You know what sucks? Speeding tickets. Worse than that? Going to court to dispute one without a lawyer. There was a silver lining for a moment — sure the tickets suck, but at least you could get about as close to a lawyer as you’d need to handle it. That safety net is probably going the way of the Dodo. From the ABA Journal:
A would-be class action lawsuit alleges that the DoNotPay website is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and is harming its customers by providing legal services that are “substandard and poorly done.”
The March 3 suit alleges that DoNotPay violated California’s unfair competition law by holding itself out as a lawyer to California residents and by selling legal services there without a law license.
The DoNotPay legal chatbot was founded in 2015 to help people fight traffic tickets, but it later expanded to help people with immigration applications, small-claims suits and other legal matters. Its founder, Joshua Browder, is a 2017 ABA Journal Legal Rebel.
Those expansions feel a lot farther reaching than speeding tickets! Unfortunately, the suit alleges that the branching out was just more areas for DoNotPay to fail.
The name plaintiff in the suit is Jonathan Faridian, who said he used DoNotPay to draft demand letters, an independent contractor agreement, a small-claims court filing, two LLC operating agreements, and a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
But some of the documents “were so poorly or inaccurately drafted that he could not even use them,” the suit says. Demand letters that were supposed to be sent to the opposing party were returned undelivered to Faridian’s home. When Faridian opened one of the letters, a blank piece of paper was inside. He also requested an agency agreement for an online marketing business that he wanted to start, but the language didn’t seem to apply to his business.
Will this mark the end of DoNotPay? Probably not — anybody willing to stake a million dollars on the efficacy of their program will likely put in enough work to craft an argument for why this isn’t the unlawful practice of law. Maybe? I’m sure the program will help him figure something out.
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by tweet at @WritesForRent.