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Not So Fast, Robot Lawyer

After years of Artificial Intelligence creeping into our lives, I think it’s safe to say the AI era is upon us. I’m thinking about the overnight celebrity of the chat bot ChatGPT, unveiled late last year and already the subject of wild speculation.

Unlike Google search, ChatGPT answers your queries with facts in short, comprehensible sentences. It writes letters full of sound advice in a voice as sweet as your grandma’s. Recently it scored a B on a Wharton MBA exam.

ChatGPT prompted Microsoft to shell out $3 billion in development to its creator, Open AI. It also has Google masterminds scrambling to halt market disruption.

While academics and scientists are trying it out on a range of applications, it looks like it will be some time before AI makes it to the courtroom, given the recent flap over DoNotPay legal advisor.

The CEO of the AI startup, whose app helps people contest parking tickets, had planned to use the AI application in traffic court this month. The plan was to have a defendant wear smart glasses to record court proceedings and an earbud speaker to receive AI-generated advice. The location of the court remained a secret, and when asked whether the judge would be aware of the experiment, the CEO responded, “Definitely not.”

When word got out, the CEO got a quick lesson in how state bars view the unauthorized practice of law. He said several state bars contacted him to let him know that the penalties for unauthorized practice include prosecution, fines and, in some cases, jail time. DoNotPay abandoned the plan, but the CEO is hoping that AI will find a way into courtrooms. He also said that calling his new tech a “robot lawyer” might have riled up a lot of lawyers.

That label certainly commanded attention. But I think his plan to sneak AI into a courtroom like some college kid trying to cheat on a final exam was what rubbed state bar leaders the wrong way.

I’m not sure how this will all play out. It’s worth keeping an eye on.