Features and Stories

Revolutionary Chatbot to Replace Lawyers?

The chatbot is changing the lives of scores of stranded refugee applicants in the US, Canada and UK. Photo Credit: John Jackson/Pexels
Revolutionary Chatbot to Replace Lawyers?
Denise Recalde

Refugees having problems filling out asylum applications can now use a chatbot to receive free legal aid in the US, Canada and the UK.

British citizen and Stanford student Joshua Browder founded DoNotPay, the artificial-intelligence chatbot that gives legal advice to refugees struggling with parking tickets and delayed flights.

So far the chatbot has overturned more than 160,000 parking fines across the cities of New York and London for free. Attorney and nonprofits have praised the tool and urged its use as a provider of automated legal services aid among refugees stranded in these countries.

“I hope it will allow anyone to have a right to safety, regardless of the ability to afford a lawyer,” Browder said to Mashable.

The chatbot asks users several questions to help them determine if they’re eligible for asylum protection as stipulated under international law. One question is: “Are you afraid of being subjected to torture in your home country?”

If the candidate can apply for asylum, the chatbot records details and automatically fills in a completed immigration application — an I-589 in the US, a Canadian Asylum Application or an ASF1/application for the United Kingdom.

“Crucially, all the questions that the bot asks are in plain English and A.I. generated feedback appears during the conversation. For example, the best answer for your situation will include a description when the mistreatment started in your home country,” Browder said.

The tool also provides refugees with location specific submission instructions, additional resources and details of additional documentation needed.

The free legal aid tool depends on Facebook Messenger, because it is “the most accessible platform and the most appropriate to launch with.”

“All data is deleted from my server after ten minutes and it is possible to wipe your data from Facebook Messenger,” he said, acknowledging that privacy is a “very important issue and it’s important to be upfront with users”.

For the next steps, Browder wants to launch a dozen of new service including those related to pensions, benefits and bail.

“So many lawyers are charging hundreds of pounds simply for copying and pasting documents, so I hope to one day replace them.”

“All data is deleted from my server after ten minutes and it is possible to wipe your data from Facebook Messenger,” he said, affirming that privacy is a “very important issue and it’s important to be upfront with users.”

Browder next aims to launch a series of new automated services related to benefits, pensions and bail.

“So many lawyers are charging hundreds of pounds simply for copying and pasting documents, so I hope to one day replace them.”

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