Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Chatbot creator engaging in the unauthorized practice of law

This kid has designed a chatbot that prepares asylum petitio ericcrapton10/26/17
Isn't it just filling out forms? notreallyalawyer10/26/17
Isn’t preparing a petition for asylum without a bar licen ericcrapton10/26/17
can I have a phone conversation with you about a unique lega prosedave10/31/17
Assisting others in filling out legal forms can be considere trickydick10/26/17
Yep. “Jailhouse lawyers” should easily qualify for UPL, qdllc10/29/17
I guess but there are tons of doc prepares that are only par cocolawyer10/26/17
If you have a no kid/no asset/no debt/no spousal support sit guyingorillasuit10/26/17
I remember back in my PR class reading a case about someone irishlaw10/27/17
Dude just needs to choose his base of operations carefully. onehell10/27/17
I’m sure it varies by state, but UPL (generally) involves qdllc10/29/17
Your statement of the rule is correct, but it's one of those onehell10/31/17
ericcrapton (Oct 26, 2017 - 9:28 pm)

This kid has designed a chatbot that prepares asylum petitions, small claims complaints against Equifax, and now purports to prepare documents for an uncontested divorce. He has no legal training. If this isn’t the unauthorized practice of law, what is? https://www.wsj.com/articles/this-robot-will-handle-your-divorce-free-of-charge-1509022800?mod=e2fb

Reply Like (0)
notreallyalawyer (Oct 26, 2017 - 9:31 pm)

Isn't it just filling out forms?

Reply Like (0)
ericcrapton (Oct 26, 2017 - 9:40 pm)

Isn’t preparing a petition for asylum without a bar license the unauthorized practice of law? And if there is any doubt that this person believes he is practicing law, look at this photo. https://www.artificiallawyer.com/2017/05/22/artificial-lawyer-interview-joshua-browder-donotpay/

Reply Like (0)
prosedave (Oct 31, 2017 - 1:32 pm)

can I have a phone conversation with you about a unique legal situation I have in pennsylvania

Reply Like (0)
trickydick (Oct 26, 2017 - 9:48 pm)

Assisting others in filling out legal forms can be considered the practice of law in some circumstances.

Reply Like (0)
qdllc (Oct 29, 2017 - 8:45 am)

Yep. “Jailhouse lawyers” should easily qualify for UPL, but their “clients” have no money, so attornies could not care less.

Reply Like (0)
cocolawyer (Oct 26, 2017 - 9:54 pm)

I guess but there are tons of doc prepares that are only paralegals. If your job only consists of doc proc, you sir are obsolete.

Reply Like (0)
guyingorillasuit (Oct 26, 2017 - 11:46 pm)

If you have a no kid/no asset/no debt/no spousal support situation, this bot can probably work. If you have any of the above 4 variables, using this thing is a mistake, even if it's uncontested.

Reply Like (0)
irishlaw (Oct 27, 2017 - 12:34 am)

I remember back in my PR class reading a case about someone who got busted for illegal practice of law. He created a computer program that would spit out filled out bankruptcy petitions.

He's program got shut down but I think the dude was from China or something and never could get brought in front of court.

Reply Like (0)
onehell (Oct 27, 2017 - 5:32 pm)

Dude just needs to choose his base of operations carefully. There are states where UPL is not a crime, in which case the bar is limited to injunctive relief unless there's fraud involved.

Even where it is a crime, it's often classified as a misdemeanor and is waaaay down on the list of priorities for the relevant authorities, meaning they won't pursue it unless it's handed to them on a silver platter because you appeared in court, falsely claimed to be a lawyer in advertising, or there are other more serious offenses involved. Form-filling cases turn on messy facts: Hard to prove if any advice-giving was involved, and therefore often seen as not worth the time or expenditure of limited resources.

Again, I'm sure there are states that are more aggressive about it, but if the guy is in one that isn't his chances of actually getting pursued could be quite low. The bar's usually more interested in taking away the livelihood of some poor schmuck solo who miscalculated a statute of limitations by one day than it is in pursuing people who don't have a license to take away in the first place.

Reply Like (0)
qdllc (Oct 29, 2017 - 8:43 am)

I’m sure it varies by state, but UPL (generally) involves giving legal advice. Telling a “client” what they should do. Websites that offer legal information are not UPL because one could look up the information for themselves. Likewise, a software package that auto-fills forms isn’t UPL. I know LegalZoom has been accused of UPL several times, but not for just providing forms...IIRC, they tend to walk the line between giving information and giving advice. I see the UPL label as the state bar trying to protect their “union shop” more than anything else. The more a gray area it is when UPL is alleged, the more suspicious I am of the motive to prosecute. Similar to how some attorneys are cooked but get a slap on the wrist when brought before the ethics board while others get severe penalties. The process is more politics than law in some cases.

Reply Like (0)
onehell (Oct 31, 2017 - 2:20 pm)

Your statement of the rule is correct, but it's one of those things that's much easier said than applied or enforced. It hinges on the difference between "Give me a California divorce petition" versus "I want a divorce and I live in CA what form should I use?" It may seem like a silly distinction but in this example, telling you to file for divorce in the state where you live is not only advice, it is also potentially incorrect advice e.g. if there are UCCJEA issues involved.

So, places like Nolo put out an article that gives "general information" about the law and then, at the bottom of the article, give you a form selection box. Obviously you are going to use the information in the article to select the appropriate form. Has advice been given? It's a really tough thing to enforce and it's a cat-and-mouse game with these legalzoom type places. Sometimes they take a run at it, but most of the relevant authorities seem to just conclude it isn't worth their time and limited resources.

In practical reality on the ground, in a lot of states they aren't coming after you unless you either (a) falsely hold yourself out as a lawyer; or (b) actually try to appear in court.

Reply Like (0)
Post a message in this thread