Avoiding Common Pitfalls When Hiring a Process Server
Process service is an essential part of the legal system. Without process servers, litigation could not properly begin as those involved in a lawsuit, such as defendants or witnesses, would not be aware of the proceedings and their involvement in them.
When I was new litigation paralegal, I didn’t realize that I had latitude to hire the vendors that helped us move our cases forward. I asked my co-workers and fellow paralegals all the time, “Who do we use for X?” And many times, they only had one vendor’s name and number to give me – and it was one of those big national companies that come up first in search results on Google.
But it only took one bad process service experience for me to make a stand and decide that I would never rely on that company again. I started doing my own research and eventually learned boatloads about the field of process service. Now, I’m the owner of a company that provides the kind of customer service I longed for as a litigation paralegal.
And because I want you to be successful, too, I’ve put together these tips to help you hire the right process servers to assist with your cases. Afterall, if service of process isn’t “effected” properly, the judge can dismiss a case before it even begins.
So, even if you’ve hired process servers in the past, let’s look at some common pitfalls to avoid so that your attorneys will continue to have the utmost faith in your expertise as a paralegal.
Process Service Certification & Licensure
When hiring a process server, it’s important to ensure that they’re certified and licensed in your state. If you have to send documents to be served in another state, check that state’s laws, too.
Here in Oregon, we don’t have any required certifications or licenses for process servers. But just to the north of us, in Washington, process servers are required to register with the county auditor. If I am asked to serve documents for a Washington case to someone here in Oregon, I am allowed to do so, but the proof of service I provide to my client must be a notarized affidavit. Washington process servers aren’t required to have their proofs of service notarized. See how tricky that can be?
If your state doesn’t have any particular licensure or registration rules, one way to “check” out their experience is to see if they belong to your state’s association of process servers (use Google to find yours) or the National Association of Professional Process Servers (NAPPS).
In Oregon, our state association (Oregon Association of Process Servers) offers ongoing education and information about the field of process serving and they vet their members through background checks and references (as does the national organization). So finding someone who is a member, is a good first step to finding a knowledgeable professional.
If you’re not sure about your state’s requirements, check with your local court system for specific license laws for process servers; without proper certification and licensure, any documents served by an unlicensed individual may not be considered valid or admissible in court.
Checking References & Reviews
Before making any decisions about which process server to hire for your case, make sure to do a little vetting yourself. Ask around for referrals from colleagues (at other law firms) who have used process servers before and read online reviews about them. This will give you an idea of what kind of experience others have had with that particular company and can help you decide if they’re right for you.
Workflow & Communication
It’s also important to consider how well the company communicates with their clients and manages their workflow. You want a process server who is organized and efficient enough to handle all of the paperwork associated with delivering legal documents—and keep you updated every step of the way!
Call them up and ask them how responsive they are when it comes to email and phone calls; do they call you back the same day? Do they respond to your emails? Do they provide you with regular updates about each attempt? It’s important that they stay on top of things so that everything runs smoothly throughout the course of serving papers on behalf of your client or firm. Here at Solid Serve Legal, for example, we make it a priority to communicate clearly and diligently every step of the way. We respond to all inquiries within two hours. We answer our phone 98% of the time. And we send our clients email updates with every attempt at service.
Gather All the RIGHT Information BEFORE You Hire
If you want your service to go smoothly, it’s also important to provide your process server with all the correct information about your subject. Many times, addresses given to a process server are old or outdated. It can be hard to help a client if they give us bad info. If you’re not sure about the service address, let your server know and ask them for help verifying data if you just can’t seem to confirm things on your own. If you’ve got photos of the subject, provide those. If you’ve contact information for the subject, even better! The more details you can pass along to the server, the quicker your service will be completed.
You understand just how crucial it is for matters that involve service of process to go smoothly and efficiently. Taking these steps—checking certification & licensure, researching references & reviews, and evaluating workflow & communication—can help ensure that you find the best fit for your case needs without running into any common pitfalls along the way! With careful consideration during this initial hiring stage, paralegals can rest assured knowing their cases are off to a great start!