Alyen: 5 Unusual Lessons My First LawBot Taught Me

Alyen: 5 Unusual Lessons My First LawBot Taught Me 1920 1080 Raymond Blyd

Last update: March 22, 2017

On October 9th, 2014 I told myself to go build robots for law. After exactly 2 years I can finally say: I did. It’s been a 16-year journey and here are my five unusual lessons.

You may fail

When you try Alyen, remember: I may be the least qualified person to attempt this. I’m not specialized in Immigration Law but I had suffered thru the process. I do have a degree in Legal Knowledge Engineering from the University of Amsterdam, which qualifies me to code legal knowledge into computer systems. Actually, I’m lucky because they scrapped the course shortly after I graduated. I believe there aren’t that many of us out there so I’m hoping to bring it back.

The real reason I created Alyen is to fail fast and learn. Growing up on legal inferencing engines, I was curious to find out if chatbots, with machine learning and natural language processing, are the next level. Yet, ‘teaching‘ chatbots requires a different approach and mindset. However, legal professionals are hard wired to avoid risk. So the Lawyer in me wanted Alyen to be perfect and risking failure wasn’t acceptable. The Creator in me gave me the courage to stumble as long as I got back up.

So if you think Alyen doesn’t work, let me know in the form below. I’d be happy to hear it because in Life and in Law, we can all use data to improve.

You can cheat

Cheating is when you take a shortcut to success or create something fake which actually reflects an aspiration rather than the reality. Gamers use cheats, programmers use hacks. In programming, cheats are a healthy way to trim code or for your constituents to let you know how they expect your app to work. I ran into numerous obstacles trying to build Alyen. A major hurdle was that I needed to use webhooks to make it truly intelligent. I will, once I get the hang of it and learn how to connect it to Zapier. Webhooks would have enabled me to save and calculate the answer faster. Example if a user would state in the chat: “I’m a Syrian Refugee and I would like to know my chances”. My goal was to parse it as follows:

Question: “I’m a [first instance] Syrian [ nationality] Refugee [goal] and I would like to know my chances [metrics]”

Answer: You have 98% chance your application would be accepted.

Maybe it’s my limited technical expertise. Or maybe I should ‘cheat’ and use another platform.

You should slow down

What I realized is that having a conversation maybe one of the quickest ways to transfer complicated information. As in my example above, normal legal expert systems needed many questions to get ambiguity out of the way. With more powerful natural language processing, it’s easier to parse questions in chunks and offer up an answer immediately. However, I discovered that speed isn’t always helpful when providing complex conclusions. When running my “Syrian Refugee” simulation and offering my instant answer I didn’t believe it myself. I expected Alyen to ponder my question and display the strain it took me to get that answer. Then I remember this article about why Facebook purposefully slows it services down in order for the human brain to get a grip of what information is put forward.

You will understand

Meanwhile, I discovered chatbots are an amazing legal service design tool. Chatbots have an intimate conversation with your users. During the conversation, it becomes blatantly obvious where your user journey is broken. Alyen had over 200 conversations since it’s launched and I can report that most didn’t go as I expected. Moreover, most didn’t follow the path I initially set out (immigrants) but rather were more interested in testing (experience). With this data, I’m now pondering a pivot for Alyen from Immigration to something else. Nevertheless, chatbots are the reality check on any service. They have been called  the best prototyping tool and the most insightful way to get user feedback.

We advance

I used because it looked the easiest for me to use. There are many platforms and resources to choose from and I found Chatbots Magazine a useful starting place. Once you’re ready to pick your platform, you can head on over to to pick one. If you need some inspiration, here are a couple of Lawbots :



  1. Lexi the Legal Bot: a legal bot you can chat with to generate a free Privacy Policy or Non-Disclosure Agreement;
  2. a chatbot focused criminal offenses;
  3. Do Not Pay: well-known traffic ticket chatbot;
  4. Appjection: dutch version of Do Not Pay
  5. Visabot: US Immigration bot in Facebook messenger;
  6. Lawdroid: Incorporate your business in Facebook messenger;
  7. Oblo: answers legal issues & recommends lawyers in Facebook messenger;
  8. Liza: French legal chat bot;
  9. Alyen: my courageous attempt to provide clarity to immigration;

When you try Alyen and other bots please realize: a typical calculator can calculate faster than any human being but the calculator itself can not comprehend what it’s true purpose is. Robots are merely a tool and the real potential resides in our imagination. We get gentle reminders every day, even with their flaws bots are able to judge our laws. So lets us advance and see beyond.

 **Added: Rise of Chatbots by Lawgazette. 

**Updated Nov, 23, 2016:  Oblo added

**Updated Nov, 18, 2016:  Visabot & Lawdriod added

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#Robolaw Is A World Without Law

#Robolaw Is A World Without Law 2048 1152 Raymond Blyd

…I get my receipt and check the numbers. There is fine print at the bottom stating something legal. It is referencing some other texts and is suppose to enlighten me about liability, indemnification etc…I believe its evidence…

 The law blankets our society like an invisible fabric. It is a web that governs every human interaction. It materializes on paper and thru the voices of patrons like a code only a programmer can decompile. We mostly do not understand the law yet it is supposed to make things clear.

So why is the law so complicated?

Guardians of Legalcomplex

Unlike the other ‘things’ that (will) run our lives, the law has been romanticized in science, literature and film as something righteous yet secretive. A language only a few have mastered yet is revered and adhered. Its practitioners are modern-days saints which guard us from mayhem and malice. But there is a dark side to this benevolence. Legal work intent is to provide clarity but to the contrary: it is cleverly disguised complexity. One that is perpetuated by its guardians, who are the ones bestowed with the power to decrypt. I call this LegaLCompleX.

Now many strive to unravel and democratize this mesh of rules from the inside out and outside in. Yet there might be another force which is inadvertently cracking this barrier of complexity: Money. Simply said:

most legal rules exist to regulate the flow of money.

The law (especially tax law) was initially conceived to distribute wealth in an orderly fashion. Now that money as currency has fundamentally change from paper to digital, so does its governance. As this wonderful article more eloquently explains: the event of crypto currency such as Bitcoin is forcing us to fundamentally rethink our legal contracts required to regulate the flow of money.

Vanishing Legal

So while preachers of law have consistently pressed this complexity, they are also engineering its inexplicable evanesce.

The more complex the law and its language has become, the more intolerable we will be to its use and visibility in either small or fine print.

We are entering a perfectly designed world of convenience which will not tolerate complexity. In any industry this is a fact:

if your product is too complicated to comprehend, it will fail.

The law as a product to regulate us will fail unless it gets more sophisticated in its applicability and ease of use.

Moreover, if its too complex, none will comply. Either the complexity is fully automated and made invisible or it will be designed out of existence. The law will vanish in code that will be computed not argued. Better to let logical If – Then – Else statements negotiate human interactions where trust is required.

Ultimately, it is trust we try to enforce with rules so if we delegate this trust to software it might free humanity.


Engineering Bondrew

Smart contracts are legal contracts running on computer logic rather than human language and the inevitable emotions it conveys. These contracts will be used by robots of law in resolving legal issues. No judge, jury or jurist just run and debug. I do not believe making the law simpler is easily achievable, I do believe its complexity can be hidden in software. Just click: “I agree” and trust that your Robo-lawyer has acted in your best interest.

Bondrew: transform rules into code and puts code into robots. Robots support humans. #Bondrew = Rise.

Originally posted on Medium

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