Bench & Bar

JUL 2018

The Bench & Bar magazine is published to provide members of the KBA with information that will increase their knowledge of the law, improve the practice of law, and assist in improving the quality of legal services for the citizenry.

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| JULY/AUGUST 2018 18 F acebook Messenger is now the third most popular mobile social network- ing app in the United States. 1 e popularity of instant messenger platforms has led to a race by businesses to estab- lish a presence on these platforms. Just as businesses hurried to create an app to take advantage of the ubiquity of smart- phones in the early 2000s, now businesses are creating chatbots to take advantage of the popularity of instant messenger plat- forms. One of the most frequent criticisms of lawyers' use of the internet is that lawyers build web pages that are nothing more than digital equivalents of static advertisements in the Yellow Pages. ese sites provide little more than an advertisement that is an invitation to email or call the lawyer to retain their services. Chatbots provide an opportunity to address that criticism but also pose pitfalls for the unwary. Chatbots are already a common presence among retailers. Typically, a customer inter- acts with a chatbot by typing a question or clicking on a menu, and the chatbot pro- vides a text-based response or a visual menu to explore further options. For example, a customer may visit a shoe retailer's chat- bot and type, "I would like to buy running shoes." e chatbot will then respond with a gallery of images of popular running shoes, along with a brief description and price underneath each shoe. e customer could then click on a shoe to jump to the retailer's webpage to learn more or click on an option that says, "Show me more options" and another gallery of options would be displayed. Chatbots are also used for frequently asked questions, such as questions regarding returning a product to a retailer. e use of chatbots is not con- fined to the commercial space. Some, such as Poncho, can provide information about local weather conditions and will send an instant message when it begins raining in the user's location to remind the user to bring an umbrella. One of the first chatbots in the legal domain to gain media attention was a park- ing ticket bot called Do Not Pay. Designed by an undergraduate student at Stanford, this bot allows the user to generate a form letter to appeal a New York City parking ticket. It has since expanded its offerings to other jurisdictions. Users input their name, address, and other standard information, and then choose from a series of excuses or justifications, drawn from the munici- pal code, that indicate why they should not have received a parking ticket. e user can then print out the appeal and mail it in. e chatbot that I created, the Law Library of Congress Chatbot, is accessed from the Law Library of Congress Facebook page and allows users to click on a menu or type commands to retrieve legal research guides, foreign law reports, and primary sources of law. If the user wants to consult an attorney, the chatbot directs the user to an American Bar Association directory or a directory of Legal Aid organizations. Despite their promise, chatbots could also pose ethical considerations for lawyers and create a risk of engaging in the unautho- rized practice of law for non-lawyers. What constitutes the practice of law has become murkier, particularly in an era where tasks traditionally associated with legal services are increasingly subject to being unbundled, automated, and outsourced. In the case of unbundling, a lawyer may limit the scope of B Y : R O B E R T B R A M M E R T H E R I S E O F T H E CHATBOTS Features: POTPOURRI

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