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The backstory: Last week, a startup called DoNotPay announced it would revolutionize the legal world by using AI chatbots to offer real-time legal advice in court. The goal of DoNotPay is to use AI to help people who can't afford a lawyer. Imagine you're in court, and a chatbot is in your ear giving you real-time guidance on what to say to fight a traffic ticket, and it's all accessible through an app on your phone. The company even planned to use "smart glasses" to guide clients through their cases.
More recently: DoNotPay has been using AI-generated form letters and chatbots to help people with issues like getting refunds for faulty in-flight WiFi, lowering bills and fighting parking tickets. And it's been working really well – the company's won over two million customer service disputes and court cases for people so far. But, this would have been the first time it had stepped into an actual courtroom.
The development: Things have hit a roadblock, as DoNotPay had to put its plans on hold after threats from prosecutors, according to CEO Joshua Browder. He said he could face a possible six-month prison sentence if he continued with the plan.
The robot lawyer concept had an uphill battle from the beginning. It's important to note that to provide legal advice and represent parties in court, a law license is required. Also, recording courtroom proceedings is prohibited in many US states.
"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 A.I will whisper in someone's ear exactly what to say. We will release the results and share more after it happens. Wish us luck!" said CEO Joshua Browder on Twitter last week.
"In the past year, AI tech has really developed and allowed us to go back and forth in real time with corporations and governments," said Browder to CBS MoneyWatch. "We spoke live [with companies and customer service reps] to lower bills with companies; and what we're doing next month is try to use the tech in a courtroom for the first time."
"What we are trying to do is automate consumer rights," Browder said. "New technologies typically fall into the hands of big companies first, and our goal is put it in hands of the people first," said Browder.