Understanding the Role of a Process Server

April 22, 2024

Process servers deliver legal documents to notify an individual or an entity of a legal action or lawsuit against them. The idea behind them is to promote fairness in the legal process by making sure that all parties involved are aware of the case and their expected response. The role of process servers is important because serving legal papers the wrong way can affect the timeline and outcome of legal proceedings.

On-call Legal is your go-to expert process server for all services of process in California. Our experienced nationwide process servers are always available to help you deliver your court papers across the country. Book a free consultation with us to discuss your process service. Let us guide you throughout the process.

This article will explain what a process server is, the role of a process server, the requirements to become a process server, and other important things you need to know about a process server.

What is a Process Server?

What is a Process Server?

A process server is an individual or entity that serves legal documents to a defendant or an organization involved in a lawsuit or any other legal action. By notifying all parties of the legal actions against them or their required obligations, the parties can act promptly and appear before the court in response to the legal proceeding. This helps maintain fairness and equity in the legal system – people have the opportunity and sufficient time to defend themselves or respond to a legal action or court order. Examples of the legal papers that process servers serve include subpoenas, complaints, summons, writs, probation orders, divorce papers, child support papers, and other legal documents.

Aside from serving official documents, a process server can also retrieve official documents needed for legal proceedings, from courts or other official facilities. The document retrieval service is especially useful to attorneys and law firms who may not have access to certain relevant documents on their own. Process servers also perform administrative tasks like preparing documents, providing proof of service, filing court papers, etc.

Who Qualifies as a Process Server?

According to the Judicial Branch of California, anybody who is over 18 years old and is not a party to the case at hand can serve legal papers. It can be a family member, a friend, a professional process server, a colleague, or a county sheriff or marshal. However, whoever is serving papers must also fulfil the following general requirements:

  • The server must serve the document within the specified timeframe.
  • They must file a proof of service form to detail who they served, as well as how, where, and why they served the papers.
  • Bring back the proof of service form to the serving party so they can file it with the court.

Legal Requirements for Serving Legal Documents

Legal Requirements for Serving Legal Documents

To make sure legal documents are served properly, process servers must follow certain requirements stipulated by law. Although these standards may be different for various jurisdictions, there are general requirements for proper service of process that cut across most jurisdictions.

First, the server must confirm that the legal paper is issued by an authorized entity such as a court clerk or judge. Secondly, the process server must deliver the document through an approved method of service. In California, approved methods of service include personal service, service by mail, substituted service, service by publication, service by certified mail, etc. Bear in mind that different kinds of court documents may require different methods of service. Therefore, do well to confirm with an attorney or an experienced process server in the recipient’s jurisdiction to be sure which method is most appropriate.

Furthermore, the serving party must ensure that the receiving party gets the document early enough to allow them time to prepare for their response. In addition, the legal document must contain accurate information about its purpose and clear-cut instructions on the response expected from the recipient. It should also specify the dates and times relevant to the required actions.

When it comes to subpoena services, the recipient has the right to object or file a motion to quash the subpoena. For this motion to be valid, the recipient must prove that they were not properly served, or cite other valid reasons such as infringement on their rights, burdensome demands, vague requests, etc.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Process Server

Duties and Responsibilities of a Process Server

Although some legal duties and responsibilities are common to all servers, others are specific to the jurisdiction and the unique service requirements of the case. Some of these common duties include:

  • Delivering documents on behalf of legal firms, courts, or anyone engaged in a court case to any party or entity being served, and within the timeframe specified by law.
  • Verifying the identity of the person or entity who is to be served. The job of a process server requires that they may need to ask questions to identify and confirm that the person is the right recipient of the documents.
  • Keeping track of the details of the service of process, the location, date, and time of the service, including the feedback of the person served.
  • Providing an affidavit of service, also known as proof of service, to the court or the person who hired the server. This is to prove that they carried out a complete and proper service.
  • Complying with all legal procedures that guide the serving of legal documents. For instance, they must adhere to the timing and the appropriate manner of service.
  • Testifying in court concerning the legal procedure that was used if the court demands so. 
  • Investigating and conducting interviews to locate the person or entity who is to be personally served.

Common Challenges Faced By Process Servers

Common Challenges Faced By Process Servers

Process servers usually face various challenges while carrying out their duties. One of the most common challenges is avoidance of service by the intended recipient. Sometimes, people who are not willing to accept service may reject the documents, hide from the process server, or give a false identity or wrong information about their whereabouts.

Secondly, it may be difficult or risky for the process server to serve legal documents to a recipient reacting aggressively or violently. Most times, it takes a high level of skill, carefulness, and patience to deal with such people.

Also, complying with the legal procedures for serving a document in different jurisdictions can be challenging sometimes. Since mistakes in the service process can lead to consequences as severe as the dismissal of the case, process servers must do their due diligence when they serve papers in a different jurisdiction.

Furthermore, process servers face physical risks sometimes. Unfavorable conditions such as bad weather can make their movement more risky and stressful. Additionally, it may be difficult to gain access to places with strict security measures such as gated communities and secured apartments. Moreover, traveling long distances in order to serve subpoena out of state or to unsafe places to serve process may pose safety risks.

The Importance of Neutrality and Professionalism in Process Serving

The legal system thrives on fairness and equity. To help maintain these values, process servers are required to maintain a neutral and professional approach as they prepare and serve documents. Process servers must perform their duties without any bias or intention to influence the outcome of the case. Regarding professionalism, process servers should respect people’s privacy, manage situations in a calm manner, understand the possible reactions of supposed recipients and manage them efficiently.

6 Steps To Take To Become a Process Server

6 Steps To Take To Become a Process Server

From meeting the basic legal criteria to finishing a training program, there are several steps and stages involved in becoming a good process server. While the exact process may differ depending on where you are, here’s a general step-by-step guide on how to become a licensed process server:

1. Research and Meet Legal Requirements

Find out all the legal and educational requirements for becoming a process server in your jurisdiction. Some states may have certain requirements different from other states. For example, while California and Texas require process servers to be licensed, it’s not a mandatory requirement in Ohio. Find out what’s the specific case in your location and adhere to it.

2. Complete Relevant Training Courses and Internships

If you meet all the requirements, you can proceed to enroll in a certification course for professional process servers. There, you’ll be equipped with the relevant skills and techniques required for the job. For instance, you’ll learn how to prepare and fill out proof of service forms, how to manage difficult recipients, and other crucial procedures and ethics involved.

3. Obtain a License or Certification

If your state requires licensing, do well to apply through the relevant agency or organization. They may require that you write and pass an examination to ascertain that you qualify. You may also have to submit other relevant documents and pay the requested fees. Even if you don’t need license to operate in your state, getting certified by a reputable professional organization is a good way to add more credibility to your credentials.

5. Get to Work

If you want to work as an independent contractor, then you should set up your business, which includes finance management, record keeping, and marketing. Purchase all necessary equipment – you may need a GPS gadget to travel to different locations, a good vehicle for movement, stable access to the internet, etc. Also, prepare your process server resume and include the necessary information that may attract your clients to hire you.

6. Stay Updated

The legal system changes with time as new laws and reforms roll out on different fronts. To stay competent and relevant in your process server’s job, you’ll need to keep learning and adjusting to the latest developments in the legal world. Additionally, you can expand your network as a process-serving company by identifying with professional organizations such as the National Association of Professional Process Servers (NAPPS).

Skills and Traits of a Successful Process Server

Skills and Traits of a Successful Process Server

You need to have a wide range of skills and qualities to become a successful process server. To start with, you must have an in-depth understanding of the laws and regulations guiding the service of process in the areas you serve. Then, you must pay close attention to detail to make sure reports and documents are accurate and the delivery process is valid. Bear in mind that mistakes in serving legal papers or documenting them can lead to severe consequences such as the dismissal of the case.

Furthermore, you must be able to communicate effectively, especially when informing the recipient and speaking in court. It helps to establish a positive relationship with clients and other parties. In addition, your writing skills have to be top-notch so you can properly prepare and file affidavits of service.

Moreover, frequent traveling – sitting long distances in a vehicle or even walking long distances – makes the process server’s job physically stressful. Hence, you must be intentional about keeping fit and staying healthy all the time. Additionally, having good driving skills can help boost the timely delivery of legal documents.

As a good process server, you also need to have the organizational skills to effectively manage multiple cases and serve several papers, considering the typically tight deadlines. Also, a process server often has access to confidential documents and information. As such, you must be able to keep information as confidential as necessary.

Process Serving in the Digital Age

With the introduction and spread of technology, service of process has become more efficient and effective in our age. Technological inventions over time has transformed the way legal documents are filed, served, and verified. For example, you can save a lot of time, energy, and resources by serving legal papers digitally through email. This is particularly useful in cases where the recipient is in a far region or is willing to go the easy way.

Moreover, process servers can capture the details of process service, such as the location and exact time when they should deliver the documents, using GPS technology. They can use these details to back up their proof of service, making it more reliable. Furthermore, process servers can store these details directly in the cloud, which makes the data easy to store and retrieve.

Additionally, locating evasive individuals has become easier with advanced databases and software tools that enhance skip-tracing processes. With these tools, it is easier to access up-to-date information about such people’s contact and current address. Apart from timely access to and management of data, these technologies also minimize the time and cost it takes to locate people who are not willing to accept service.

While these tech concepts enhance serving process, it’s important to make sure you follow the process rules in your jurisdiction. Remember that incorrect or improper service may nullify the service of process and attract other consequences. Hence, do your due diligence to stay compliant throughout the process.

Hiring a Process Server

Hiring a Process Server

Before you hire a process server, be sure to understand and crosscheck important factors such as their expertise, experience, and track record of successful services. More importantly, make sure you understand their fee structure and how much they charge for the service you’re hiring for. Generally, process servers in California use one or a combination of these common fee structures:

  • Tiered fees based on your required turnaround time
  • Flat fees for regular routine services
  • Extra charges based on unique circumstances

The average cost of hiring a process server in California is between $40 to $200 per service. However, the exact price may differ based on the nature of the case and the location of both the process server and the entity they’re to serve. Cases that require urgent service with short deadlines will most likely attract higher charges than routine services. On the other hand, process servers in developed areas usually charge higher fees and serving a recipient in a location outside the process server’s jurisdiction may also attract higher costs. Therefore, it’s best to contact your potential process server to confirm their quotes before hiring them.

When and Why You Might Need to Hire a Process Server

You might need to hire a process server for various reasons. Primarily, you need process servers to ascertain that your service of process follows all the legal requirements in your jurisdiction. Moreover, some people react aggressively when they’re served legal papers or try to evade service entirely. In such cases, process servers possess the experience and professional skills to manage the situation and to minimize the risks of conflicts.

Furthermore, process servers know how best to locate recipients on time so they can deliver the documents faster. This is especially vital for meeting short deadlines. Additionally, they help you ensure that all relevant details regarding the service are captured. They also provide proof of service which comes in handy when you need to prove that you served the papers correctly and on time.

All-Inclusive Support Services For Legal Professionals

Being a process server demands that you deliver legal documents to parties in a court case. While carrying out your tasks, you may face some challenges such as aggression, avoidance, ensuring a timely delivery, and verifying the identity of the person who is to be served.

Whether you’re an attorney or a legal professional, your court documents should be delivered properly to avoid legal challenges. That’s why it’s advisable to hire an experienced process server who knows the legal service of process in your area. At On-Call Legal, we are committed to providing you with all-inclusive support services, such as obtaining, preparing, serving, and documenting your court papers quickly and accurately. Book a free consultation today to get started.

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Proud member of the California Association of Legal Support Professionals (CALSPro), National Association of Professional Process Servers (NAPPS) and Serve-Now Network of Process Servers

National Association of Professional Process Servers   California Association of Legal Support Pros   Local Process Servers


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