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'Robot Lawyer' Gives Free Legal Aid To Homeless People

The service helps users navigate complicated housing applications.

Lawyer’s fees can be expensive, so this teen developed an automated service that gives free legal aid to people who have lost their homes.

The DoNotPay website, created by Stanford student Joshua Browder, uses an online robot to provide legal assistance to newly evicted people in the U.K., according to the Washington Post.

Users chat via instant messenger with an automated bot that poses a series of personal questions. After sharing what led to their eviction, their specific health issues, or any other concerns, the bot crafts an individualized legal document to help resolve the user’s issue.

That might be an application letter to file for government housing, for example. 

Browder, 19, initially launched the site last year to provide legal support for people who wanted to contest parking violations, according to the Guardian. Through the site, users successfully overturned 160,000 parking tickets in London and New York.

On Wednesday, the “World’s First Robot Lawyer” expanded its legal services to people facing homelessness in the U.K. 

“So many people are being exploited, both by lawyers and by morally dubious landlords,” Browder told Mashable. “At the moment, there is no alternative for some people, if they can’t afford to pay a lawyer hundreds of dollars. My ultimate aim is to level the playing field.”

Evictions reached a record high in England and Wales last year, the Guardian reported. 

After receiving a multitude of queries from people facing evictions and repossessions, Browder decided to get help from volunteer lawyers to enable the bot to support homeless people, according to The Post. 

In the U.K., newly evicted people are eligible for government housing. But the housing application system can be daunting without access to a lawyer or in-depth knowledge of the legal system.

Just days old, the website is already being used by people facing housing issues in the U.K., The Guardian reported. 

Squatters remove their belongings during an eviction from a home next to a housing estate in north London, Britain, September
Squatters remove their belongings during an eviction from a home next to a housing estate in north London, Britain, September 24, 2015.

Now Browder’s goal is to bring the service to the U.S., according to Mashable, but that may prove complicated as U.S. housing laws vary from city to city.

“The issue of homelessness is universal, but the reasons behind it are different depending on where you are,” Browder told The Guardian. “I don’t think I could just replicate this in San Francisco, for example. I’d have to work on something different.”

In the meantime, Browder is working on a bot to provide free legal aid to Syrians seeking asylum, according to Mashable. He aims to launch in September.

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