DoNotPay, the company that created a chat bot to automatically appeal parking tickets, is today launching a series of legal and consumer-protection bots, in the form of an iOS app, that includes one that will enable individuals to file an action in any small claims court in the United States.

In addition, DoNotPay is announcing that it has acquired Visabot, a service launched shortly after the election of Donald Trump to help individuals obtain visas and green cards. DoNotPay is relaunching Visabot and eliminating all fees for the service, which previously ranged from $110 to $150.

The new small claims bot covers small claims courts in all 3,000 counties in all 50 states. There is no charge to use the product, so users keep 100 percent of anything they recover.

Joshua Browder, the self-taught coder who founded DoNotPay as a 17-year-old in 2015, said the initial idea for this product came from an app he created in the wake of the Equifax breach to help people file small claims lawsuits against the credit rating company.

“Although lots of lawyers said it wasn’t possible, I was shocked when people won $9,000, $10,000 and $11,000 judgments,” Browder said. “Even when Equifax appealed, the average person still prevailed.”

The small claims app works in two main ways. First, if the user has a specific problem, the app guides them through a few questions about their issue, how much they want to sue for (within the limit of the jurisdiction) and where they want to make their case. It then generates all the documents necessary for them to file their matter in the designated small claims court, including a demand letter, court filing documents, and even a script to read in court, as well as instructions for the consumer to follow.

Alternatively, if the user does not want to sue anyone right away, the app can analyze the user’s receipts stored in email and, based on the information it finds, display all the class action lawsuit settlements for which the user is eligible. Like Tinder for lawsuits, the user can then swipe right on lawsuits that interest them or left on those that do not and, for the right swipes, DoNotPay will initiate steps to claim the funds.

Later, Browder plans to expand the class-action component to allow attorneys to use it to identify potential members of a class.

“By providing these services, anyone who can follow simple instructions can now get justice,” Browder told me. “It seems like the only people who are benefitting from human misery are a handful of lawyers. I hope to make it so the average person can access the law for free.”

A Series of Consumer Apps

Joshua Browder speaking last week at the Clio Cloud Conference.

The small claims app is just one of 14 consumer-aid products that DoNotPay is releasing today. Speaking last week at the Clio Cloud Conference, Browder said that consumers generally turn to the legal system for one of three reasons:

  • To fight for money, such as security deposits or damages from accidents.
  • To fight corporations, such as over data breaches or defective products.
  • To fight bureaucracy, such as over parking tickets, credit reports or immigration matters.

The apps released today are all designed to tackle one or more of these issues. For example, in California, new driver’s license requirements have resulted in waits of three months or more for appointments with the Department of Motor Vehicles. A new DoNotPay bot promises to reduce the wait time from months to days. It does this by booking the initial appointment and then pinging the DMV’s computers 400 times a day until it finds an earlier cancellation.

Others are designed to help consumers:

  • Fight unfair bank, credit card and overdraft fees.
  • Overturn parking tickets.
  • Claim hidden government and class action settlement money.
  • Earn refunds from Uber and Lyft when a driver takes a wrong turn.
  • Fix errors on your credit report.
  • Save money on over 20,000 prescription and over the counter drugs.
  • Scan your McDonalds, Jack In The Box, KFC and Carl’s Junior receipts for free fast food.
  • Find a California DMV appointment in days rather than months.
  • Dispute fraudulent or low quality transactions with your bank.
  • Protect your privacy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Sue big tech companies for every data breach.
  • Make money on your airline and hotel bookings with price protection.
  • Track your packages and earn refunds (or free Amazon Prime) for late package deliveries.

“Our goal is for the most simple legal issues to be handled entirely by robots and technology, so the average consumer will never have to know what a lawyer is,” Browder said. “Meanwhile, lawyers will be freed up to handle really important issues.”

Two years ago, Joshua Browder launched his DoNotPay chatbot as “the world’s first robot lawyer” to help people fight parking tickets. He reported a high rate of success, winning 160,000 out of 250,000 cases. He later expanded it to provide free legal aid to the homeless, then expanded it again to help refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. and Canada, and earlier this week he announced a massive expansion into another 1,000 legal areas.

Today, Browder took it a step further, opening up his platform so that anyone can create a legal bot for free, with no technical knowledge.

“Starting today, any lawyer, activist, student or charity can create a bot with no technical knowledge in minutes,” Browder writes in a post this morning on Medium.

“You can use your bot to save money within your business, provide a better experience to clients or improve access to justice,” he writes. “Regardless, you will establish yourself as a leader in legal technology by having a cool bot link to share.”

For a legal professional, the easiest way to use this service would be to start with an existing form or document that lends itself to automation. To create a bot, you must fill in the form that you can find here (backup link) and send it to automation@donotpay.co.uk. If you send it before 11.59 p.m. PST on Monday, July 24, you will receive your link within 24 hours.

The bot will be hosted on DoNotPay’s servers, Browder tells me, but all the data is end-to-end and SSL encrypted for privacy.

Browder expects that some of the bots created through this service will be incorporated into DoNotPay. That would be contingent on DoNotPay staff verifying that the bot is legally correct and also on the creator of the bot consenting to its inclusion.

Another company, 1Law, also has a tool, Docubot, that enables law firms and legal services providers to build chatbots to generate legal documents or perform intake.

A few weeks ago in my column at Above the Law, I wrote about the growing number of law-related chatbots. “Suddenly, it seems, new law-related chatbots are springing up regularly,” I wrote. “It is premature to say they are taking off in the legal industry, but they are certainly making a splash and drawing attention.”

When I wrote that, one place I had not seen a law-related chatbot was on LinkedIn. Well, now there is one, with his very own LinkedIn profile, where he is available to help residents of the UK connect with a barrister.

He goes by the name Billy Bot, and he is the brainchild of Stephen Ward, a clerk and cofounder of Clerksroom, a “virtual” chambers known for its innovations in providing services and setting fees. Described as a junior clerk in training, Billy Bot is a project by Clerksroom to test artificial intelligence and how it can be used to link lawyers together to find the right barrister.

As I explained in the ATL column, a chatbot is a computer program that interacts with the user by simulating a conversation or dialog. In Billy Bot’s case, that interaction occurs via LinkedIn messaging.

Ask me a question via LinkedIn messaging and I’ll do my very best to answer. I have 27,000 contacts in my database, I can search LinkedIn, I can instantly contact up to 200 Barristers Chambers, their clerks and 12,000 Barristers. 6,000 of them have undertaken training to work directly with business and members of the public. I can even arrange a mediation in England & Wales from £500 + VAT per party on any date, at any venue.

According to an article in Legal Futures, the eventual goal is for Billy Bot to point users to free online legal resources and help them decide whether they need legal help. If they do, it would then help them find either a solicitor or barrister and make all the necessary arrangements.

If Clerksroom cannot provide a barrister for the particular need, Billy will interface with LinkedIn to identify matches for the user. If he cannot answer a question, Mr Ward said he would do what any junior clerk would do and refer it to a senior clerk – a human clerk within the Clerksroom team.

In an interview with Law.com, Ward emphasized that Billy Bot is still very much a pilot project in early stages of development. He distinguished Billy Bot from legal-information chatbots such as Do Not Pay in that it does not provide legal answers, but rather connects users with appropriate information or services.

As for Billy, his LinkedIn profile describes him as a “bit of a cheeky chappie” and says that, when he graduates, “I will be able to help real people find the right expert Barrister, check availability and quote fees based on the information provided.”

lawbot

A group of law students at the University of Cambridge in the UK have developed what they call the world’s most advanced legal chatbot. Lawbot helps victims of crime by providing a preliminary assessment of their situation and then helping them understand what actions are available for them to pursue.

The chatbot currently covers 26 major criminal offenses in England and Wales and the developers plan to add others. Among the topics it covers are sex offenses; property offenses such as theft, burglary and break-ins; and offenses against the person such as injuries, assaults and psychological harm.

Lawbot leads users through a series of questions to arrive at an assessment of their legal situation. The developers say that Lawbot’s answers are randomized so that no two conversations are the same. They are also designed to be empathetic and compassionate, assuring users “this wasn’t your fault” and apologizing for difficult questions.

The chatbot was inspired by reports that two thirds of sexual assaults in the UK go unreported and that only one in five female students report sexual assaults. Its developers say it draws from the insights of Cambridge-educated lawyers to formulate accurate questions derived from relevant statutory law.

lawbot1

I gave Lawbot a try, pretending to have been the victim of a physical assault. After a round of introductions and disclaimers, it led me through a short series of questions and then advised me of the criminal statute I should review.

lawbot2

It also offered to create a document with a summary, tips and next steps, as well as to help me find the closest police station. Below is the summary it produced for me.

lawbotsummary

Lawbot is similar in concept to Do Not Pay, a chatbot launched earlier this year in the UK as “the world’s first robot lawyer” to help people fight parking tickets.