As an attorney or paralegal, you know that many of the everyday tasks related to your job can be complicated and time-consuming. When it comes to serving documents, however, you shouldn’t have to worry nearly as much if you familiarize yourself with the local process servers in your area. Knowing more about these essential individuals who communicate legal notices on behalf of lawyers and court clerks can save a lot of headaches — and even ensure success for certain cases down the road. In this blog post we will explore ways to get acquainted with local professional process servers and identify how they can benefit attorneys and their staff members when navigating certain court matters.
What is a process server and what do they do?
A process server is responsible for delivering important documents such as legal summonses, complaints, subpoenas and writs to the one(s) named in the document. This can involve multiple attempts (in person, by mail or through other means) to deliver proof of service in the form of an affidavit of service that must be filed with the court. It’s a specialized task that requires knowledge of laws and regulations regarding proof of service, as well as proactive yet discrete investigation often requiring excellent research skills. Ultimately, a process server is essential in delivering the proof needed to move forward with a legal case.
How professionals become process servers in Oregon
Like other locations, becoming a professional process server in Oregon requires dedication and attention to detail. It is a job that requires you to be reliable and have knowledge of the legal system. However, in Oregon, there is no requirement to obtain a license, certification, or appointment by the court. Process servers do need to stay abreast of Oregon laws as they must serve papers in accordance with those laws. Most process servers in Oregon will begin their careers by working for larger agencies as independent contractors. They may be trained and mentored by other servers who’ve got more experience, but many times (due to lack of mentors and time for mentoring), process servers in Oregon need to learn the ropes on their own. Being successful in this position involves continually developing skills to keep up with changes in applicable rules and also honing customer service skills necessary when dealing with difficult people who are served.
Research means more than looking at Google Reviews
Are you looking for the best process server to handle your legal documents? Researching the right process server is an important part of choosing one. It’s essential that you find a reputable and reliable company to ensure your documents are served in a timely manner, BEFORE you actually need one.
When I worked at law firms, the typical way to find a process server was to ask a co-worker, “So, who are we supposed to use for process service?” Many times, I was pointed to one or two companies — usually a large national company that left a lot to be desired in terms of customer service. I quickly realized that nobody really cared who we used to serve legal documents as long as it was “within budget” and that the service was actually completed quickly and correctly. As the paralegal, I found I had the power to succeed (or fail) with my choice of vendor.
Of course, you want the process servers you hire to be experienced, knowledgeable, and always follow local regulations. A good place to start researching is to reach out to colleagues at other firms and ask who they recommend; and of course, read reviews online. But don’t stop there. You can also contact your local courthouse or the state bar association for more information on qualified process servers in your area.
It’s also a good idea to reach out directly to the companies themselves for more details about their services, fees, experience level, and customer service policies. In addition, make sure that any potential process server has insurance coverage so you have some protection if something goes wrong during the serve itself. I recommend you do your outreach by phone, if possible. There is so much more that can be conveyed through a phone conversation than through an email — you can tell if someone’s trying to be truly helpful versus just trying to skip to the end of the conversation. Do they sound like a used car sales person? Or a helpful friend? Listen closely and trust your gut, if you’re not getting the specifics you want and need.
What about researching the individual servers themselves?
Yes, the company you work with needs to meet your requirements, but how transparent are they about who is on their team and what type of background and experience those folks have? Lots of companies will state that every server is fully trained and experienced. Hopefully, that’s true. But most process servers aren’t actual employees — they are independent contractors. This means the companies may not be able (or willing) to share that information with you. But guess what? You can always ask. Ask for the person’s name so that you can do your own “background check,” if you have the time. Look for them on social media — if you find red flags, you might want to ask the company for a different server.
The truth is that even the companies who hire process servers can miss a red flag or two. I’ve known a colleague who thought he had done his due diligence but found that when he let his trainee loose to serve on her own, that she failed to follow through, didn’t take close notes about her attempts, and posted stories and drama about her time as a process server on Facebook. Thankfully, he was able to save the serves for his clients and move on with his life.
When you do think you’ve found a great company to work with, nurture that relationship. The more you communicate with them — and the server who does the actual jobs for you — the more you will learn and them and their professionalism.