As AI (Artificial Intelligence) in the legal industry continues to gain traction and stir debates on whether technology will actually replace lawyers, attention is being drawn to potential underlying legal and ethical challenges.
The latest in our newsroom regarding the intersection of AI and the law is that one of the most feted AI-powered legal tech innovations; DoNotPay has been sued in California for alleged breaches of the unfair competition law which bars businesses from engaging in unauthorized business practices including misleading and untrue advertising.
In a class action suit launched Tuesday last week by one Jonathan Faridian who is being represented by celebrated litigation lawyer Jay Edelson who has sued and succeeded against all the Big Tech companies including Google, Apple, and Facebook; DoNotPay billed as the “ World’s First Robot Lawyer ” is being accused of engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.
DoNotPay is a Delaware-based startup company founded in 2015 by then-Stanford Student Joshua Browder to help people appeal parking tickets and other mundane consumer-facing legal issues by using an AI-powered chat tool (otherwise called a bot).
As time passed, Mr. Joshua Browder’s ambition grew to the point where he toyed with the idea of putting his technology in a physical courtroom.
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The plan was that one of the parties in the case wears glasses and headsets connected to the technology that would then whisper to him/her what to tell the Court.
This plan fell by the wayside when prosecutors warned Browder that such an action would be tantamount to practicing law and that Browder would ultimately end up in Jail if he proceeded.
Now, Mr. Jonathan Faridian who has used DoNotPay’s legal services, according to CBS News, to generate legal documents including demand letters, an independent contractor agreement, a small claims court filing, two LLC operating agreements, and an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission job discrimination complaint; accuses the company of doing for him substandard work on top of misleading him into believing he was interacting with real trained lawyers or at least people under the supervision of a lawyer.
“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.”Faridian states in his law suit.
In a response posted on Twitter, DoNotPay Founder and CEO Joshua Browder said to the contrary Mr. Jonathan Faridian used the AI-powered service to fight off some consumer rights violations successfully; launching a personal attack against his lawyer Mr. Jay Edelson who he accused of using class action suits to enrich himself instead of helping his clients.
“Jay Edelson inspired me to start DoNotPay because he symbolizes everything wrong with the law. In a recent Facebook settlement, for example, he made $97,500,000. A minority of consumers made $375 and, the majority, who couldn’t fill out complicated “claim forms,” got $0 ”Browder 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.”He added, indicating in photos attached the lawyer could have gotten in touch with Mr. Jonathan Faridian by using Facebook Ad targeting technology.
Reacting to DoNotPay’s denials of practicing law illegally and its founder’s attack on his integrity, Lawyer Jay Edelson said, according to the report by CBS News;
“ Everything Josh says publicly, whether about our firm, or others who have called him out is simply noise. It might get him some twitter traffic but it will not be helpful in a court of law.”
Benjamin is a Digital Legal News Journalist (trained by Reuters) and digital media enthusiast who founded The Legal Reports website in January, 2020 while a fourth year law student at Makerere University school of law.
Prior to that, Benjamin used to write amateur blogs and some of his legal commentaries were published by the Daily Monitor and Independent Magazine - both leading publications in Uganda. He covers lawyers, law students, judges, judiciary, courts, law schools, and law firms.