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.
Process servers have an important responsibility in our society, and that role stems from the meaning of process service. As part of the judicial process, service of process is a procedure which requires one party to a lawsuit to give a proper notice of initial legal action to another party in an effort to exercise jurisdiction over the party being served and enable this same party to respond to the proceeding before the court.
What Does a Process Server Do?
Process servers perform a number of tasks such as document retrieval, filing of legal documents with the court and process serving. A process server's main duty is to deliver legal documents, called process, to a party or parties involved in a lawsuit. As such, the key responsibility of a process server is to notify the parties of a legal action taken against them.
How Does a Process Server Deliver Legal Documents?
A process server hand delivers process or legal documents that were filed with the court, called an originating court, to a party or parties indicated in the lawsuit, as well as to other parties, not named in the lawsuit, who may have information about it.
Let's expand more on the steps that comprise service of process from finding a process server to the delivery of the legal documents, called process:
Next time you have legal documents to be served, you will be well-prepared as to what happens when you hire a process server. As a client, you will know each step a process server takes in order to successfully deliver your process and file the completed affidavit of service with the court. Depending on the type of case and the court requirements, some of these steps may involve even more steps. For example, if the process server discovers that the address you provided is bad and the person to be served moved out, you or the process server may do a skip trace in order to find the current address of this person.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are approximately 15,000 to 20,000 process servers in the United States, working both full and part time. These numbers exclude sheriffs, constables, and other law enforcement officers who may also serve legal documents. When you are trying to find and hire a process server, it is important to fully understand the process and duties of process servers. The outcome of service of process is crucial to your lawsuit and the responsibility of a process server to properly deliver the legal documents is a key part of this outcome.
Understanding how crucial process service is to the outcome of your lawsuit, would you hire a process server who does not fully and completely follow your instructions? Or would you find and hire a process server who would fulfill his/her specific job functions as described above? To ensure proper service of process as a client, you would want to find and hire a PROServer, and not just a process server.
What is the Difference Between a Process Server and a PROServer?
A process server is anyone engaged in delivering legal documents, either full time or part time. Some deliver legal documents as part of a process service agency, others work independently. There are people who have a full time job and in addition they deliver legal documents. Some process servers seek training, others do not. There are some states or parts of states that require certification or licensing for process servers, but most do not have this requirement. Some process servers ask questions and strive to learn, others do not. Some process servers follow your instructions, others fail to complete some of their duties as listed above.
On the other hand, a PROServer is a process server who is committed to the positive outcome of your lawsuit and fully understands the key role process service plays as part of the judicial process. A PROServer is a process server who is pre-screened and/or certified to deliver legal documents to any person or business in the United States. PROServers are pre-screened by legal professionals, like paralegals, attorneys, process service managers who have used their services. Pre-screened PROServers are the best and most reliable process servers selected among many process servers to be fully equipped to serve process correctly the first time.
What Every PROServer Knows In Order To Be Successful?
Depending on the state in which he/she is engaged in the profession, a PROServer is actively searching for ways to further improve his/her service results, whether it is through online training programs, industry challenges, adopting new technologies or streamlining the processes. Performing his/her job duties properly is part of the daily routine of each PROServer who understand that success comes with constant improvement and it is the only sure way to attract and retain new clients. PROServers ask questions prior to starting their attempts to deliver the legal documents. They carefully read any information or instructions provided by the client. A PROServer knows what tools to use in order to protect himself from incomplete instructions as they may lead to a bad service of process. PROServers fully document what happens out in the field when they are making the attempts and retain this information as part of each process service.
Clients are beginning to recognize the difference between a process server and a PROServer and what it means to the outcome of their lawsuit. Government agencies, large and small law firms are willing to pay more but eliminate any delays in process serving, whether it is due to process servers not following instructions, not properly completing the delivery of the legal documents or failing to produce an affidavit of service on time.
Author: Brani Andreev, MBA, is an expert in nationwide management of process service, consultant, speaker, and developer of the breakthrough Management Model of the 4Ps™ that ensures the consistent quality of process service.
Can a perfectly executed service of legal documents, known as process, go wrong?
Mary, a paralegal from ABC Law firm in Texas, retained John, a process server in the state of New York, to serve a set of legal documents on a defendant (all names in this story are fictitious). When Mary first approached John about process service, she called him on the phone number listed and asked him how much he charged for a routine service in his local area. John provided the information, and Mary emailed him the legal documents with the name and address of the defendant to be served. John diligently recorded the information about the service and began making attempts. Before long, the process server was able to catch the son of the defendant at the given residential address and completed the service as a service on a suitable age person. John duly prepared the affidavit of service and sent it back to the paralegal. When Mary saw the end result, she was very unhappy. The legal documents were not correctly served.
So what really went wrong with this perfectly executed service of process?
The legal documents in this case were filed in the state of Texas. As such, the originating court rules apply and the method of service under Texas law requires a personal only service on the defendant. John closely followed the rules of the state of New York which allow service on a suitable age person in addition to personally serving the defendant. Both Mary and John neglected to communicate about the specifics of the documents and the allowed methods of service based on the originating court and the type of documents served. Mary had to ask John to make attempts toward personally serving the defendant again. The defendant avoided service, and John had to prepare an affidavit of attempted service showing all attempts made to personally serve the defendant. Mary obtained a court order to serve the documents by a substitute service and John had to attempt yet again in order to serve the same legal documents. A simple service of process became long and costly. Both Mary and John felt frustrated.
What happened with John and Mary is not an isolated incident. Just because process service is simple, it does not mean it is easy... A nationwide survey, conducted by the Process Server Center, shows that more than 87% of process servers struggle to retain their clients in the long-run, while 89% of legal professionals are ready to change their process server.
Among legal professionals, process service is often associated with headaches! What usually happens is that either you or your legal team spend valuable time chasing process servers to check on the status of legal documents being served or to obtain a completed affidavit on time for a court hearing. Even when filed with the court, a defendant may still appear and challenge the sufficiency of the service or the veracity of the return. Your headaches from improper service of process are mounting and your legal team spends valuable resources to ensure compliance and due diligence.
Among process servers, service of process is also associated with frustrations! Most of the time clients provide very scarce information when contacting a process server for a new job. The information a client usually seeks is how much a process server would charge for serving legal documents in his/her area. Hardly any further details are provided, such as originating court, type of legal documents, methods of service allowed by the court. It is rare that a client would offer any other information pertaining to the person to be served, such as when he/she is usually home; does he work?; how is the address verified? Lack of information provided by the client and lack of details oftentimes lead to incorrect service of process or unnecessary attempts without proper due diligence, similar to what happened with Mary and John.
How can paralegals, legal professionals and process service managers ensure proper service of process?
Every successful process service must start with thorough information gathering prior to making attempts to deliver the legal documents. In order to ensure correct and timely process service and avoid unnecessary delays, expenses and frustration, paralegals and process servers must communicate the information necessary for the successful completion of every process service.
In our example here, Mary should have provided John with clear instructions on how the legal documents should have been served. If Mary failed to do that, John should have asked her about the permissible methods of service prior to making any attempts to serve the legal documents on the son of the defendant.
Paralegals, legal professionals and any client sending legal documents to a process server must:
Next time Mary has a legal document she needs served, she will provide the following information to the process server:
* name and address of the person being served
* methods of service allowed by the originating court
* legal deadlines as prescribed by the court to deliver the legal documents
* additional information about the defendant, if known: does the person live alone? is he/she working? when is he/she usually home?
At the same time it is the process server's responsibility to gather as much information as possible about a service prior to beginning his/her attempts. When accepting legal documents from a client, a process server must:
To help paralegals and process servers, like Mary and John, the Process Server Center has developed the Process Server Questionnaire, offered as part of the process service Toolbox. It is a fillable form that can be used every time a paralegal sends out service of process. It contains all the necessary information a process server must have before making attempts. Using the fillable Process Server Questionnaire paralegals and legal professional can:
Author: Brani Andreev, MBA, is an expert in nationwide management of process service, consultant, speaker, and developer of the breakthrough Management Model of the 4Ps™ that ensures the consistent quality of process service.
If you are just starting your process serving business or trying to build your volume during these difficult times, most likely you do not have much money to put behind launching and scaling as a business. What you may lack in financial resources to grow your process service volume, you may make up for in mastering knowledge that you could use to become your own marketing department. Here is what Jean Ashcroft, a process server in Austin, TX is saying about her experience:
"What I lacked in financial resources, I decided to spend time learning social media strategy and PR. I even researched other businesses, both local and large process serving agencies. I reviewed different process server associations and what each offered to get more work as a process server. I also enrolled in the one-on-one session with the Process Server Center, and they helped me build a master plan of how to use viral tactics and customer satisfaction to level up and expand my process service business, all for free. Over the past six months, I've worked with hundreds of clients without spending a dollar on advertising or marketing thanks to the great ideas on how to build my process serving business that I got from the Process Server Center..."
Following the feedback we received from Jean, we decided to share the tips we gave her with all process servers. Here is exactly how Jean Ashcroft succeeded to build her process service volume in six months:
1. Build a Personal Brand as a Process Server
When you first start a process service business, a lot of trouble in getting new customers lies in paralegals, attorneys and other clients needing to trust you, especially when you are the one providing the service to them. That is why turning to your personal brand as a process server, which may consist of a few months of serving legal documents to years of experience allows any potential clients to get to know you as a professional in process serving. If you are a new process server, perhaps you can highlight your prior law enforcement experience or your training and knowledge of process service. If you are an experienced one, you may use your track record of successfully delivering process, finding defendants who have moved to a new location or delivering the documents to a respondent who has avoided being served several times. Allowing potential clients to get to know her helped Jean Ashcroft emphasize on what made her stand apart from other process servers, and ultimately bring her new clients.
Every process server or process server agency needs a personal brand. Start by understanding your value, skills, story and your background and experience in process serving. Then communicate that consistently across multiple platforms, starting with a website and one to two social media channels. Paralegals and attorneys have repeatedly shared with the Process Server Center that they like to do business with process servers they can trust and know. That is why your personal brand as a process server will help attract new clients who might be wary of taking a chance on a process service business they just discovered.
2. Do Your Own Process Serving Agency PR
"Getting featured in news articles across legal journals and bar associations newsletters helped me bring in new clients on a monthly basis. I never hired a PR firm and instead found ways to pitch myself", shares Jean. Upon our suggestion she started out by researching and creating a long list of outlets she wanted to be featured on, and then learned what kind of stories they like to focus on. Then Jean adjusted her pitches to each of these outlets, carefully crafting them to share her experience in process service and how she has helped clients deliver legal documents to particularly hard-to-serve defendants. Finally, Jean followed up with them, many times, to get feedback and eventually get featured.
Create a wish list of places you would like to be featured on as a process server, then do your research and craft a pitch that is relevant to what their audience will care about and what will make a good story for them to run with. You can also use tools like Help a Reporter Out (which is free) to get an understanding of what reporters are looking for from sources.
3. Provide Free Value as a Process Server
Most process servers are eager to increase their volume of process service, build their business and make money. Even new servers, just starting out, are eager to quickly grow their volume of work, and one of the most frequently asked questions among process servers is "How do I find more work?" Perhaps the focus, too often seen, is on the growing of your process service business rather than on asking yourself the question of what constant value do I bring to my clients. When she first approached us for an online consultation, Jean Ashcroft shared that "although I was eager to make money when I started my process service business, I realized that I also needed to create constant value for my clients." Upon our recommendation, Jean began offering a few free services to each new client in order to entice them to switch from their previous process servers. She also improved her organization by utilizing a new software for managing her process services. Jean also resolved internal issues that delayed the execution of affidavits. While doing all this, she made sure to let her clients know about the recent improvements or changes highlighting how they would help with the smooth service of process and ultimately benefit paralegals, attorneys and law firms.
The recommendations shown above would help you build and maintain credibility for your process service business and add to the overall value for your clients. In addition to the services your offer as a process server, create at least one way to share free value with your clients. Consider a blog on your process service website, an article shared with an online publication, an active participation in Facebook and LinkedIn groups or other marketing materials that will not cost you anything, and will give so much to your existing and prospective clients.
4. Tap into Social Media Geared Toward Process Serving
Social media can be a powerful free avenue of finding new clients for your process serving business. Every chance you use to build credibility, to allow your clients and peers to get to know you, to showcase your background or your many years of successful process service, all of these would help both new and experienced process servers reach and connect with more potential clients.
Join as many social media groups, pages and platforms as you can. Dedicate at least half an hour each day to visiting and actively participating in these groups. Let your voice be heard and let other servers or clients hear about you. Move from being unknown to someone who others are now getting to know. With perseverance and patience, such daily actions would lead to more and more people "knowing" you. Try and add value when interacting with others and both peers and clients will begin to recognize you as an authority in the process serving industry.
5. Keep Process Service Industry Friends Close
"When I was first starting out, I spent a lot of my free time finding people within the process service industry I could network with", shares Jean. Most process servers do not necessarily have a budget for ads or marketing. Therefore, word of mouth referrals can be a big way to gain new customers as a process server at any stage of your business.
Do not shy to send cold emails not only to paralegals and attorneys, but also to your peers. Introduce yourself and the process services you offer, the areas you cover. Let other process servers learn about you, your background, how they can benefit of getting to know you. Do not forget to reach out and interact with other process servers using the social media platforms discussed above. Help them as much as you can, send them business and ask to help them with their business. Make yourself available and show other process servers that you are available and reliable to them. Taking these steps is a great way of building relationship with people who also interact with your "audience" like attorneys, paralegals and law firms. Establishing such peer relationships would definitely help you reach out clients indirectly and create opportunities to gain new clients on a regular basis. Research who else in the process service industry your clients often interact with or buy from. National association, state associations, online directories and of course, the exclusive directory PROServerLIST that helps legal professionals find process servers the easy way. All of these are platforms for opportunities to find, reach out and connect with potential clients. This can significantly help you build your process service business and get more referrals.
6. Create Superfan Clients of Your Process Service Business
A few weeks after implementing our team's recommendations, Jean shared that "I prioritized over-delivering for my clients to ensure they were happy with my process service." Making sure your clients are happy with your service of process, from the initial phone call or email to the successful delivery or filing of affidavits of service, taking excellent care of each of your clients helps process servers create "super-fan" clients who would share your contact information with their peers and networks, and also be happy to act as a good referral to your process service business.
First focus on providing the best service of process, then when they are happy with your work, ask your clients to share your contact information with other legal professional. Be ready to also offer them a free service (like a check-up phone call) if they brought in a new client. Think about how you can encourage past super-fan clients who enjoyed your process service or working with you to become ambassadors who help bring in new process serving business.
Finally, always remember that you can be successful as a process server without having a big budget to spend on bringing in new business. You just have to have a strong strategy and think outside of the box. Tap into skills you already have, continue to learn through online classes and join social media platforms. Learn how to be your own master marketer, so you can use different avenues to spread the word and grow your process serving business.