A free robot lawyer is fighting parking tickets and much more

The Essence of Liberty: Volume I: Liberty and History: The Rise and Fall of the Noble Experiment with Constitutionally Limited Government (Liberty and ... Limited Government) (Volume 1)From Yahoo Finance:

 

In 2015, British entrepreneur—and current Stanford junior Joshua Browder—launched DoNotPay, a site offering consumers free help fighting parking tickets. DoNotPay is a chatbot and, using artificial intelligence, asks its pro-bono clients a series of questions and plugs those answers into a form letter template. Then, a pdf is available to save, email, or print.

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian ViewIn the two-plus years of operation, Browder estimates the chatbot has beaten 375,000 tickets in the U.K., New York, and Seattle.

DoNotPay’s parking ticket success led Browder to an ambitious goal to provide legal help of all kinds – for free – and on Wednesday, DoNotPay is adding about 1,000 consumer categories to its portfolio for all 50 states.

Some of the matters relate to legal claims, but much of the help is simply with writing strongly-worded lawyerly letters for things like formulating requests for compensation from airlines, requests to landlords, reporting discrimination, filing for maternity leave, dealing with defective products, or disputing a credit report entry or credit card charge.

Combat Shooter's HandbookThe bot’s surge forward took about a year. Around eight months ago, Browder managed to automate the creation of bots by creating a code-less backend he could use. “I could go from building a bot in a month to building it in an hour,” he told Yahoo Finance. With a tech-free way to make bots, Browder managed to recruit four lawyers on a volunteer and part-time basis, via Twitter, to lend a hand.

Even with the lawyers and two friends helping, the process of jumping from handling a few tasks to 1,000 was delayed due to Browder’s student status. “I try to do this on the side, so it took a year when it should have taken two months,” he said.

How bots can handle legal issues

Reconnaissance Marine MCI 03.32f: Marine Corps Institute Browder and his lawyers found that two categories of situations were ripe for DoNotPay’s bots. “The first category is just filling in documents to ensure you can send something off—filling in a PDF or automating a letter,” he said. “The second thing is getting people to the right document and ensuring they’re eligible. Whenever there’s a thing when there’s a huge decision tree, then a document, that works particularly well.”

Of course, there are significant limitations of the platform currently, like going to court. “We tried to go with things that are both legally accurate and needed,” said Browder. “Obviously, we didn’t try to do everything. The bot doesn’t help you get divorced, for instance.”

Disrupting the legal industry

The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other MisfitsAs an entrepreneur looking to disrupt the legal industry, Browder is very critical of lawyers and legal services that too are often cost-prohibitive, shutting out those who can’t afford to pay fees necessary to escalate a small consumer complaint.

“I think [DoNotPay] shows that the law in terms of legal tech is really broken. I’m so surprised this hasn’t been done,” he said. “There’s a huge stagnation in legal technology.”

A Handbook for Ranch Managers  Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference ManualThere are a few factors that have made DoNotPay the first of its kind. Partners at law firms may not have significant incentive to innovate, and raising venture capital is challenging due to the structure of law firms, said Browder. Not to mention there are regulations that carefully control the sale of legal advice. But since DoNotPay is free, it manages to sidestep the issue.

However, this does make monetization a challenge, limited to revenue from sources other than subscriptions or fees—ads for instance. To date Browder has not monetized his service, but  wouldn’t be against it so long as it stays free.

After the rollout of the new functionality, Browder plans on tackling other issues like declaring bankruptcy. “It’s actually really expensive to go bankrupt,” he said. Browder also noted that wills are “really interesting,” but that he was holding off as some friends of his had already begun reinventing estate planning with an app called FreeWill, which supplies “totally legal” wills.

Browder may be abutting the limits of a simple fill-in-the-blank Mad Libs-style approach at dealing with the law, but with machine learning and ascendancy of artificial intelligence, it seems like a foregone conclusion that legal services from robots will have a large effect on the industry, and in a big way. If a simple bot in just three cities beat 375,000 parking tickets—likely saving over $10 million—even Browder’s rollout to all 50 states should make a splash.

Correction: An earlier version identified an incorrect “FreeWill” app. The one in question pertains to the U.S., not England and Wales.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, tech, and personal finance. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann. Got a tip? Send it to tips@yahoo-inc.com.

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The Essence of Liberty: Volume II (The Economics of Liberty)The Essence of Liberty Volume II: The Economics of Liberty Volume II will introduce the reader to the fundamental principles of the Austrian School of Economics. The Austrian School traces its origins back to the Scholastics of Medieval Spain. But its lineage actually began with Carl Menger and continued on through Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard and many others. It is the one and only true private property based, free market line of economic thought. Available in both paperback and Kindle versions.

You might be interested in the other two volumes of this three volume set: The Essence of Liberty Volume I: Liberty and History  and The Essence of Liberty Volume III: Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic.

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Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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