going forward with the plan. In fact, the “robot lawyer” will be retired – for now – and DoNotPay will be focusing on what it has been doing so far: lowering medical bills, canceling subscriptions, and completing other tasks that can be handled online.

Why? If we believed Browder who wrote a lengthy explanation in a Twitter thread on Wednesday, he simply does not want to be fined or even imprisoned.

“Bad news: after receiving threats from State Bar prosecutors, it seems likely they will put me in jail for 6 months if I follow through with bringing a robot lawyer into a physical courtroom. DoNotPay is postponing our court case and sticking to consumer rights,” Browder wrote.

However, what Browder calls “threats” might merely be professional explanations of the consequences that would await him if he went through with the bold idea.

For example, most US states require that all parties consent to be recorded – that alone would rule out the possibility of a “robot lawyer” entering, so to speak, a courtroom.

Besides, using an AI-powered chatbot for real-time legal representation can be interpreted as unauthorized practice of law. Again, most US states require lawyers to have a professional license in order to be able to work on cases.

All is not lost, though. A non-peer-reviewed preprint paper published a few weeks ago by two law professors predicted that a large language model will soon be able to pass the multiple choice section of the Multistate Bar Exam – so AI litigators can really become reality one day.

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