Probably one of the most, if not the most, important aspects of service of process is communication.
It all starts with the basics. The client reaches out to us, requesting service on an individual or a business. Along with the document, the client sends us specific instructions, such as whether this service should be attempted on a regular or rush basis. In addition, the client may include pictures, descriptions, and special guidelines, such as a specific time window in which the paper should be attempted. Already, communication is being used, and the document has not even been processed yet.
We acknowledge receipt of the document, process the document, and assign it to a server to be attempted. Once the paper leaves the client’s hands, we are responsible for it and everything that happens regarding that particular service. This entails keeping in regular communication with the client without hesitation. Once the paper is attempted, whether it is served or it is not, the client needs to know.
We are usually in touch with paralegals, and sometimes attorneys, and they have deadlines as to when they need notifications. So to avoid them hovering over us and calling us every minute to ask what’s going on with their documents, we try our hardest to reach out to them first. In our office, once servers have updates, they give them to us via e-mail, over the phone, or in person. As soon as we receive these statuses, we enter them into our system and forward them to the client. Sometimes, we call the client to provide this information, depending on how urgent and time-sensitive the service is.
When we require further instructions, such as whether we have permission to attempt an alternate address or how we should generally move forward with serving a document if service has been unsuccessful, we have to reach out to the client. Sometimes, the client does not reply immediately. In these cases, it is our duty to be persistent and continue to try and make contact with the client until we receive a response. That way, we are not holding on to papers for weeks and months at a time.
Sometimes, the client simply has other cases to be worrying about, so that’s where his main focus lies. He will receive our status e-mails and may look right over them if other matters are taking precedence at the time. But if a document, such as a summons, is left inactive for too long, it will expire. So it’s our duty to keep on top of each paper to make sure the statuses we have in our system are up to date.
Interaction between us and the client is imperative from the initial stages up until the document is served and the affidavit of service is signed and mailed to the client. The key to any relationship is communication. At the end of the day, our focus is meeting the client’s needs. Without communication between the server and the client, documents cannot get properly served. And this simple act is the foundation of what we do, right? ♦
We have to make sure that our clients understand what we’re facing. Live a day in our shoes. Walk the walk that we walk, where, you as a paralegal say to your process server, “I have a summons on John Doe. And John Doe is a really nasty man. It’s a divorce case, he’s beaten up his wife, he’s been in jail for battery, he’s done time in prison for murder…”
We, as process servers say, okay, now we have to approach this a little differently. The information that you give us, the communication that we have between you as a paralegal and me as a process server is very important because it establishes with the process server what he’s facing, what he has to do, and how he goes about it.