The Playing Field of Legal Chatbots
Chatbots are a hot topic right now in many industries, including in law. This piece is an initial landscape of chatbots in law (and a request to send more examples in).
In recent years, there has been a lot of hype around chatbots such as DoNotPay, helping people get legal help without a lawyer or even talking to a real person. The field of legal chatbots has since expanded and now encompasses a diverse group of bots that use different methods and have different target audiences.
For the last year, I’ve been really interested in using user-centered technology to improve access to justice, and one concept that keeps popping up in my research is the legal chatbot. I see a lot of potential in legal chatbots to revolutionize access to justice for the average person, so I have decided to research the most promising legal chatbots to see what technology is already out there.
DoNotPay is perhaps the most recognizable name of any legal chatbot. Founded by Joshua Browder, the bot originally was intended to help fight parking tickets but has since become known as “the world’s first robot lawyer.” On its website, you can challenge parking tickets from around United States as well as get refunds when airplane ticket prices drop. The chatbot itself is fairly simple. First, you select your region and give the reason for which you want to challenge the ticket. The chat-box then pops up and asks you for the relevant legal information, drafting a document for you. The chat is short. The whole process is only a few minutes long and is very straightforward.
Visabot is a legal chatbot meant to help with multiple immigration issues. Residing on Facebook Messenger, you can message the bot directly to get started. You can select different options including getting a green card, a B2 extension, or a H-1B transfer. The bot asks factual questions with pre-written responses that you can choose from. It inputs these facts and uses decision trees to evaluate your eligibility and direct you to its service.
LawDroid isn’t a chatbot, per se. Rather, it’s a platform created by Tom Martin allowing law firms to mold LawDroid’s chatbot prototype to serve a firm’s particular needs. These bots share the same basic structure and interface and are programmed to answer FAQs or direct users to resources. Rather than using natural language processing, these bots use pre-programmed commands and choices to triage and inform potential clients. Despite being a chatbot, LawDroid bots attempt to seem more human and personal, using emojis and casual language. These bots, identified with the “powered by LawDroid” subtitle, are numerous and exist for various law firms in various parts of the country. Some examples include: MeganBot (shown above), PatBot, and AasthaBot.
Parker is an Australian chatbot developed by law firm Norton Rose Fulbright. It uses natural language processing and IBM’s Watson platform to answer user-inputted questions about data breaches and privacy law.
Solosuit is a chatbot/expert system that handles debt law in Utah. It asks the relevant information needed and then fills out the appropriate legal document.
Chatbot Prototypes — coming soon
The following chatbots aren’t currently live to use, but are instead demos and betas that show some of the cutting edge technology that we are going to see in the near future.
Larissa is an experimental divorce chatbot that is being developed by LawDroid creator Tom Martin. It recognizes natural speech and answers questions about divorce. It is one step more complex than many other chatbots in that it uses natural language processing, similar to voice-activated assistants such as Siri and Alexa, to understand a wide variety of questions and phrasings and provide a relevant answer.
Procezeus is a unique chatbot in the sense that it actively attempts to make predictions using case data. It handles issues relating to landlord-tenant disputes and uses natural language processing to predict outcomes and offer paths to resolve the issue.
Tell us about more Live or Prototype Chatbots!
This is not a complete list of legal chatbots, but its some of the most prominent that I’ve been able to find. I’d love to see what other promising legal chatbot solutions are out there, so I encourage you to send in more innovative examples!
Also, the Legal Design Lab is going to be studying how people interact with different modes of chatbots this summer and next year. If you have ideas about what kinds of characters, framings, and styles of chatbots will get the best quality information from people — we’d love your input now as we set up our research!