The Robot Lawyer Debate: Why AI Can’t Replace Human Expertise in the Legal Field?

As of late, there has begun a debate on whether or not AI can, and more importantly, should be, a part of the legal field. This question somewhat exists in conjunction with the old concern that AI might be taking over human professions, but we will be discussing that purely in the case of law and lawyers.

Where the Debate Took Center-Stage

It is no secret that the first big scare came with the introduction of ChatGPT and Dall-E by OpenAI. As people worldwide saw these AI models churning out intricate digital art, written pieces, and even software code, it was easy to believe that human labour in these fields had become obsolete. That fear got pushed further into the future as it became obvious that these were just tools rather than solutions and that “the human touch” would remain necessary for a long time.

More recently, however, news of a so-called “AI lawyer” fighting its first court case began to surface in February, and the whole story is rather ridiculous. DoNotPay is a company started by Joshua Browder, the son of a British Millionaire and a Stanford Alumnus. He started the company because he frequently received tickets for traffic offences and did not want to deal with lawyers to contest these tickets. He also allegedly wanted to provide a free service to underprivileged individuals who wished to contest their tickets but could not afford a lawyer (which accounts for 80% of these cases). In reality, however, Browder was simply a bad driver, and there exist multiple videos of how he failed to even be able to parallel park his vehicle. We will use this story to help us understand the wider question, which is:

Can a Robot Replace a Lawyer?

The short answer is no, it cannot. Joshua Browder, while speaking about his service and how it can “even file a client’s case for divorce”, said that the legal profession forms a $200 billion business in the US, “when all lawyers do most of the time is fill forms and file paperwork, and thus there is no reason why they cannot be replaced by an AI.” Anyone with a surface-level understanding of the legal profession would quickly see how misleading this statement is. There is a reason why lawyers are quite as respected as they are and why they spend many years in universities learning to do what they do.

The law is very delicate, requiring a great deal of precision, experience, knowledge, and attention to detail that AI models lack. With the sheer scale of inaccurate information that ChatGPT (and other language models) is putting out, no sane person would put a matter as delicate as a court proceeding in the hands of a service like DoNotPay, which itself is based upon ChatGPT. It is simply impossible for a robot that works through language analysis to compete with the members of a cutthroat profession which is known for the meticulousness that it demands.

More important than accuracy, however, is the fact that the problem-solving capabilities that the legal profession requires are nowhere near seen in any AI model currently in existence.

Can a Robot Even Step in the Court?

Again, the answer is no. Browder tweeted in February that two clients would be given Bluetooth earpieces in which the AI would feed answers, which the clients would then repeat aloud to the judge. However, in the US, bringing any type of electronic device to the court is strictly prohibited, but Browder boasted that he had found two jurisdictions where he could exploit an apparent loophole. These jurisdictions allowed people to wear hearing aids to court. He kept the identities of the clients and the court proceedings confidential, but he was advised strongly against going through with this.

This question matters because everything in law happens in a very orderly fashion. One does not simply “throw dirt at the wall to see what sticks”. A rather crude representation, but in the case of Browder, an accurate one. He received a rude awakening when a class action lawsuit was brought against his company for practising law without a licence, a very serious offence in America. And this brings me to my next point: The legal fraternity would never allow AI to replace it in the courts, and they are more than capable of keeping that from happening.

The Final Verdict

DoNotPay has reduced its functionality and now only limits itself to helping fill forms and file some low-profile cases. Language models like the one DoNotPay operates on are not capable of performing the functions that a lawyer is required to perform, and as things currently stand, there will be no robot lawyers in the courts any time soon.

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