Jim and Bonnie Garaventi of Marblehead were frustrated that when one of their four children got into trouble a few years ago while away at college, they had nowhere to turn. More specifically, there was no attorney for them to turn.
“We came to realize a lot of other students and parents find themselves in [that situation],” said Jim Garaventi, a founding partner and creative director of Boston-based ad firm Mechanica.
The Garaventis embarked on a mission to develop a membership-based legal service that connects college students with emergency legal help when they need it.StudentDefend, the bootstrapped result of their two years of work, bills itself as a way to connect college students in need of immediate legal advice with qualified defense attorneys. The service officially launches today, but coverage will start Sept. 1 for anyone that enrolls in the program.
Here’s the way it works: Parents (or students themselves) pay an annual fee of $89 and then have access to a toll-free number that connects the student with an attorney in their home state 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Garaventis hope that the membership fee for legal help will one day be as ubiquitous as renters insurance or a AAA card.
The couple said the only revenue they generate is from the membership fee, not from any fees referring a student to an attorney. Currently, StudentDefend has about 400 attorneys in its network and a call center based in Massachusetts that routes phone calls to various attorneys. The couple did not disclose the school or nature of the challenges they faced with their own child.
The two said that the idea would be to expand the service nationally and potentially bundle it in to other services offered to college students and their parents.