Within the world of IT it is already a done deal: next to Apps, chatbots are „the next big thing“ and they will change the way users communicate with computers and smartphones. Chatbots are fully automated programs which can write back and forth with users within a chat environment, offering companies and their end consumers a form of communication at any given time.
Chatbots will bring big changes to the legal field. The first legal chatbot was released in 2014, programmed by the 19-year-old Stanford student Joshua Browder, who had received 30 tickets for parking violations. He developed a software which could file an objection against the fines after requesting relevant data from users. Within 21 months this chatbot fought off 190.000 tickets worth 5 million USD in fines. The program’s success rate was an incredible 64%. Later this chatbot called „DoNotPay“ (https://donotpay-search-master.herokuapp.com) was extended in England and the USA to help people get refunds from airlines and to give free legal advice to refugees.
By now several law firms already employ chatbots. Mostly these are rather simple programs, which are used in conjunction with popular messenger platforms, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc. Here the user is asked questions on basic topics, similarly to data collection in form fields. Sometimes short answers to frequently asked legal questions are offered as well.
Legal chatbots have the following advantages over the present forms of communication with lawyers, such as telephone, email, or postal services:
24/7 accessibility and response within seconds the first basic answers can be given to the user automatically
the first client requests are accepted automatically for further processing
users can save time as there are no telephone holding loops or time consuming waiting for email answers
the lawyer saves time as the case appears „on his desk“ with all key aspects directly after the automated chat
chatbots are ideal for quick mobile use when on the move
significantly lower inhibition threshold for the client to consult a lawyer, especially when there is cost transparency within the chatbot’s communication.
Experts compare the current state of chatbot development with the state of website development in 1996. Future legal chatbots will be almost unrecognizable from the ones of today. A better understanding of the client´s requirements, intelligent answers (keywords: A.I. & machine learning) and the introduction of voice recognition and audio response will make users forget more and more that they are talking to a bot. Similar experiences can be had right now with Apple´s Siri or Amazon´s Alexa. Therefore legal chatbots will play a big role in the future market of legal advice and maybe one day take over the initial communication with clients entirely.
Legal chatbots was an important topic at Legal Tech Expo (https://legaltechexpo.de)
About the Author
Patrick Prior is the founder of Advotisement® Legal Tech Consulting and of the german legal advice portal FAQ-Recht.de.
In 2017 he started Advobot, a provider of legal chatbots for law firms.