How to identify risky habits in your Service of Process provider

Use this guide to pinpoint and be proactive about issues with your Service of Process provider—before they become an issue that runs you the risk of wasting your client’s cash.

Most law firms hire professional Service of Process providers to carry out service. Be aware, however, that all Service of Process providers are not created equally. In fact, if you hire the wrong professional, not only do you run the risk of wasting your client’s money, you also risk incomplete or ineffective service. 

Just because the very concept of Service of Process is hundreds of years old doesn’t mean that ordering and effectuating service has to feel like you’re litigating in the 18th century. 

Here are some wasteful habits to look out for from Service of Process providers: 

Hiring servers who don’t know the local rules 

Even if a case is filed in Federal Court, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4 requires that papers be served according to the laws of the state where the service is carried out (or the district court is located). This means that oftentimes, service must be made in a state that is thousands of miles away from your law office.   

Unfortunately, under these circumstances, many firms will simply turn to Google to find a local service firm. The problem with that is, you don’t know how that firm picks its servers or how meticulous it is with proper procedure.  

Instead of just rolling the dice, see if your regular service firm has connections to a broader network of servers in the location you need service in. Any reputable firm will welcome your questions about how they choose servers in their remote network, what additional charges will apply in the different location, and what local laws require to effectuate service. 

Working with servers who don’t know the court rules 

Not only does your Service of Process firm need to know the state and county laws regarding service, but they also need to be aware that service requirements may differ based on what specific court you’re filing into. For example, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure regarding Service of Process differ in important ways from the rules that apply in Bankruptcy Court 

If your server doesn’t know or understand key differences such as these, you again run the risk of faulty service. We don’t need to tell you that nothing will disrupt your case faster and more significantly than an initial screw-up with Service of Process. 

Relying too heavily on the sheriff 

Using a sheriff to effectuate service of process is certainly always an option. And there are definitely times when the sheriff is actually the best bet; such as when you suspect the person being served may turn violent or when your client is highly concerned about keeping costs low. 

Understand, however, that the sheriff isn’t always your best option. For starters, it is unlikely the sheriff will ever be as concerned with your case as you are. They simply have a stack of papers they are required to serve, and they get to them when they get to them.  

Thus, if the papers you’re serving require a quick turnaround time (notice of deposition, for example), the sheriff’s office may not be able to get the job done fast enough to meet your demands. They probably aren’t going to take too kindly to being called to ask for a status update, either. 

Making it too hard on you 

Some service providers—even those who can arrange service for you in other states—send you on a wild goose chase where you have to communicate both with their firm as well as the local agents, they hire to carry out your service. Too many contacts to chase down means too much time away from other important aspects of a case. 

Plus, statuses can often only be obtained by calling up the provider or waiting around for the final service affidavit. When getting documents back is too delayed or the process for receiving them is too complicated, that puts a strain on your firm’s ability to fulfill the service. 

Things like quick and easy online ordering, traceable online service attempt tracking, available customer support, and a network of verified, nationwide servers isn’t too much to ask for in this modern age. You shouldn’t have to worry about Service of Process. And, if you hire a tried-and-true firm to carry out your Service of Process, you won’t have to. 

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