Preparing for Service of Process

Preparing a proof of service (“POS”) is oftentimes one of the last things we do before getting a document ready to serve and go out the door (or out to a recipient’s email box). One of the other last-minute things we often do is notify our process server that we have an assignment for them.  Both of these scenarios can create unnecessary stress for us and the process server, especially when we are pressed for time. Below are some suggestions for helping to make the service of process “process” smoother and less stressful.

Keep Your Proofs of Service Up-to-Date

There’s nothing worse than getting all of your documents ready and then preparing your POS only to remember that there was a change of counsel for one of the parties, a change of mailing address, a new email address, etc.  Now you have to scour through the file or scroll through your emails to find the new information, and you really don’t have time for that. Do yourself a favor and update your master POS for the case as soon as any changes are received.

Prepare Your POS When Creating Other Shells

If you are preparing shells for discovery responses, notices, motions, etc., why not go ahead and get all of your proofs of service ready?  Insert the name of the document(s), as well as the method of service you will be using (mail, electronic, personal, overnight delivery, etc.), and then check to make sure all of the information for the parties to be served is correct.  When you are ready to serve, all you will need to do is insert the date and your signature.

Establish Ahead of Time How the Parties Will be Served

There are some documents we know need to be personally served (i.e., summons, complaints, petitions, subpoenas, etc.), so it’s easier to determine the method of service.  Other documents, such as oppositions and replies to motions, must be served in such a manner as to ensure delivery no later than the close of business on the next business day. This means you need to determine whether that is going to be by personal service, overnight delivery, fax, or electronic service. Perhaps it will be a combination of more than one method, like FedEx overnight delivery with a courtesy copy via electronic service. Check with your attorney ahead of time regarding the preferred method of service.  Sometimes there are strategic reasons behind the attorney’s choice of service method, so take that into account when discussing the service.

Give Your Process Server/Attorney Service as Much Advance Notice as Possible

If you know that you will be using a process server, whether it’s in-house or an outside professional, give them a heads-up as soon as possible that you have an assignment for them to handle on a particular date.  Just as you check your calendar each day and throughout the week for workload purposes, so do your process servers.  They need to know if additional staff coverage needs to be arranged, account for traffic/travel time (especially if your documents won’t be ready until mid-to-late afternoon during prime commute hours), parking considerations, can a bike messenger be used, business opening/closing times, competing assignments, and more.

Let the Process Server Know of Any Potential Issues

Is the person being served a hostile party? Is the party likely to try and evade service? Do you have a physical description of the party? Has the party moved (oftentimes the process serving agency can also do skip tracing)? Do you have a secondary address where the party can be served? Is the property where the party will be served in a populated or rural area?  Is the party located in a “grow” area, private property, gated area, etc.?  Are there dogs on the property?  Does the party work unusual hours? Is sub-service an option? Anything you can do to provide your process server with the information they need ahead of time to safely and securely effect the service will be immensely helpful and eliminate the need to have to attempt re-service.

Civil Law Enforcement Service

Some situations may be better suited for service by your local law enforcement’s civil unit.  Consult with your attorney if you suspect there may be safety issues involved with serving a party or if there are circumstances that warrant the use of a law enforcement civil unit. Check with the law enforcement unit ahead of time regarding any forms or paperwork that may be required, how much notice they need, any required fees, etc.

Being prepared and working smarter, not harder, will make the process of process serving smoother and less stressful for everyone.

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