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AI Robotics The Courts United Kingdom Science News Technology

A 19-Year-Old Made A Free Robot Lawyer That Has Appealed $3M In Parking Tickets (businessinsider.com) 156

schwit1 writes: Hiring a lawyer for a parking-ticket appeal is not only a headache, but it can also cost more than the ticket itself. Depending on the case and the lawyer, an appeal -- a legal process where you argue out of paying the fine -- can cost between $400 to $900. But with the help of a robot made by British programmer Joshua Browder, 19, it costs nothing. Browder's bot handles questions about parking-ticket appeals in the UK. Since launching in late 2015, it has successfully appealed $3 million worth of tickets. He is cutting into the government trough and lawyers' jobs. That's a double whammy. How long is it before the bar association and government get automated lawyers disqualified?
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A 19-Year-Old Made A Free Robot Lawyer That Has Appealed $3M In Parking Tickets

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  • by mmiscool ( 2434450 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @04:51PM (#51549679)
    A world with less lawers is a nicer world.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm surprised they haven't been automated out of a job yet - Legal-eze seems like programming code.

      • Actually that's pretty accurate. ISO TR9007:1987 defines a conceptual model and states that the applications for such a model are not limited to IT only, but apply to any rule-based system, specifically mentioning the area of law.

        So yes, laws could be conceivable be based upon a conceptual model, and statements could be validated against it.

      • Ugly, buggy, spaghetti code. Therac 25 has nothing on US code.
    • by Scoldog ( 875927 )

      A world with less lawers is a nicer world.

      Can you imagine a world without lawyers?

      https://youtu.be/m2VxpTMAbas?t... [youtu.be]

    • by NEDHead ( 1651195 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @04:59PM (#51549721)

      That should be "fewer lawyers". A world with better spellers would be nice too. As would a world with a little attention to proper grammar.

      Alas, the latter two worlds are by far the more likely.

      • by Tal Cohen ( 4834 ) <tal&forum2,org> on Saturday February 20, 2016 @05:12PM (#51549757) Homepage

        Actually, "less lawyers" is grammatically fine. Ask a linguist [upenn.edu] (in this case, the co-author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language).

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @05:17PM (#51549769)
          And even in the strict sense, you can't count lawyers, like you can't count cockroaches. There are too many of them, and nobody wants the job of counting them. So less would be correct by all rules.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            Unfortunately, not true. By dint of the fact that lawyer has a plural form, it is necessarily countable. We wouldn't say "much lawyers". Many and few are the "correct" quantifiers for countable nouns. "Less" is becoming more commonly used in conjunction with group plurals, especially irregular ones. It still sounds weird to me to hear phrases like "less dollars".

            Source: I'm a professional grammar nazi.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Would you use "less sand?" I suspect that you would, yet the word "sand" can have a plural form:


              STREAMS that glide in orient plains,
              Never bound by Winter’s chains;
              Glowing here on golden sands,
              There immix’d with foulest stains
              From Tyranny’s empurpled hands;

              Properly, you would find its quantified form as "fewer sands," which you will find in good literature, yet we speak often of "less" sand in reference to its uncountable bulk. One must not assume all words w

              • by Anonymous Coward

                Nouns can clearly have both a countable and uncountable form. I drink coffee every day. I had a coffee this morning. I drink fewer coffees than Bob, who drinks more coffee than Sara. Using a typically uncountable noun in a plural form, such as sands, alters its meaning. In this case it means distinct bodies of sand, in the same way that we say waters and moneys. Context is key, and the fact that many typically uncountable nouns have an archaic, formal or technical plural form doesn't change the historical r

              • "sands" is a poetic form, of course, as in "sands of time."

              • Would you use "less sand?" I suspect that you would, yet the word "sand" can have a plural form:

                Notice "less sand" uses the singular form for "sand" while the OP used the plural for of lawyer. Do you think "less sands" is correct? The problem is using less and the singular/uncountable form.

                Another point is that "sands" means and expanse of sand and is not a direct plural meaning many pieces of sand. "Lawyers" does not mean an expanse of lawyers therefore there is no similarity. As for the number of lawyers being uncountable that is untrue. All countable objects have an upper limit. The upper limit on

              • Just because it ends in s doesn't mean it's a plural or that it's countable. Would it make sense to say "I had three sands then someone gave me another so I had four sands"?

                Also, rules are often relaxed in poetry. Poetic license isn't some kind of permit.

                • Just because it ends in s doesn't mean it's a plural or that it's countable. Would it make sense to say "I had three sands then someone gave me another so I had four sands"?

                  Also, rules are often relaxed in poetry. Poetic license isn't some kind of permit.

                  I once wrote a limerick in ten seconds: I had my poetic licence pulled for speeding.

              • I would use less sand, i.e., fewer grains of sand.
            • by Anonymous Coward

              Unless the lawyers are ground up and the individual nature of each can be said to be agglomerated in the the new 'ground up lawyer'. Each additional ground lawyer would yield more ground up lawyer, and if you gave some away you would have less ground up lawyer. But until their ground up giving away a lawyer would result in you having fewer lawyers that you could grind up, as you say.

        • this is the problem with soft sciences. The article in the link talks about how the term fewer is falling out of favor in common vernacular in the educated population, when all he really means is he and his friends don't know grammar.

          • by Jawnn ( 445279 )

            this is the problem with soft sciences. The article in the link talks about how the term fewer is falling out of favor in common vernacular in the educated population, when all he really means is he and his friends don't know grammar.

            ...and judging by what appears regularly, in this forum at least, he has many, many friends.

        • Actually, "less lawyers" is grammatically fine. Ask a linguist [upenn.edu] (in this case, the co-author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language).

          Actually, that article to which you linked contains the guy's opinion and a *plea* to abandon the different uses for "fewer" (fewer beers) and "less" (less beer) in some cases -- like, "Your package will arrive in seven days or less" vs. "Your package will arrive in seven days or fewer" -- and he makes some good points, but he's wrong. People should learn the correct grammar instead.

          Even in the context of that article, "fewer lawyers" is correct, not "less" and, as far as I'm concerned, the sign for the

        • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @08:42PM (#51550475)

          Actually, "less lawyers" is grammatically fine.

          It is grammatically correct, but the meaning is different. If you start with 10 lawyers, and you shoot one of them, then you have fewer lawyers. But if you start with 10 lawyers, and you starve them so they lose 20 pounds each, you now have less lawyers.

          Personally, I am okay with either shooting them or starving them.

        • Actually, "less lawyers" is grammatically fine. Ask a linguist [upenn.edu] (in this case, the co-author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language).

          All that blog amounts to saying is that, in informal usage, people don't necessarily speak grammatically. Which is pretty bleedin' obvious.

          It doesn't mean there isn't a useful distinction between mass nouns and count nouns.

      • That should be "fewer lawyers".

        We'll see what my lawyer has to say about that.

        As would a world with a little attention to proper grammar.

        I'll have to ask Clippy what he thinks of you starting a new sentence with a subordinating conjunction. It certainly looks wrong to me.

        • by mysidia ( 191772 )
          Try As [it] would also be with a world having a little attention to proper grammar.
          • I didn't say I didn't understand what was meant, but it doesn't read as gramatically correct to me.

            It's the difference between "Pizza tastes nice, as does ice cream" - where the conjunction links the two halves of the sentence - and "Pizza tastes nice. As does ice cream" where the second sentence has no meaning independent of the first.

            But then "Pizza tastes nice. And so does ice cream" does look (marginally) acceptable to me, so perhaps it's just a personal preference.

            • by mysidia ( 191772 )

              As does ice cream" where the second sentence has no meaning independent of the first.

              Still a valid sentence. It's not grammatically invalid to have sentences which are dependent on the context in which they appear. (Requiring another sentence before or after, to understand the meaning)

    • A world with less lawers is a nicer world.

      *fewer.

    • A world with less lawers is a nicer world.

      A world with fewer lawyers is one where lawyers are more expensive.

      Expertise is expensive. The bigger problem isn't lawyers as a whole, it's a combination of (1) major needed reforms in the legal system, and (2) the lawyers who are especially big assholes.

      The second problem is especially hard to solve.

    • by doccus ( 2020662 )

      Was it Dickens who said "First shoot all the lawyrers?" Certainlty the sentiment is as old as time itself...

  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @04:55PM (#51549695) Homepage Journal

    I'm not going to hire any robot lawyer unless it can prove it is soulless.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @05:23PM (#51549801)

      How would that make it any different from a regular lawyer?

      • Have you looked into a lawyer's eyes or talked with one? They manage to make it very clear they have no soul. And that the only things important to them are maximizing their billable hours and not personally going to jail.

        • by caseih ( 160668 )

          I have, actually. I know a couple. These two in particular are some of the most honest, loyal, trustworthy people I know. They enjoy legal minutia, but they also enjoy putting things proper and right. And they like to help people. They agree there are lots of legal things we're required to do (and pay them for) that are pretty silly. But they don't make the laws; politicians do.

        • I'm willing to testify under oath that most of the lawyers I've talked to appeared to have souls, and the remainder might well have had their souls backed up on disk.

      • Know any lawyers that have done 86,000 pro-bono cases?

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      I'm not going to hire any robot lawyer unless it can prove it is soulless.

      Isn't that a bit like asking a fish if it can swim?

      • I'm by no means a pescatologist, but it wouldn't surprise me if there was at least one species that can't and just crawls along the bottom or something.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I'm by no means a pescatologist,

          Bzzzt, wrong century. Nobody in the medical or biological professions these days wants to be called a Latin name. It's an "ichthyologist". Similarly, insectologists are dead. They are now entomologists. You could not really call them anything in proper English anyway because "indentists" is too close to the "dentist" who is still stuck in Latin but practices good Greek odontology. The Germans had the good old "Kerbtierkundler" long centuries ago which is actually more a

  • by Neil_Brown ( 1568845 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @04:57PM (#51549713) Homepage

    In the UK, there is no monopoly on giving legal advice — only six things in the legal sphere require [legislation.gov.uk] particular entitlement ("reserved activities" [legislation.gov.uk]):

    • (a) the exercise of a right of audience;
    • (b) the conduct of litigation;
    • (c) reserved instrument activities;
    • (d) probate activities;
    • (e) notarial activities;
    • (f) the administration of oaths.

    Anyone can give legal advice, so prohibiting just software from doing so would seem a very odd move.

    The professional body for solicitors in England and Wales — the Law Society — recently released a report on "The Future Of Legal Services" [lawsociety.org.uk] and, at section 4.2, it talks through (very briefly) a number of the technology changes which will either be useful to solicitors or else challenging them.

    • I'm no lawyer, but I'm guessing that if this bot launched in the USA, it'd be classified similarly to LegalZoom and other document preparation services, not to mention individual income tax preparation services such as TurboTax and H&R Block At Home.

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      In the UK, there is no monopoly on giving legal advice

      Same here in the US. You can't charge for the service unless you are a member of the bar. But if go into a bar and ask for legal advice you will get it from everyone there.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Around the USA, it is sometimes illegal to use do-it-yourself kits (bought in other jurisdictions) for wills, real property sales, simple uncontested divorces, etc.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Citation needed. Who told you that, a lawyer?

    • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @06:23PM (#51550069)

      it is sometimes illegal to use do-it-yourself kits

      No... it is NOT unlawful to use them. However, the results of using the kits, might not be as intended, due to the differences in the law, and the ways some jurisdictions will interpret the templated materials.

      It is possible, for example, that your template Will might not work as it is supposed to, or might not meet requirements for enforceability on certain intended parts of the document in a jurisdiction the document was not designed for.

  • I doubt that many parking tickets are contested with lawyers either way. The robot is taking jobs that the lawyers weren't getting.
    • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @06:26PM (#51550077)

      Yeah, his website lets you choose from one of several forms which it then emails. This is a "robot lawyer" like my kindle is a "robot author" since I can call up different stories depending on what I want to read.

      It's a handy website I'm sure. But usually my parking tickets are more complicated, like "I applied for a zone renewal 3 times but your system still hasn't sent me my sticker. I called the parking office and they said our neighborhood had a backlog and therefore shouldn't be enforced for expired tags."

      I still didn't need a "lawyer" I just had to explain my situation in 4-5 sentences and email it off.

    • by JazzLad ( 935151 )
      Not using RIAA math ...
  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @05:36PM (#51549861)

    ... is getting into this business as well. They have programmed an autonomous vehicle to follow ambulances.

  • http://www.americanbar.org/gro... [americanbar.org] It's also illegal in California: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-... [ca.gov] A problem with computerizing government is that they make the rules. Idk how English government works, but in the US tickets are issued by a county government who also prosecutes unauthorized legal practice cases. I'm sure any county would miss $3m.
    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      That's only applicable if one claims that one is an actual professional legal practitioner. although any so-called legal advice that does not come from someone who practices law professionally certainly may be suspect, it is not by any means illegal.
      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I'm pretty sure that I can not only give you legal advice but I can practice it on your behalf. I'm also reasonably certain that I can charge for that service so long as I make it clear that I am not actually a lawyer. I have actually not just given legal advice to friends, I've gone in and represented them in a court of law, spoken with the DA on their behalf, and even arranged a plea agreement, twice, on behalf of a friend. All of which is perfectly legal - though I've never charged for the service. I bel

  • Robot? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WoOS ( 28173 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @06:01PM (#51549945)

    Since when are Chat-Bots [businessinsider.com] Ro-Bots? Did I miss something about ELIZA [wikipedia.org] being the first femal robot?

  • Brilliant, and about time those parasites got put in their place because most of what they do a machine could do better.
  • How long until the President invites him to the White House?
  • by ytene ( 4376651 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @06:56PM (#51550179)
    Unsurprisingly there are a lot of comments already concerning the implications of this web site to the role of a lawyer, but maybe there is an even more important aspect here. The "success rate" statistics would seem to imply that the issuance of parking tickets in the UK is significantly more aggressive than it should be. Now this could be for a number of reasons [under-qualified ticket wardens, poor quality signs, or, perhaps, inappropriate guidance given regarding when to issue. Non-UK readers may like to know that the UK has a long and very tempestuous relationship with parking supervision; until relatively recently landowners could either clamp parked cars or have an "agent" do it for them; sadly the number of these agencies that were cowboys and scammers caused outrage and fortunately the practice was banned... When I worked in local government ~ 20 years ago, we adjusted the total price of parking tickets and fines to ensure that we recovered the cost of maintaining the car parks, providing security lighting and CCTV, collecting litter, etc, but nothing else. The car parks were basically zero-profit, cost-recovery exercises. Since then, however, government funding has changed massively, and the issue of parking tickets could well [sorry, not entirely sure either way] be a lucrative source of income for some. The success of this web site may have less to do with the need for legal skills than the likely dubious grounds under which a ticket was issued in the first place. Now what would be really interesting would be if Joshua Browder [the site developer] could pull some statistics from the site that could show which locations had the most over-turned tickets. If there were patterns in *that* data, then there might be grounds to take a closer look at the issuing agency in an attempt to put things right. Let's hope that he considers doing just that...
  • by mark_reh ( 2015546 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @07:55PM (#51550339) Journal

    One of her coworkers (a surgeon) gave her the name of a lawyer and suggested calling him. She did just to see how they could possibly get her out of a speeding ticket. The lawyer said that the speeding ticket will be negotiated down to a non-moving violation such as improper parking. She would have to pay the full fine for the speeding ticket plus the lawyer's fee, but it wouldn't affect her insurance rates or add points to her license.

    She went along to see if it would work and sure enough, the ticket was negotiated down and she paid the fine and lawyer's fee- IRIC the lawyer charged $150. No points, no increase in insurance rates.

    My wife finished her anesthesiology residency just a few years ago, so life as 1%ers is pretty new to us. This event was a real eye opener. I guess this is how the 1% gets away with murder. I can't imagine what it's like to be a 0.1%er.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You act like this is some exclusive club that only rich people have access to. Do a search for "traffic ticket lawyers" and you'll find a ton of services that will do the same thing. I got a speeding ticket in college while I was working part time and found a lawyer to do the same thing for only $50. Sometimes there are lawyers who do this for free just to get their name out there.

      If anything you got fleeced. Stop trying to make this into some social commentary on special treatment of "le 1%" because it rea

  • Subsidy Trough (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stu72 ( 96650 ) on Saturday February 20, 2016 @08:17PM (#51550419)

    Parking tickets are not a "trough"

    Driving is one of the most heavily subsidized personal actions in the world.

    Parking fees and fines are a very very small tip of the balance back toward something remotely resembling a level playing field. Just pay for your parking and if you screw up, pay the fine and move on. You're still tens of thousands of dollars ahead of whe you would be if you actually have to pay for all that infrastructure, hit to mention the war and the pollution.

    • Not this shit again. I pay taxes on top of taxes. License fees, registration fees, gas tax, sales tax, income tax, excise tax, etc etc etc.

      One thing these taxes pay for are the roads I use to get to work, and the parking I use to do my shopping. If I neither earn nor spend money then maybe we're in your idea of nirvana, but not mine.
      • by jaa101 ( 627731 )

        Not this shit again. I pay taxes on top of taxes. License fees, registration fees, gas tax, sales tax, income tax, excise tax, etc etc etc.

        One thing these taxes pay for are the roads I use to get to work, and the parking I use to do my shopping. If I neither earn nor spend money then maybe we're in your idea of nirvana, but not mine.

        The issue is, are the taxes fair. If the roads are paid for out of income tax then people who take the train to work are being ripped off. Alternatively, if fuel taxes, registration and licence fess and parking and traffic fines are paying for schools and hospitals then motorist are being ripped off. How this works varies widely around the world.

    • Parking tickets are not a "trough"

      Driving is one of the most heavily subsidized personal actions in the world.

      Parking fees and fines are a very very small tip of the balance back toward something remotely resembling a level playing field. Just pay for your parking and if you screw up, pay the fine and move on. You're still tens of thousands of dollars ahead of whe you would be if you actually have to pay for all that infrastructure, hit to mention the war and the pollution.

      Let me guess: you didn't build that? Amiright?

      Sigh. Look, every time you buy something it was shipped over these heavily subsidized roads. You are very seriously ahead of where you would be if you had to "pay for all that infrastructure" every time you buy something.

      There are some things that benefit everybody in society - like roads - so it makes sense that we pay for those collectively.

  • Many people believe that only low- skilled workers will be replaced by machines. Doctors and lawyers being put out of work should be an eye opener for what is quickly heading our way. Yet absolutely no one is speaking about steps to alter society to accommodate the replacement of human workers. The old notions about retraining are obviously a joke. What is a doctor or lawyer supposed to retrain to do? Management positions are also in great danger.
  • Robot Lawyer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Sorry - Here is a corrected version :

    85% of lawyers have no good background in science and engineering. I took a para legal course and under the family law, I was able to replace 48 pages of legal statements(descriptive), by one fully loaded flowchart. We tested it with over 100 cases and it showed the right solution. My friend is a lawyer and he validate it. I had generated over 100 templates in MS Word (sorry, that is what they use), and a data base to answer questions and based on it to select the right

    • Robots can take the place of paralegals in many cases, and the place of lawyers in others.

      What I won't get out of the robot is professional judgment. I'll get a procedure that is probably correct for most cases, which is often enough. For more serious things (like my current criminal charge), I'm going to want someone who knows what's correct for my particular case.

  • Sheesh, It's just machine-assisted pro se.

    Do you want to get this banned?

  • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @06:53AM (#51551903) Journal

    Although it's reasonable to appeal parking tickets, and a 40% success rate suggests far too many bullshit ones are being issued, there's something else in the article that hasn't been discussed:

    He's 19 and he's received 30 parking tickets since he passed his test.

    In the UK that means he's getting at least 10 parking tickets per year. I'm averaging less than one per decade. The issue isn't the parking rules or enforcement, the issue is that this guy is quite clearly some form of total cunt.

    Learn to fucking park.

  • Nobody seems to be mentioning that the success rate is not good at all...

    more than 86,000 people have used it to appeal against council parking fines. Nearly 40 per cent of them were successful, according to a poll of the site's users.

    A success rate of just over 1/3rd is nothing to be proud of, particularly if you assume a bigger percentage of people using the site were contesting the ticket precisely because they were actually innocent. Only if you assume the majority of users of the site are actually gui

    • To know if 40% was a good rate or a bad rate, we'd need more context. How many people appeal? What is the usual rate? How many people did indeed park illegally but thought it would be worth an appeal anyway? AFAICT, people don't generally contest parking tickets.

      My insurance company doesn't care about parking tickets. They do care about moving vehicle violations and accidents involving more than $500 or $1000 or something like that. The cost to me of a parking ticket is the amount listed on the ti

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