In an August 2017 post here on the Virtual Marketing Officer blog, I told readers about my new lawyer; a chatbot. Well, this week, just a year later, my lawyer upped its game. An article in the ABA Journal summarizes features available on the DoNotPay iPhone app, where users in all counties in all 50 United States can now file a small claim without engaging a human lawyer! (And, without paying a fee for representation!)
How it works
Users type in answers to questions and legal documents are generated, sometimes filed automatically.
Driven by artificial intelligence, DoNotPay, the 2016 start-up funded by seed capital of around $1.1 million, allowed people to challenge parking tickets from their desktop, first in London and then within limited areas of New York. It then added a few family and employment law services. Now, the DoNotPay app promises users that they can “find deals on prescription and over-the-counter drugs; make an appointment at the California Department of Motor Vehicles; and, see if they are eligible to opt-in to various class-action settlements,” like the one against Equifax. The app also aims to “fight unfair bank fees; earn refunds from ride-hailing companies; fix errors in a credit report; and, dispute bank transactions.” (I’ve been trying to fix a credit report error for over 15 years, without any luck. I’m excited for this feature to come, and hope it works!)
I suspect there are bugs to be worked out. The free iPhone app, coming soon to Android, only earns three stars.
Of course, there will be push-back from lawyers and as the ABA’s article states: “the specter of the unlicensed practice of law, a criminal offense in California,” where DoNotPay CEO Josh Browder is based, could become a significant issue. But Browder, according to the ABA’s article, thinks that because the services are free, and the underlying code is “speech,” his enterprise could fall into the free-speech category and not violate the law. We will have to wait and see. Lawyers are powerful advocates, who have protected their turf for centuries.
Finally, although lawyers and paraprofessionals assisted in developing the documents used by DoNotPay, unlike an online (paid) legal service provider such as LegalZoom, there is no oversight from a human lawyer. Some lawyers believe that may be a good thing, which will eventually drive DoNotPay users in escalating circumstances to pick up a phone and call a “real” lawyer—the kind that bills by the hour.
Because DoNotPay is a start-up and has yet to “work-out a revenue model,” I’m going out on a limb here and suggest selling ads to lawyers on the app may be a perfect marriage, followed by paid directory listings, awards, and accolade rosettes. A very familiar model, legal marketers will love. [sarcasm implied]
(HT to Mark Green over at Today in Legal Artificial Intelligence for bringing the news to our attention.)