Hello, I’m Lawson, your legal robot assistant. How can I help you?
This is the kind of prompt you might encounter on a website that offers customer service by chat. Friendly avatars greet you on retail websites, ready to sell you everything from appliances to vehicles. A virtual concierge, for example, might help you plan your next vacation. Even tech support is often provided via a chat or messaging feature. And now in law, chatbots or “robot lawyers” are facilitating access to the legal system and helping users handle simple legal matters.
Perhaps the most well-known legal chatbot is DoNotPay, a tool that guides users through a series of questions designed to dispute parking tickets. In recent months, the DoNotPay chatbot has expanded considerably to address a variety of legal concerns including consumer rights, employment law, and landlord-tenant disputes. Soon, the creator of the site, Josh Browder, hopes to offer a chatbot that will handle your divorce.
Hate Crime Help is a newer addition to the army of chatbots ready to help people who have been victims of hate crimes, including violence, verbal attacks, property damage, and harassment. The app lets you specify that the crime was motivated by discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, gender, or sexual orientation. It then provides contact information for local resources linked to your zip code that will help you get the legal relief you need. Additional information about what the law says regarding hate crimes at the state and national levels is provided, along with a point-by-point comparison of hate crimes and bias incidents.
ProTechMe uses a chatbot to quickly and efficiently collect information needed for securing a protective order in Harris County. Its design is based on the Texas Attorney General's Protective Order kit (which can be found here on TexasLawHelp.org). Information that is gathered via the chatbot auto-populates a pdf document that the user can then print out and submit to the district attorney or to a legal aid office. Victims of family violence are often closely monitored by their abusers, and using the Internet to search for help may not be a safe option. Although ProTechMe is still in development, it may, eventually, become a safer and more practical way for victims to get the help and information they need.
Robots are unlikely to replace lawyers any time soon, if ever, despite media reports that sometimes sensationalize the impact of chatbots and related AI technologies. However, there is no doubt that technology will continue to shape the practice of law and change how clients interface with the legal system. Embracing technology as a tool for facilitating access to justice is advisable, for, as the robot overlords always say, resistance is futile.