01 November 2017 0 Comments Posted By : Joanne Lee-Young

Entrepreneur launches Robot Lawyer chatbot in four Canadian cities

Joshua Browder is a 20-year-old British computer science student at Stanford University who has gained attention for inventing the Robot Lawyer.

The technology has helped offenders in the U.S. and U.K. overturn some 400,000 parking and traffic tickets since it was launched two years ago.

“Everyone hates parking tickets, it turns out,” says Browder. “But I realized there are other disputes. Making claims for delayed flights, lost luggage. Arguing with landlords.”

He created an interactive website, known as a chatbot, that starts with a user’s complaint, asks a series of questions, and summarizes the answers into legal documents, all for free.  

Since hiring a lawyer for even the most basic legal needs can cost hundreds of dollars, Browder’s technology has led to him being dubbed a Robin Hood of the law.

Last year, Browder offered his DoNotPay service across the U.S. On Tuesday, he said the chatbot will soon be available to users in four Canadian cities: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver.

“We will start (in Canada) by working with traffic tickets, but then later expand to providing legal documents for other disputes,” said Browder, who was in Vancouver to speak at the Innovate Now Canada conference. “The service is completely free and most (queries) can be done in under 30 seconds.”

There is, of course, a charming story behind this possibly disruptive venture.

Browder was a high school student in London when he started racking up a bunch of parking tickets. His parents got fed up and started making him pay the fines.

“I began looking into all the obscure reasons why parking tickets get dismissed. I became a bit of legend for getting out of tickets and people started asking me for help. My teachers, friends. I thought I should find a way to do it automatically. And then, all of a sudden, a blog picked it up in August 2015.”

In July 2017, Browder announced his chatbot would expand into providing documents for disputes and requests spanning a thousand areas of law (from requesting parental leave to getting a restraining order) in the U.S. and U.K.

His next project is to provide documents for divorces.

“I don’t want to be increasing divorce rates,” Browder joked. “Some people don’t have many assets to split, but (having access to documents) would allow people to get out of (an unhappy) situation for free. ”

Reached on Tuesday afternoon, the Law Society of B.C. said it needed more time “to look into the matter and consult with the appropriate subject matter experts.”

Vancouver lawyer Paul Doroshenko said it will be interesting to see what the law society has to say about practicing law without a license.

Currently in B.C., disputes to parking and traffic tickets still have to be lodged by showing up to court in person, but with provincial government’s moves to bring in electronic traffic ticketing, disputing via documents submitted online will become more commonplace, said Doroshenko.

Elsewhere, legal eagles have also disputed a chatbot’s ability to do things such as actually sign a document or handle complicated relationships with a human touch.

Browder, who started studying at Stanford in 2015, says his degree is a bit of a “side project” but he is interested in how robots can respond to questions with human nuances using artificial intelligence.

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