Coming back to your car to find a parking ticket tucked under the windscreen is frustrating, but thanks to a 19-year-old university student from the UK, appealing parking fines may soon be a whole lot easier – and cheaper.
Joshua Browder, a student at Stanford University in London, has devised a clever ‘robot lawyer’ to appeal parking infringements. The robot works by asking a series of questions about how the fine was incurred in order to determine the best way to fight the infringement.
Examples of questions that may be asked include: ‘Was it hard to understand the signs?’ ‘Were you the person driving?’ and ‘Did you have to park quickly for some sort of emergency?’
At the end of the process, it creates a letter which can be sent directly to the court to support the appeal.
Since it was created in 2015, the bot has already successfully appealed over $3 million in parking fines – and Browder hopes to fight many more in the future, with the launch of the full version of the robot scheduled later this year. With each appeal, the robot learns more about the law – and becomes more intelligent and capable of fighting appeals.
Other ‘Robot Lawyers’
One of our previous blogs considered whether lawyers might be replaced by robots by the year 2030 – a prediction that has been backed by a number of scientists and technology experts.
Considering Browder’s success with his clever bot, the experts may well be right in their predictions.
This is not to mention the plethora of other automated technologies out there which can perform the role of a lawyer – to some extent, at least.
Computer giant IBM has developed a supercomputer called ‘ROSS’ which has the ability to sift through legislation and case law in order to develop an ‘instant answer with citations’ to any legal question asked. It is text-based – allowing users to simply type in the question that needs to be answered – and is regularly updated with changes to the law.
LexisNexis has also developed software called Lex Machina which ‘mines’ litigation data and develops graphs and other analyses of the law. Rather than taking over from lawyers, Lex Machina aims to help lawyers by interpreting the law in a new and meaningful way. It even has the ability to analyse judges and courts to determine how likely a decision is to be granted – or how long a particular case is going to last.
And, as discussed in previous blogs, US juggernaut Avvo gives the public unprecedented access to legal information and allows clients to hand-pick the lawyer who will best suit their needs.
The Human Touch
So, are lawyers about to be replaced by computers? In reality, the answer is: probably not.
Law has a very human element – particularly in criminal law where lawyers must frequently work one-on-one with clients on matters of a highly personal nature and use negotiation and persuasion skills both inside and outside the courtroom to secure optimal outcomes.
Good lawyers will communicate effectively with their clients, and offer assistance and guidance during a highly emotional period of their lives.
Courtroom work is as much to do with persuasive skills as it is about knowledge of the case-at-hand and applicable law – and criminal defence lawyers are regularly required to tailor submissions to the particular magistrate or judge who is sitting in court that day.
For these and many other reasons, a computer simply won’t cut it.
So while these innovations are great in terms of make accessing the law more accessible, it’s likely that there will always be a need for human interaction when it comes to the law.