Process servers: Foot soldiers of the law

Issue August 2010 By Philip Geron

Lawyers too often choose their process servers for the wrong reasons, with price almost always being the foremost, despite the fact that the client and not the attorney bears the cost. The attorney may have the process served by a friend, client, family member or an office staffer. None of these people are professionals, and should they be made to testify on the service, they may be deemed to be prejudicial.

Choosing an inexperienced, unbonded and uninsured process server with no training in both the rules of court or statutes governing the service of process is another mistake.

Most attorneys seem to regard the process server as a delivery person. They fail to acknowledge that the process server is, in fact, the bearer of bad news. Process servers do not get a "thank you" from defendants or witnesses when they are served, nor do they get a tip for delivering the unwanted documents. Process servers are sometimes spat upon, cursed, threatened, chased, and have the papers, or whatever object is handy, thrown at them. More seriously, process servers have been maimed, hospitalized and even killed while serving process.

The established, well-organized, long-term process servers should be the easy choice. An established office, technology-experienced inside and outside personnel are an attorney's best bet. Here's a checklist: Does the company have a Web site with an "about us" page along with an office tour? Is the process server listed with the Better Business Bureau? Is the person or company a member of the local chamber of commerce? Does the process server have a listing with Dunn and Bradstreet? How long has the process server been in business? What is the person or company's background? Do other attorneys recommend the process server? Is the process server an equal opportunity employer?

Training meetings should be a part of the operation of every process serving company. Process servers should be familiar with rules and laws. Appearance, demeanor and dress code should be professional.

To succeed, a process server must be a good salesperson - confident, self-assured and assertive. Process serving is not for the meek and mild. It can be rewarding, profitable and one of the best experiences in someone's work life. It builds character, resulting in a better person.

Philip Geron is principal of Guaranteed Subpoena Services Inc., based in Mountainside, New Jersey.