Timothy Brown was in a bind. The 32-year-old IT site manager’s wife suddenly split, leaving their two young children behind with him. It was an emergency. “I was kind of left in a lurch, and I felt extremely disadvantage not understanding the legal system,” recalled Brown. “My budget was very limited. Making sure I was able to retain full custody of my kids was a challenge.”
Brown eventually found legal help, but the experience left him frustrated with the legal system he said was broken and institutionalized oppression.
Resilience of the Human Spirit
Growing up in Raleigh, Brown was attracted to technology in high school. He used it to help his parents manage their bakery. Brown expanded his IT experience while serving in the United States Marine Corps. After his honorable discharge, he worked for several small tech companies.
His career was on an upward trajectory when he was diagnosed with a rare and sometimes fatal autoimmune disorder. As a result, he lost his job and was bedridden. “There’s something to be said about the resilience of the human spirit during times of struggle,” recalled Brown.
After recovering from the illness, Brown was emboldened to earn three college degrees in technology management and cybersecurity.
While working for a web development company, Brown recalled his own legal challenge and teamed with a venture company in San Diego to develop Citizen HQ.
“We understand how troubling it can be when you find yourself dealing with an emergency and need immediate legal assistance,” reads the firm’s website. “That’s why we have created our innovative service that offers legal representation through video conferencing whenever you need it – night or day.”
The NC-based company went online in 2019.
Citizen HQ matches people who need affordable legal services with attorneys. “The idea is to connect lawyers and citizens, empowering them to collaborate on legal issues and permitting instant access to law changes from state to state,” explained Brown.
Potential clients go to the Citizen HQ website and complete a questionnaire at no cost. The client will then get a proposal from one or several lawyers. “We intend on searching by contacting attorneys on the backend until they have secured affordable representation,” said Brown.
“Clients can chat with attorneys and schedule meetings in person or via video conference. We plan to incorporate online, video conference, secure voice calls, and photos and videos from within the app,” explained Brown.
The service offers financing, so clients clear the hurdle of finding money to pay legal fees. “If you are getting a divorce and you have a decent credit score and a job, you can qualify for financing the entire divorce. You can sit back and feel more confident that you can speak with an attorney.”
Looking For Affiliates
Citizen is looking for attorneys to affiliate with the company. Brown said the relationship is ideal for small firms and young attorneys. Clients make the arrangements directly with the attorney, not through Citizen HQ. Lawyers pay a flat monthly fee to the company, and a finder’s fee is equated based on a percentage of the total paid balance. If an attorney takes a case pro bono, Citizen HQ doesn’t charge the attorney a fee.
“We are facilitating client acquisition services for lawyers, so at first, it will be contractually based. However, as we grow, we will bring attorneys on board as 1099 employees,” said Brown.
Citizens Have Rights
“Citizen HQ is poised to be a game-changer for underserved populations. It’s designed to keep citizens proactively aware of laws in their area while connecting them with legal assistance if and when they need it to ensure access to justice,” said Maya Markovich, executive director at Justice Technology Association.
“I want to inform and educate everyone about their rights, so they are always ready and equipped to protect themselves,” said Brown. “My goal for the app is to provide people a service where in an emergency, they are able to access an attorney via video conference. We, as citizens, have a right to be represented.”