A computer science student who made international headlines last year with a website for challenging parking tickets will today expand his 'chatbot' to cover 1,000 legal queries in 100 categories. DoNotPay will offer free and instant help in all 50 US states as well as in the UK, founder Joshua Browder told the Gazette

DoNotPay's artificial intelligence 'chatbot' (bot) offers free instant help with matters from contesting motoring penalties in every US city to reporting harassment in the workplace. The system is promoted as 'the world's first robot lawyer'. 

Users of DoNotPay describe their problem in their own words typed into a free text box (for example: ‘my airline scammed me’ or ‘my employer is racist’). The chatbot asks the user for more details which are used to generate a document claimed to be 'legally sound' which can be sent directly to the relevant authorities. 'If the user needs more help, we will point them in the right direction (often a charity) within 24 hours,' Browder said.

Expanding the scope of DoNotPay has been Browder’s ‘secret project’ for the past year, he said. 'I started by working to "automate the automation" and reduced the time it takes to create a 'bot from several months to 10 minutes. Now, I don’t have to code the 'bots individually and have built an internal platform to do basic tasks such as automating documents.' 

Joshua Browder

Joshua Browder

The software was developed on IBM's artificial intelligence system Watson.  

Browder stresses that DoNotPay offers only a starting point rather than a comprehensive end-to-end solution. The system carries out two main tasks. The first is automating documents, for example, filling in PDF forms and generating letters. The second is ensuring that people are filling in the right forms. For example, when someone tells the bot ‘the [road] signs were difficult to understand’, the system has to know to fill in the letter referring to incorrect sign regulations.

Making DoNotPay work across different jurisdictions, particularly in all 50 US states, was a challenge, Browder said. The bot identifies the user’s location from their IP address and displays only the appropriate information, he said. 

The Stanford University student does not appear to be a fan of the legal profession. 'I started DoNotPay two years ago to fight my own parking tickets and became an accidental witness to how lawyers are exploiting human misery,' Browder said. 'From discrimination in Silicon Valley to the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London, it seems that the only people benefiting from injustice are a handful of lawyers. I hope that DoNotPay, by helping with these issues and many more, will ultimately give everyone the same legal power as the richest in society.'