Bots Legis: Your go to for legal info

AN artificial-intelligence (AI) lawyer chatbot that can resolve disputes on parking tickets, that's DoNotPay, "the world's first robot lawyer" created by British entrepreneur Joshua Browder that at present offers AI-powered legal assistance.

From the notable successes of DoNotPay, with their 160,000 successfully contested parking tickets across London and New York for free in 2016, other robot lawyers emerged.

It was DoNotPay which inspired Albert Wences Daba III, who was in his senior year of law school at that time, to create a means to help people access basic legal information via Facebook Messenger.

"I believed that if it is possible to assist with their parking tickets, chatbot technology can help people with small money claims.

A chatbot that can be accessed through Facebook Messenger for free without the need to install another app, that is the Bots Legis chatbot.

Bots Legis guides users through a textual dialog system requiring their categorical responses to questions regarding specific legal topics.

The bot began its development in 2017 with the help of legal professionals, and contributions from government agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry for its portion on consumer concerns.

Having a number of professionals involved helps assure the accuracy of legal information and the bot can also refer the user to the proper government agency and reminds users to always refer to lawyers, as the application is not meant to replace actual lawyers but just fill in some areas that were supposedly designed by law to be resolved even without the legal assistance.

"Bots Legis is not a lawyer substitute but is rather similar to First Aid. It informs people what to do using the automated responses from legal professionals and often encourages people to seek legal assistance from lawyers or the proper government agencies,” Daba said.

With the Bots Legis available on Facebook Messenger, Daba said it makes the law more accessible to millions of Filipinos, especially the millennials who comprise a huge number of social media users.

"For millennials, it makes the law more accessible to them, not only in terms of being accessed online through Facebook Messenger, but also in the language that it is in. Because we have features translated to the vernacular," Daba added.

The application can also help people reconsider what they post online. "Bots Legis offers them the option to review whether what they would say would constitute something that is libelous, and libelous remarks online are rather common these days," Daba said.

The libel feature in Bots Legis, according to Daba, was developed alongside lawyer Kristine Ravanera-Bago and Senior High School students of Xavier University during their 2017 Maker Faire. It simplified the language of the law to help people determine through a series of questions asked by the chatbot if what they said or what they might say would probably be libelous.

"And in relation to small claims, we see a lot of creditors who shame their debtors online without thinking that they might be making themselves vulnerable to lawsuits.”

"It really tries to make the law more accessible to the people so that people would be able to act accordingly," he added.

At present, Daba has passed the management and operations of Bots Legis to Gerard Micael Oro, along with his teammates Bianca Andrea Bince, Rafael Francesco Gonzales, Simon Peter Zagado, Lynyrd Alexsei Corrales, and Threjann Ace Noli - all law students at Xavier University. Prior to this transition, he was assisted by the members of Balaod Atenista, a legal aid organization in Xavier University.

Oro said they already have several plans for the application which builds on the work Daba started for Bots Legis, focusing primarily on strengthening the existing platform.

"We need to work on the features which involve libel, as well as the topic on labor, especially in the area of unpaid wages and illegal dismissals," Oro said.

They are also looking into expanding the language options in Bots Legis and making it available in Bisaya and Tagalog aside from English. Although some parts in the chatbot are already in Bisaya, Oro said that it would be a lot better if all the features could cover these three major languages used in the Philippines to provide for greater accessibility.

"Another project that we’re also looking into is the system that Albert developed which seeks to identify overstaying prisoners inside Lumbia," Oro said.

"The thing is, if we could determine that this particular system works in Lumbia, we would potentially be able to replicate it all over the country. As law students, we are often encouraged by our professors to use our knowledge of the law to respond to society’s problems. With this project, we hope to use technology to address challenges in the implementation of the law," he added.

Oro also said that they also wish to add another area in Bots Legis which guides victims on how to file a complaint against those who commit violence against women and children.

"We hope that this initiative that was started by Albert would allow for greater collaboration among legal practitioners in the future, and provide law students with ideas on how to creatively apply the concepts they learn in school," Oro said.

They are also looking forward to forming partnerships with civil society organizations, non-government organizations, the local government of Cagayan de Oro, and national government agencies.

Apart from the aforementioned future plans, Oro also emphasized the importance of working with data that the transition team of Bots Legis hopes to gather from their consultations with the various stakeholders in the city to look into most common legal problems in Cagayan de Oro.

"We wish to find out what legal topics we might be able to condense and put into the chatbot," Oro said.

"What we're trying to do is not replace lawyers but to provide common folk the ability to be properly informed on whether they should pursue seeking legal help from lawyers," he added.


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