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Chatbot offering legal advice to refugees

11th April 2017

Mobile app built with help from people in legal jobs

The creator of the DoNotPay chatbot, originally designed to help overturn parking fines, has now turned his attention to helping refugees. The chatbot, created by Stanford student Joshua Browder, now claims to have made “the world’s first robot lawyer” offering free legal aid to users via a chat interface.

According to a report in The Guardian, the chatbot can help refugees fill in an immigration application in the US and Canada, while for those in the UK it offers asylum support. “I’ve been trying to launch this for about six months,” said Browder, “I initially wanted to do it in the summer. But I wanted to make sure I got it right because it’s such a complicated issue. I kept showing it to lawyers throughout the process and I’d go back and tweak it.”

With help and support from those in legal jobs, Browder now hopes his chatbot will support those feeling disheartened by Donald Trump’s presidency: “I wanted to add Canada at the last minute because of the changes in the political background in the US.”

In order to help users, the chatbot asks a series of questions in order to determine which application they need to fill out and whether refugees are eligible for asylum protection under international law, according to the report. The next step is to note the necessary details required to complete the application. To make sure the chatbot was as effective as possible, Browder set the questions in plain English, as opposed to the often complicated language in the forms.

Immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn told The Guardian: “As an immigration attorney, I can see the major benefits that leveraging sophisticated chatbot technology will have in the asylum application process. It will be easier for applicants to submit their applications and it will empower legal aid organisations to assist a larger number of clients.”