DoNotPay, the consumer advice company that started out helping people easily challenge parking tickets, has come a long way since it launched. It’s expanded to help consumers cancel memberships, claim compensation for missed flights, and even sue companies for small claims. In the early days of the pandemic, the startup helped its users file for unemployment, where many state benefit sites crashed.
Now the so-called “robot lawyer” has a new trick. The startup now lets you request information from U.S. federal and state government agencies under the Freedom of Information Act.
FOIA allows anyone to request information from the government, with some exceptions. But ask anyone with experience in filing FOIAs (hello!) and they can tell you that requesting data requires skill and practice to avoid having the request thrown out for being too broad, or not being specific enough. And when you do eventually get something back, it might not be what you expect.
That’s where DoNotPay wants to help. The new feature guides you through how to file a request for information, as well as wrangle the fee waivers and option to expedite processing — which is up to you to convince the government department why you should get the information for free and faster than regular FOIA requests. (In reality, the FOIA system is massively under-resourced, and responses can take months or years to get back.) After asking you a series of questions and what you want to request, DoNotPay generates a formal FOIA request letter using your answers and files it to the government agency on your behalf.
DoNotPay’s founder and chief executive Joshua Browder said he’s hoping the new feature can help consumers “beat bureaucracy.”
“Hundreds of users have requested a FOIA product, because the government makes it deliberately difficult and bureaucratic to exercise these rights,” Browder told TechCrunch.
Browder said that DoNotPay “would not exist” without FOIA laws. “When we got started appealing parking tickets, we used previous requests to see the top reasons why parking tickets were dismissed,” he said. Browder said he’s hoping the feature will help consumers uncover more injustices — just like with parking tickets — to feed his product with more features. “The overall strategy is to use any interesting FOIA data to build great new DoNotPay products,” he said.
DoNotPay raised $ 12 million in its Series A earlier this year, led by investment firm Coatue Management, with participation from Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, and and Felicis Ventures. The startup has ten employees, including Browder, and is valued at about $ 80 million, the company confirmed.
The FOIA filing feature is free for academics and journalists, and is included as part of the company’s subscription service of $ 3 per month for everyone else.
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Maybe I’m just poor or green behind the ears, or both; but I don’t know how to ‘get a lawyer’. People use the term ‘your lawyer’ or ‘my lawyer’? Are lawyers contracted? Is that a firm or lawyer you used before or have shortlisted? Like how does one get ‘their lawyer’? I’ve used a firm once for my Record Office. Are they the ones I call ‘my lawyers’? I’m a bit confused with how you guys contract and interact with lawyers. Also, is it better to keep approaching other firms for each task or should one stick with firm as much as possible?
I’m very uneducated on this aspect, so I’ll appreciate some guidance!
Edit: I’m talking of corporate lawyers and stuff. Not my personal life, even if I am equally unaware on that front.
If starting up a tech business what’s the best way to get these personnel on board?
As for example how do i get a lawyer help me write a NDA?
I want to show my product concept to companies and now want legal support to ensure companies sign nda agreements?
Whats the best steps to find a lawyer or whats the usual arrangement in the UK? Especially for a start-up.
Basically title. My product has the potential to be a multimillion dollar company.
I on-boarded the lawyer because I found myself stumbling going through the legal world. His roles are basically being the company lawyer. Setting up hiring contracts. Reviewing investor paperwork. Writing up contracts for me and agreements. Basically, the full 9 yards as the companies legal counsel.
I still did not sign, but I feel comfortable with him as a lawyer. He is very decorated legally.
Thoughts on this?
I am starting an online business, that mostly entails clients that are in the US and Canada. I suppose the company would be international? I don't know what all registration, taxes and legal documentation is required. I'm thinking of basing the company out of Estonia-although clients would be from other countries. What kind of lawyer would I need? Also, any suggestions for a reliable place that I can find a good lawyer to give me advice?