Your Next Lawyer Could be Powered by AI—Here's Why That's a Good Thing

Legal eagles now come in the form of robots

  • Artificial intelligence is a small but growing part of the legal profession.
  • An AI-powered lawyer is expected to help a client fight a traffic ticket. 
  • AI programs in China are helping decide legal cases.
Closeup on someone signing documents with a robot hand pointing where to sign and law books and a gavel in the image.

AndreyPopov / Getty images

You might soon be paying legal fees to a robot. 

A lawyer powered by AI will be the first of its kind to help a defendant fight a traffic ticket in court next month. The software runs on a smartphone, listens to court arguments, and comes up with responses for the defendant. The AI lawyer tells the defendant what to say through headphones. It's part of a growing wave of AI-powered legal software. 

"AI has the ability to improve the legal profession and legal services if done legally and in full disclosure," lawyer Omar Ochoa told Lifewire in an email interview. "There are routine legal proceedings and standard responses in most given legal situations, and the use of AI in these routine scenarios would make the legal profession more efficient, which is good for the legal system and the clients."

AI That Argues for You

DoNotPay, the company behind the AI lawyer, announced that the bot would soon head to court. 

"On February 22nd at 1:30 PM, history will be made," Joshua Browder, the CEO of DoNotPay, wrote on Twitter. "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!"

DoNotPay is a legal services chatbot founded by Browder, a British-American entrepreneur. The chatbot was initially meant to contest parking tickets but has expanded to include other services.

But Ochoa said that DoNotPay's first court appearance is potentially illegal. He said that if a person represents themself in a court proceeding, they're free to use legal aids such as rule books, manuals, and case law. 

"To the extent this robot lawyer application is used as a legal research aid, that on its own would likely not be improper," Ochoa added. "However, if the robot lawyer app is providing legal advice or, worse, advocating on behalf of a defendant in a court proceeding, that would be improper and potentially the illegal practice of law, which is a crime, regardless of whether it's disclosed or not."

Whether or not the robot lawyer successfully defends a traffic ticket, AI is here to stay in the legal profession, experts say. Raquel Gomes, the founder, and CEO of Stafi, a VA company specializing in paralegals, said in an email to Lifewire that AI helps streamline processes and save time in law offices. 

"For example, AI can provide around-the-clock services, collecting information from potential customers such as their legal issue, who is involved, what they need assistance with, etc., all via phone or chat, which saves lawyers valuable time during consultations," Gomes said. "Implementing AI such as this can turn an hour-long consultation into a 20-minute one, helping the lawyer to operate at 300% productivity.

A robot hand holding a judge's gavel.

AndreyPopov / Getty Images

The Future of Law May Be Robots

Gomes said users should expect to see AI further integrated into the law profession, as it helps improve costs and efficiency and allows lawyers to spend more of their valuable time doing meaningful work for their clients rather than monotonous tasks, including collecting onboarding information, scheduling appointments, etc. 

"A lot of people have this worry that AI will eliminate the human aspect of a lot of industries, and especially with hiring a lawyer, you're paying for the human interaction and intellect," Gomes added. "The truth is, though, streamlining processes using AI is only going to improve the client experience, allowing [attorneys] to utilize their time in much more productive and useful ways."

It may not be long before AI takes on more legal tasks. For example, an artificial intelligence program called ChatGPT-3.5 recently passed parts of a bar exam.

While robot lawyers are primarily aimed at helping clients in the United States, courts in China use AI to assist with making legal decisions. A court in the city of Hangzhou, located south of Shanghai, uses a program called Xiao Zhi 3.0, or "Little Wisdom," for financial disputes. Other AI programs in China use AI to settle disputes over traffic accidents and even criminal cases.

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