Life in the phone zone
I would be a cruel, cruel thing indeed to take away Harold Fried's telephones. He loves them all -- the phone in his car, in his truck, on his desk, even the one built into a pedestra next to the mushroom-colored couch against the far wall in his office. And he really loves the portable cellular phone he carries around in his briefcase.
And well he should. Fried, an attorney for the Southfield firm Fried, Saperstein, DeVine & Kohn, has found a friend in telecommunications. "It's the nature of my business--you have to be accessible," he says.
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Fried's firm handles a range of cases, but his personal specialty is criminal matters, with a divorce case thrown in here and there. "When you do criminal work, you're in court a lot. you're running around," he says, adding that his firm also has an office in Monroe. "It wouldn't surprise me if I drive 40,000 or 50,000 miles a year."
Clients in Fried's line of work may need to talk to their lawyers outside of normal business hours and there may be times -- like when there's a cop on the porch with an arrest warrant -- when a client really has to talk to his attorney right away. So Fried finds keeping a phone at his fingertips pays off.
And some of Fried's clients are the kind you don't keep waiting. Among them, for example is Detroit Red Wing hockey busy handling his cocaine smuggling Fried busy handling his cocaine smuggling arrest and conviction. Currently Fried is attempting to keep Prpbert from being deported to Canada, a possible consequence of the drug conviction.
Fried doesn't talk about specific clients or their cases. Suffice it to say that more than a few crises have been handled from the front seat of the lawyer's car as he tooled down a freeway to court. He says, "it really helps you shorten the day. You get more business done. And the clients appreciate the fact if they need you the can reach you right away."
Fried's love affair with telephones that have shed their ties to lowly jacks and other earthbound connections began years ago when he got a radio phone. He saw a friend using one of the phones to call back to the office. "And I thought what a terrific way to cut down on the time I have to spend when I get back to the office returning important calls to clients, taking cate of emergency situations and so forth."
So he got a car phone. "I probably use mine more than I should. I think when you get a car phone you have a tendency (to do so) even when things are not emergency situations."
Fried was one of the first in line to buy a cellular telephone when the technology was introduced. In the ensuing five or so years, cellular phone technology has improved dramatically, wiht expanded calling areas and better transmission quality. The attorney is hardly alone in his phone use. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) reports there were more than 4.4 million cellular subscribers in the United States by mid-1990, up 24.5 percent from just six months previously.
Fried has since moved up to a fancier cellular model made by Panasonic. Not only to Fried's phones have plenty of bells and whistles (although he acknowdeges there are phones on the market with even more), but he takes full advantage of cellular services. He subscribes to both Ameritech and Cellular One airtime, just in case one might work better than the other in a particular area. He has call waiting and conferencing capability. On one of his cellular phones, he has two separate lines.
Fried's car phones are designed with speakers (Read more:What are the best car speakers) so that it's possible to use the handset or not when making a call. "It's eerie to see people all alone in a car talking away," he notes, adding that he's gotten some odd looks from people who see him yammering away at stop lights. Since he used one of the new power boost cellular antennas that aren't immediately noticeable from outside the car, even passersby who normally recognize the tell-tale phone whip sticking out from trunks might not realize he's talking on the phone.
His briefcase phone, Fried says, comes in handy when there's a break in court proceedings and he can go out to the hall and check on messages. Even unabashed cellular phone users have their pride, however, and Fried is quick to point out there's a host of no-nos when it comes to blather in a box. "Recently I was talking to a nurse who said a guy in the doctor's office was talking on his portable phone all the time he was there," Fried shakes his head. He also sneers at people who feel compelled to use their phones at their tables in restaurants. He swears he has never, ever called anyone and said "Guess where I'm calling from?"
If anything, Fried says, cellular phones have enabled him to be more courteous. "If I'm on my way from one courtroom to another and there's an accident or whatever, I can call the court and tell them I'm on the way."
Fried declines to say what he spends each month on cellular airtime but admits "the bills can be substantial if you're using it for business, but it also can be very good for business." According to the CTIA, the average cellular phone bill is $83.90 per month.
Every now and then, Fried does try to break the phone connection. On vacations, he might promise his wife Sara that he won't spend all his time talking on the phone with the office or clients. His wife also is an attorney, however, and more often than not the calls will be for her.
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Much as Freid love phone-type gadgets, he says the fascination doesn't extend to all other business tools. "I wouldn't know what to do with a computer," he maintains. He plays a pretty mean fax machine, though. And while some of his clients and associates already have fax machines in their cars, Fried has resisted that urge. For now, anyway.