If you heard about a device that would be able to get you an attorney at the touch of a button…within 15 minutes, day or night,,,would you think the idea belonged in a science fiction anthology? It’s actually as close as you can get to virtual reality, in the realm of digital touch devices.
Per Law.com, the app is currently only available for use with Android phones (although an app for Blackberry and iPod are being worked on) and was the brain-child of Easton, Conn. resident, Chris Miles. Miles wanted to get faster legal service to persons who had been recently arrested—and to turn that into a business.
Now, if you sign up with his company, LawyerUp, ahead of time, you can rest assured that, if ever you find yourself in jail, you can use the one allotted phone call to call LawyerUp. That’s where the 15 minutes promised call-back comes in. (Currently, the service is limited to Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts but watch for this app to take off in nearby states.)
Miles has connected with 20 lawyers thus far to serve as his base of referrals—most in the Boston area. (LawyerUp—based in the Boston area—has only been running since last winter.) The total cost is never more than $250.00 for the initial consult. There’s no obligation to continue the professional relationship after the initial contact has been established.
So how does an arrestee avail himself or herself of this device? If you’re already known to LawyerUp and have put your credit card number on file, you’re allowed to punch into the system, where a dispatcher handles the intake and pinpoints your area of trouble.
The first attorney who can be reached and responds gets the defendant’s data. If the arrestee and lawyer can’t connect, the lawyer knows to contact the next-of-kin (which information the client presumably has left on file).
How do you know you’re getting a top-caliber attorney referred to you? Miles is not an attorney, so he leaves the checking of the lawyer’s backgrounds to his co-partner, Alex Ruskell, a lawyer and professor at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island. Not surprisingly, “[t]he biggest user concern is the quality of the lawyer,” said Miles. Ruskell is no-nonsense about ensuring the lawyers meet his standards.
He requires a recommendation from a judge or a colleague. (Sometimes prosecutors or public defenders which the lawyer has worked with are the colleagues who provide a reference.) According to Attorney Patrick Tomasiewicz, of Fazzano & Tomasiewicz in Hartford, Conn., one of the lawyers who works with LawyerUp, a great many questions come up immediately—and definitely within the first 24 hours—after an arrest.
“When you get arrested, you don’t know what to do, how to obtain bond, how to get your license and other personal possessions returned to you,” said Tomasiewicz. “Questions always come up within the first 24 hours of arrest that a client doesn’t know and a lawyer can provide.”