Author: The Process Server Center | PROServerCENTER is a legal professional organization whose mission is to set a national standard for the process service industry in the United States.
Traditionally, the idea of working remotely might seem like an approach that is too difficult for the demands of the legal profession. However, if one looks more closely at how to actually work remotely and what lawyers and paralegals need in order to utilize today's technological advances, remote work in the legal industry seems more and more viable. In fact, in light of the rapidly changing environment during the last year, many legal professionals are embracing remote work. Lawyers and paralegals are discovering that remote work allows them to protect their families, clients and communities, while leading to better efficiencies and higher level of productivity.
Whether you have considered working remotely as a legal professional in the past, or whether you are exploring it for the first time, this guide contains 9 clear, practical tips to help you run a remote legal practice without interruption:
1. Communicate Changes Clearly
If you have been running a traditional law firm model, and have decided to begin working remotely, whether permanently or temporarily, it is absolutely critical that your law firm clearly communicates any changes. Send an email to your clients, vendors and staff, making it clear that you are shifting to remote work. Share your new policies and set expectations for which communication channels to use, how meetings will take place, and how often you will be contacting clients. If in-person meetings will no longer take place, let everyone know and introduce video conferences by adding links to video invites within the notes section of any calendar events.
Make sure you clearly share with your clients why you are working remotely so that your they can understand and see these changes in a positive light. By communicating clearly, you can make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved. When it comes to your law firm staff, speak to any regular staff about how you will continue to work together while you are remote, and let the staff know if they are meant to work remotely as well. If you are considering to close your law firm office, put a notice on the homepage of your website and a sign on the door. Make sure the sign include information on how to reach you so those who come knocking do not feel like they have hit an impasse.
2. Set up Remote Access to Cases and Documents
If you are considering working remotely, it is difficult, if not impossible, to carry your filing cabinets with you. It makes sense to ensure you have access to as many documents and case details as possible online. Before you begin your remote work, scan paper documents, digitize anything you might need that is paper-only and not already scanned into your computer or the cloud. You can do this yourself, put a staff member in charge of scanning documents, or find a legal document scanning service to help you get started.
If you are planning to work remotely for an extended time period, and others at your firm are as well, you will need to take special precautions to ensure your law firm’s server is protected from potential fires, floods, power outages, or other possible problems, and—depending on the situation—taking these precautions may be extremely difficult. If you are planning to work remotely full-time, you may not need a law firm server at all! Instead consider a cloud-based document storage which allows you to securely access your files and easily collaborate on them from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection. Some cloud-based storage solutions your team may consider are Clio, Dropbox and Box.
3. Ensure Your Internet Connection is Solid
As a legal professional, you cannot have the internet dropping off in the middle of an important video conference meeting. If you are working remotely, a strong internet connection is critical to your success in order to meet deadlines and ensure all processes run smoothly. In addition, if you need to collaborate with clients and staff on important legal documents, they will have to be stored in the cloud rather than on a local server or computer. A strong internet connection ensures that you and your staff can easily access these documents when you need them.
To make sure that you have a strong and reliable internet connection, test your internet speed for free and talk to your internet provider about the level of speed and stability you are getting with your current package. Consider upgrading if you feel that your internet connection is not stable enough. If you are working out of your local area or expect to regularly go on business trip, consider investing in a portable Wi-Fi hotspot in order to avoid troubles with spotty Wi-Fi connections when away from your home office.
4. Keep Client Communications Secure
If you are working remotely, you need to consider multiple secure ways to communicate with your clients. At the very least, you should be able to provide case updates and ongoing communications online, via text, or over the phone. With many communications methods available, the key thing is to make sure any channels your legal team is using are encrypted and secure. As a legal professional, you need to uphold your duty to keep client information confidential, and if communication channels are not encrypted, it is all too easy for others to gain access to client conversations.
5. Consider Your Clients’ Remote Experience
Clients will be looking for you and your services whether you are working remotely or not. If you want your remote legal practice to be successful, you must provide clear information on your website, create a streamlined onboarding process, and be frank about the fact that you are working remotely and what experience your clients can expect.
Even if you are remote work is only temporary, your ability to be flexible and show that you are still available to clients could very well lead you to connect with clients who otherwise have a difficult time getting the legal help they need. Consider offering consultations over the phone or via video to create peace of mind for potential clients, and send newly signed clients a welcome letter with details like how best to contact you, how often to expect communications, and what times you will be available.
6. Set up Post Office Box Forwarding
Depending on how you are currently running your law practice, and depending on the type of law you practice, going completely paperless may take some time. If you are working remotely temporarily, contact your local postal office to set up a temporary mail forward from your office to the address you will be working at. You can also minimize mailing expenses by opting to receive bills for any business expenses online, and by sharing client invoices online as well.
7. Be Accessible by Phone
Even if you do not have an office, there are still clients who will want to contact you via phone. For temporary remote work, forward calls from your number at your law firm to your mobile phone, or another number you can easily access while away from the office. For permanent remote work, consider switching to a Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone service, which allows you to make phone calls from your computer. It is also worth investing in a headset for top-notch sound quality on any calls.
If you are working remotely, consider also a virtual receptionist service. It can help you ensure that calls do not get missed and potential new clients do not slip through the cracks. This can be helpful if working remotely means you will need to handle more calls than you are used to, or you will be working in a different time zone, or if you will be working irregular hours.
8. Present a Professional Appearance
With the power of technology and a strong internet connection, you can meet anyone, anywhere, anytime with video meetings with clients, vendors, staff, and a variety of other people. Working remotely does not mean your professional standards should lapse. It is a given that you will need to look professional for video meetings, but with some effort and planning, you will look extra smart and create a strong, positive impression on clients and other legal professionals.
9. Take Care of Your Mental Health When Working Remotely
Remote work can be isolating. If you are used to interacting with others directly on a daily basis, suddenly sitting alone all day can be a tough change for your mental health. To combat the downside of remote work, create a routine, and create some distance between your work and personal life. Here are some tips:
As a legal professional, it is entirely possible—with the right preparation and support—to work remotely in today’s digital age. Equipped with the proper tools, and by following a few key best practices, you will continue to run a profitable law firm while providing good client experiences. Depending on the situation, your clients may even appreciate the convenience and efficiency of a remote experience. By selecting secure tools, communicating clearly and effectively about how your remote practice will work, and maintaining a strong internet connection, your firm can thrive from anywhere.
Author: The Process Server Center | PROServerCENTER is a legal professional organization whose mission is to set a national standard for the process service industry in the United States.
Highlight: Non-services do not have to ruin your process server's reputation. Learn what's the difference between a complete and incomplete process service.
Service of process is the method employed by the parties in a lawsuit to formally deliver the legal documents on the other parties and the court. It is an essential step in commencing a civil lawsuit. In fact, service of process is so essential in a lawsuit that, if it is not performed properly, a lawsuit cannot proceed. Service of process is critical because it establishes that the court hearing the lawsuit has jurisdiction over the defendant. Jurisdiction is a court’s ability to hear a controversy involving two or more parties. A court has jurisdiction because these parties have some connection to the court, whether it is because they are citizens of the state where the court sits or because the state in which the courts sits is the site of the plaintiff's claim. Service of process is also important because it notifies the defendant that the plaintiff is bringing a lawsuit and that the courts will hear the impending lawsuit.
There are strict rules about how to serve different kinds of documents. These rules vary by federal, state, county and town courts. They also vary by the type of legal documents a process server has to deliver. It is very important to understand how to properly serve documents to the opposing party (or their lawyer if represented). Not doing it correctly can make your case grind to a halt. You may learn how to differentiate between different courts and types of documents by enrolling in the Process Server Center's Training Program for process servers.
It is clear that for a court to obtain jurisdiction to hear a case, the parties must be properly served. Based on that, for the purpose of the court and your client, a complete process service is a service that has resulted in the successful delivery of the legal documents to the person being served. Any other outcome regardless of the reason behind it, does not allow the court to proceed with the lawsuit. Hence, why attorneys and paralegals are unhappy when a process server does not complete the service and instead returns an affidavit of non service. It is important for process servers to understand the difference between a complete and incomplete service of process and how to perform thorough due diligence in order to help their clients move forward with the case.
Outcomes in Process Service
Process serving begins every time a process server is hired by an attorney or paralegal to deliver legal documents. As described above, the result of this delivery is crucial to your clients and the court in order for the lawsuit to continue. There are 2 main outcomes when serving process:
Complete Process Service
A complete process service is the successful delivery of legal documents to the person or business entity being served. For service of process to be deemed sufficient and complete, it has to be served exactly as prescribed by the originating court following the exact rules and regulations governing the lawsuit. The service of process must be done within the timeframes allowed by the court and an affidavit of service must be filed again exactly as defined by the court in this particular case.
Incomplete Process Service
An incomplete process service is any service that results in the failure to deliver the legal documents to the person or entity being served. The reasons for the incomplete process service may vary depending on the circumstances but some common reasons are:
Regardless of the reason, every incomplete process service delays the lawsuit, increases the legal expenses and causes frustration to your client. The best process servers understand what incomplete service of process really means to their clients. They act proactively in order to minimize the percentage of incomplete services and prove that thorough due diligence has been completed for each and every service. After all, the best process servers know that even though it may not be their fault, incomplete process service is greatly frowned upon by their clients. They also know that happy clients lead to more clients and ultimately to what most process servers want - to grow their process serving business! In order to minimize the number of non-services you send back to your clients, process servers may use these 8 tips for proper process service:
Many services may not be possible to complete due to factors beyond a process server's control. However, executing thorough due diligence with each attempt and fully recording/documenting all attempts made, would ultimately prove to your clients and the court that you have performed your duties as a process server, even when a service ends up as an incomplete. Being proactive and including a full write up of your evidence in your non-service affidavit would convince your client of the quality of your services. Some of the suggestions here require extra work and incur additional expenses. However, after you advise your client of the findings in the field, you may offer additional tools to help them locate, find and ultimate serve the defendant.
Accurate and timely process of service is a critical part of every legal proceeding, since most future legal action cannot be taken until documents are delivered to all involved parties. Hiring a process server with PROServer List is usually the most efficient way of ensuring legal documents are received by their intended recipients and your service of process is complete as prescribed by the rules of the originating court.
Author: Richard Farrell, program administrator with extensive experience in training and education development at the PROServer CENTER, a legal professional organization whose mission is to set a national standard for the process service industry in the United States.
In a rapidly changing environment, law firms have had to adapt the way they work and run their firms. They had to make changes from the way they interact with their clients to the way they collaborate with their team members and vendors, including process servers. Legal professionals are facing not only practical challenges, such as moving to a remote work environment, but also a necessary shift in mindset to adapt to what is going to be a different world. Overcoming these challenges takes even more time and effort, and having smooth processes and reliable vendors has become a must. More than ever, paralegals want to save time and resources and be able to quickly find process servers who have the skills and potential to take charge and eliminate hassles in process serving. With remote work continuing into 2021, process servers need to be more self-sufficient and proactive about the quality of services they provide and the way they manage their businesses.
Here are five tips to help you be the BEST in your role as a process server or the CEO of your process service agency:
No one tells a CEO what to do every day. If you want to grow your process service business (or your role as a process server employee), you need to take initiative. Ask yourself what you can do that is above and beyond what an attorney, a paralegal or your boss has asked you to do. If you think something could be done in a better way, make a suggestion for how to improve it. If you see something that needs to be done, start doing it. Take the initiative to research an address before you make your first attempt. When you are trying to serve a respondent, don't just knock on the door, but take the time to talk to neighbors, check names on mailboxes or do a skip trace. These are not only great ways to learn and get better at what you do as a process server, but you will also demonstrate that you are ambitious and willing to take on more.
Be a Team Player
In our experience CEOs of process serving agencies often act as a bulldozer. If someone does not do something the way they want it done, they just do it themselves. But there is a limit to what any boss can get done on their own. What usually happens is that you start to burn out or you miss important serve by dates or don't notice the mistakes your process servers make. The more that happens, the more your legal clients become frustrated and the faster the quality of your process service falls. If you want to scale your work and have a bigger impact, you have to learn to work with a team. Collaborate with your process servers and trust other people to help you get the job done. Especially early on in your career as a process server agency boss, when you may not have direct reports, you need to learn to lead through influence. Build relationships with the people you work with to establish trust.
Ask for Help
A good leader has confidence but is also humble enough to know that they don’t have all the answers. Tapping into the expertise of others around you will help you learn and grow. Build a strong network of process servers, attorneys and paralegals you can reach out to in areas where you have less expertise. Make learning a priority so you have a good set of process serving resources to reference. Show your clients that you have thought through some potential solutions before going to them with a problem, but don’t spend too long spinning your wheels before reaching out for help. It’s okay not to know all of the answers, even if you are the CEO of a process serving agency.
Your Ears are Your Best Tool
I learned an important leadership skill from my father who taught me to “keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut until I had enough information to make an informed decision.” A good leader has enough emotional intelligence to know when to speak and when to listen. If you are working as a process server or run your process serving agency, you have to listen to what your client needs before you offer them your service or expertise. If you make decisions before you have enough information, you might make mistakes that could have been avoided. You don’t need to be the first person to speak every time an attorney calls you to retain your services. Ask questions and listen before you weigh in. This is a great way to learn and it will help you earn the respect and trust of your team and your clients.
Be Willing to Take Risks
No one gets anywhere in life by staying small. You have to take risks and be willing to fail if you want to grow and make an impact as a process server. However, make sure you do your homework and have data to back you up before you try out a new idea. It’s good to take risks, but they should be smart well-informed risks. Part of being the CEO of your process service business is being willing to take responsibility if your ideas don’t work out. No matter how well prepared you are and how well you execute, you still might fail. And that’s okay. We often learn more from our failures than our successes. Take the time to learn from your failures but don’t shy away from risks.
Do not be afraid to take charge as you are growing in your process service career. If you want to develop leadership skills, you have to be willing to grab the reins. You don’t need to know all of the answers to lead. If you are asking for help, listening, and making informed decisions, you will have a solid base to grow and learn from as you continue to build your process serving business.
The best way to learn is through experience. Each new experience teaches you what works well and what doesn’t and helps you create a management style that works for you. If you have any questions about better managing your process service business, our PROServer Center team is here to help.
Question Answered by Maggie, the Process Server Helper | PROServerCENTER is a legal professional organization whose mission is to set a national standard for the process service industry in the United States.
Question from a process server: "How do I get rich from process serving...?"
Maggie, the process server helper, answers: "Rich people come from all types of industries and it is possible to get rich even in process service. What’s more, you do not need to be brilliant. You do not have to be a workaholic. You do not need to have some unique talent if you want to get rich, either. Here's the secret most process servers don't know: Getting rich is about how you live your life and run your business, and what you do with the money you make!"
The Process Server Center loves to help process servers with questions they may have in order to succeed in their business. We recently received a question from one of our community groups and we turned to Maggie to find out the answer. Here is what we talked about:
PROServer Center: "So what do you think, Maggie, can a process server get rich from process serving? You know, start off small, as a single process server, serving all documents yourself, and then grow enough where you become the boss and generate enough to make a good profit?"
Maggie: "Let's try and answer this question here. First of all, let's take into consideration the fact that our own perception defines what "Rich" means. One process server may consider making a profit of $3,000 per month to be rich. Yet another may need a lot more to even break even. There are different paths one can take in order to build his/her process service business. Depending on the path we choose, the goals and outcomes would vary. "
PROServer Center: "Well, Maggie, I know that being rich is mostly a feeling that depends on how much you want or think you need to feel rich. Let's set some parameters here and talk about what a process server can do if they are just starting out or have been serving for some time as the only process server in their business... How do they go from that start point to a point, let's say, where they now hire other process servers to work under them on a regular basis... And perhaps where this process server no longer needs to physically serve papers, but rather manages the business and grows it even more?"
Maggie: "A wise man once said: 'Show me how you run your business, and I will let you know if you run it for a long time...' Getting rich in process serving is about how you run your business. It is about, first of all, who you are, what your needs are, and what your goals are. Understanding these well helps you understand the resources you have and the results you want to achieve. Let's now try and help our community readers with 7 steps process servers can take to get rich and move themselves from being a solo process server to a process serving business with several servers that runs smooth and has the potential to grow... well, and in the process, make its owner get rich!"
1. Get Prepared
Maggie: "The first step will be, of course, to get well prepared. Process servers can get rich mostly by adopting good behaviors and money habits in their businesses and personal lives. They have financial discipline. They manage their money well. And that’s something any process server can learn to do. Before you embark on the endeavor to get rich as a process server, make sure you are well prepared and trained to serve legal documents yourself. Many of the rich people out there have started off from the very bottom in their now large corporations. And part of the reason for their success is that they know the ins and outs and every little detail in between in their businesses. As a new or solo process server, take the time to learn. Invest in your knowledge: take online training classes, work for other agencies, pay attention to the little details, see what others are doing well and what others are not doing so well, learn how other process servers do it in the field and how they are efficient about it. Don't forget to include business and organizational skills as part of your training as process serving is as much about delivering legal documents as it is about being organized and managing your business well. And if you want to get rich as a process server, you have to do it better than others!"
2. Gather Experience Under Your Belt
Maggie: "While getting your online training, put yourself out there and work for others or for a handful of clients. Don't think a job is too small for you. Take each and every one and don't fear diversity. There are many rules and regulations in process serving based on type of court, federal, state, county, town level, then based on type of legal action. There are many things to learn and as easy as process serving seems, it can quickly get pretty confusing. While getting experience under your belt, pay attention to the details and intricacies of each process and create strict procedures that your business must implement at each step of serving legal documents: receiving the paperwork, creating the record, getting the documents ready for service, making attempts, preparing the affidavits and getting paid. Each step in this process has its own challenges, so be sure to fully understand them and seek ways to perfect each step. The more you know and understand about process serving as a type of business, the higher the chance for success."
3. Market Yourself Carefully
Maggie: "When you are new as a process server, very few clients know you even exist. Growing your business takes consistent efforts to do your work better than others and to network. Don't market yourself without a plan. Instead set yourself some goals, craft a few marketing ideas and implement for a period of time. Then compare what works and what doesn't, and make a new plan. Growing a process service business takes time, of course, and being consistent in your networking is important if you want to see a positive outcome. Consider joining NAPPS, provided you have the required years of experience to be eligible for membership; they are the nationwide association and it matters to be one of many other process servers. Maybe also consider joining Serve-now, but consider they are an internet directory and the fact they recently were acquired by an Australian company?! If you are already experienced as a process server and want to stand out as one of the best in your area, join PROServer list. It is the exclusive place for top notch process servers, but it is not for everyone, rather reserved for the best of process servers."
4. Take Care of Each and Every Client
Maggie: "Oh yes! No exceptions! Take care of each attorney, paralegal, pro se client, as if they are your one and only client. It definitely pays off! Unfortunately I see so many of you spending time and money to market themselves, only to see you fail because you cannot organize yourself to take care of your clients. It is actually pretty easy to grow your process service business if you are the new kid on the block. The common talk among legal clients is how frustrated they are with unreliable process servers. So they are constantly on the lookout for the next process server. Once you get their attention, make sure you take care of them better, faster, with more diligence than the previous process server. The happier your client is, the higher the chance they will recommend you to others. Do you see what's happening? One, two, three, more... your satisfied clients will start hearing about you and you are suddenly on your way to get rich while doing process serving."
5. SAVE SAVE SAVE
Maggie: "While you're doing all of the above, do not use/waste, etc all of your profits, no matter how small. Make sure to start putting money aside until you have at least 6 months, preferably 1 year, of savings that you can live off yourself. Why that matters? Remember you wanted to get rich and be the boss and hire others? Well, when time comes to take this step, it is important that you focus on the growth, on managing your process servers, overseeing and training them. You need to be free of 'How do I pay my own bills?' worries, in order to build and grow your process serving business. During this growth time, in addition to managing, hiring, training people to work under you, you will continue to make sure that each client is taken care of 100%, no exceptions. Many servers fail during this stage as they continue to serve papers themselves, they lose focus and do not manage their business which should be there primary goal at this growth stage..."
6. Run a Tight Ship
Maggie: "In a small business, inefficient operating processes cost money in hidden ways. Sloppiness bleeds profits. Rich small business owners run a tight ship.
Be hands on as process service business owner. Inspect the little things. Broken equipment, lax schedules, incorrect affidavits, insufficient due diligence — all lead to a general air of carelessness that soon spreads like it is contagious. The flip side is, paying attention to details can transform your process serving business into a lean, mean, profit-generating machine. Details mean the difference between:
7. Get More Clients
Maggie: "While growing and training your process servers, be frugal and continue to save more of your profit margins for... no, not for a rainy day. Continue to save in order to get rich! Once your servers are trained and doing well to perform with minimum supervision, get more clients. It is time to get rich! You are well prepared, well organized and well run as a process serving business. It is time to look for large clients with high volume to help you get rich while doing process serving! Start with your local large law firms. Show them your knowledge and past experience. Let current clients talk about you. If you are a PROServer List member, ask to be featured in the monthly process server publication "In Focus" that features the best process servers in the country. While continuing to grow, continue to manage your business every day, while looking for inefficient processes. Eliminate problems, perfect each process, show your clients they can trust that every service of process will be done on time and without any hassle for them. Just to mention... that's when the time comes for you to raise your fees to reflect the highest level of professionalism with which you operate your process serving business."
PROServer Center: "I see now that growth in process serving requires perseverance and diligently following the steps to build and grow your one-man business to a solid one with several process servers. Maggie, what would you say as an encouragement to our readers who are eager to get on the path to becoming rich from process serving?"
Maggie: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Be prepared to take risks if you want to get rich as a process server. But, walk into it with eyes open and protect the downside by managing the risks carefully.
Dream and visualize... It would help you stay motivated when it gets tough!"
PROServer Center: "Thank you, Maggie! We will share your tips with our process servers."
Maggie: "You are welcome! Don't forget to Ask me Anything about process service!"