A ‘robot’ that was set to make history for advising the first defendant in court with artificial intelligence (AI) has now been accused of operating without a law degree.
The AI-powered app DoNotPay faces allegations that it is ‘masquerading as a licensed practitioner’ in a class action case filed by US law firm Edelson.
The chatbot-style tool is centred around making legal information and ‘self-help’ accessible to support consumers fighting against large corporations.
But Chicago-based law firm Edelson has claimed the service is ‘unlawful’ and the company itself has ‘substandard’ legal documents.
In a file published by the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of San Francisco, the complainant said: ‘Unfortunately for its customers, DoNotPay is not actually a robot, a lawyer, nor a law firm. DoNotPay does not have a law degree, is not barred in any jurisdiction, and is not supervised by any lawyer.’
AI-powered DoNotPay has been accused of ‘masquerading’ as a licensed lawyer in lawsuit
Joshua Browder (pictured), DoNotPay’s founder, says the claims made have ‘no merit’
Former Stanford University student, Joshua Browder, founded DoNotPay in 2015 and initially intended for it to appeal parking tickets in the UK.
HOW THE WORLD’S FIRST ROBOT LAWYER WORKS
The technology was designed in a chat format where the bot asks questions to learn of case details.
In relation to a parking ticket appeal it might put forward questions such as ‘were you or someone you know driving?’ or ‘was it hard to understand the parking signs?’
After analysing these answers, the robot decides if you qualify for an appeal, if yes, it will generate an appeal letter that can be brought to the courts.
Since then, the company has expanded to the US and can now give advice on a number of other subjects including delayed flights, workplace rights and misleading advert claims.
While DoNotPay was set to make history for advising the first defendant with a robot lawyer in court, this did not go ahead due to jail threats.
China has been the first to use artificial intelligence in the courtroom.
In January, Mr Browder tweeted: ‘Bad news: after receiving threats from State Bar prosecutors, it seems likely they will put me in jail for 6 months if I follow through with bringing a robot lawyer into a physical courtroom.’
Jonathan Faridian, who filed the Edelson lawsuit against DoNotPay, added that he had personally used DoNotPay’s services to draft a discrimination complaint, a small claims filing and a number of other legal documents
Mr Faridian said he ‘believed he was purchasing legal documents and services that would be fit for use from a lawyer that was competent to provide them’ but did not receive that.
The March 3 file continued: ‘Sadly, DoNotPay misses the point. Providing legal services to the public, without being a lawyer or even supervised by a lawyer is reckless and dangerous. And it has real world consequences for the customers it hurts.
‘One customer, who posted an online review, used DoNotPay’s legal services to dispute two parking tickets. According to his account, his fines actually increased because DoNotPay failed to respond to the ticket summons. The customer then cancelled his account, but DoNotPay continued to charge a subscription fee.
‘DoNotPay’s service then reversed another customer’s arguments in her parking ticket dispute. Where she had intended to argue she was not at fault, DoNotPay’s services instead admitted fault, and the customer had to pay a resulting $114 fine.
‘As of the time of writing, DoNotPay’s website still refers to itself as the “World’s First Robot Lawyer” and continues to offer these legal products to the public, casting doubt on its intention to stop masquerading as a licensed practitioner.’
DoNotPay’s founder tweeted that he would not be ‘bullied by America’s richest class action lawyer’, referring to Jay Edelson who founded the firm
The Edelson lawsuit also stated that DoNotPay’s founder is not a lawyer.
In response, Mr Browder tweeted that the ‘claims have no merit’, adding that DoNotPay would not be ‘bullied by America’s richest class action lawyer’, referring to Jay Edelson who founded the firm.
He said: ‘Time and time again the only people that win are the lawyers. So I wanted to do something about it, building the DoNotPay robot lawyer to empower consumers to take on corporations on their own. This put my target on my back and Edelson began a campaign to stop us.
‘Usually, the best response would be to stay quiet/settle. Edelson has successfully sued Google, Amazon and Apple for billions. The NYT calls him the “most feared lawyer in Silicon Valley.” But DoNotPay is not going to be bullied by America’s richest class action lawyer.
‘So, we are fighting back! We have the receipts, have nothing to hide and will defend ourselves. We may even use our robot lawyer in the case.’
Jay Edelson said the firm ‘understood’ that DoNotPay would try to ‘distract’ from its misconduct once a lawsuit had been filed.
He told Insider: ‘We understood when we filed suit that Josh and DoNotPay would try to distract from their misconduct in any way possible. They attacked our client and now are attacking me.’
MailOnline has approached Edelson and DoNotPay for comment.