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  • Writer's pictureSteve Navarrete

THE UNGLAMOROUS LIFE OF A PROCESSSERVER

The life of a process server can be quite unglamorous and can involve long hours, dealing with difficult and sometimes hostile people, and traveling to various locations. A process server's main job is to deliver legal documents, such as subpoenas, court summons, and complaints, to individuals who are required to appear in court or take some legal action but that is easier said than done.


DANGER

Although rare, process servers can sometimes find themselves in hostile situations while performing their duties. Serving legal documents can sometimes involve serving individuals who are angry, upset, or resistant to receiving the papers, which can lead to confrontations and dangerous situations. Additionally, process servers may also encounter hostile individuals who are armed or dangerous, adding to the potential danger and stress of the job. In these situations, process servers must remain calm, professional, and focused on completing their assignments, while also taking steps to protect their own safety and well-being. In a nutshell, they must be able to de-escalate a hostile situation, while confirming they are serving the correct person, and doing so in compliance with applicable statutes. Under pressure of danger, this is no easy task.


To reduce the risk of hostile situations, process servers should receive proper training on safety procedures, self-defense, and conflict resolution, and must follow established protocols and procedures. However, most jurisdictions don't offer or even require any such training, and even if this training exists, it is expensive and not all employers will pay for it so it would be up to the process server to obtain this training on their own and absorb the brunt of the expense. To that extent, process servers are constantly on their own. Those who are aware of their surroundings, avoid isolated or dangerous locations, and take precautions to minimize the risk of danger, will reduce the risk of finding themselves in hostile situations while performing their duties. Unfortunately, sometimes, the people they are serving are in dangerous locations and it is up to the server to decide if they want to take the risk of serving the process in those locations. Bear in mind that law enforcement is not always going to provide assistance unless the hostility is in the process of happening or has already happened.


Some process servers carry non-lethal means of personal protection, such as pepper spray, a taser, or a personal alarm. Many jurisdictions prohibit process servers from carrying a firearm or even non-lethal weapons while performing their duties. The remaining jurisdictions refer to their local State laws on carrying a firearm.


A LOT OF DRIVING TIME

This is a volume business so process servers have to serve many papers, often making numerous attempts, resulting in spending a lot of time alone behind the wheel. In order to deliver these documents, a process server may have to visit people at their homes, workplaces, or other locations. This can sometimes be challenging, as some individuals may be evasive. As a process server makes numerous attempts on older papers, new work is still coming in. There are times when the work begins to pile up too high and this can quickly place a process server "in the weeds." It is not uncommon for process servers to spend long hours driving from place-to-place, going through their attempts to get these jobs off their plate. Process service offices must be cognizant of this and try to spread the work around among several process servers when possible and necessary.


Fortunately, the industry as a whole has adopted a maximum number of attempts per service fee. Once attempts are exhausted, a new service fee is generated if the client wants another round of attempts at a service address. Each process service office and/or process server has their own maximum number of attempts they are willing to make per service fee as there is no standard pre-set number attempts.


STAKEOUTS CAN BE LONG, UNCOMFORTABLE, AND FRUITLESS

From time-to-time, a process server will be asked to sit and wait for long hours, even in unfavorable conditions such as extreme heat, rain, or snow, in order to serve legal documents to a person. I have lost count of the times I have had to wait for someone to come or go from their homes while sitting in my car under a HOT Miami sun with mosquitos treating me like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Insect repellent is standard kit for process servers in Miami.


The job can also require a lot of patience because long uncomfortable stakeouts are no guarantee that the person to be served will even make an appearance. Process server stakeouts can be a frustrating and fruitless experience, as individuals may avoid being served, change their daily routines to avoid a process server, or simply not be available at the designated time. This can lead to long hours of waiting and uncertain outcomes, which can be draining and disheartening for a process server.


Despite these challenges, it is important for process servers to remain professional and persistent in their efforts to serve legal documents. They must be able to handle the frustration and disappointment that comes with a fruitless stakeout and continue to work diligently to complete their assignments. For those who are dedicated to their work, the challenges and frustrations of stakeouts can be outweighed by the satisfaction of successfully serving legal documents and playing a critical role in the legal process.


UNCONVENTIONAL SCHEDULE

The schedule of a process server can be quite unconventional, as they often have to serve legal documents outside of normal business hours, including very early mornings (before people leave for work), evenings, weekends, and holidays. This can make it difficult for process servers to maintain a typical 9-5 work schedule and can have an impact on their family and personal life.


For example, process servers may have to miss family events, holidays, and other important occasions in order to serve legal documents. Additionally, the unpredictable and often stressful nature of the job can also take a toll on a process server's mental and emotional health.


However, for those who are dedicated to the job, the unconventional schedule can also have its benefits. Process servers often have a high level of flexibility and control over their work schedule, allowing them to balance their job with other responsibilities and interests.

It's important for process servers to find a good balance between their work and personal life and to take care of their mental and physical health. Employers and organizations can also help by providing support and resources for their process servers, such as flexible scheduling, mental health resources, and opportunities for professional development.


CONSTANT PRESSURE

Process servers are often under constant pressure to complete their assignments. They may receive constant status requests from petitioners, attorneys, and process service offices to serve legal documents quickly, and they are expected to do so in a professional and legal manner. This pressure can be intense, as a delay in serving legal documents can result in a case being postponed or delayed, which can have significant consequences for the individuals involved. This is a result-oriented business and clients are often unsympathetic if the individual being served is evasive or difficult to locate, adding to the complexity and stress of the job.


To handle this pressure, process servers must be organized, efficient, and adaptable, and must have a strong sense of responsibility and commitment to their work. They must also be able to handle the stress of the job and maintain a professional demeanor, even in challenging situations.


Employers and organizations can help by providing support and resources for their process servers, such as training, support staff, and up-to-date technology, to help them handle the pressure and perform their job effectively. Additionally, clear communication and open lines of dialogue between process servers, clients, and attorneys can also help to minimize misunderstandings and ensure that the legal process is carried out smoothly and efficiently. Good case management software that allows process servers to update clients with service attempts on a real-time bases helps relieve some of this pressure but these programs can be expensive, often carrying monthly usage subscriptions with base fees. Despite these challenges, it is important for process servers to remain professional and maintain a neutral demeanor, as they are performing a crucial role in the legal process.


HIGH TURNOVER RATE

The process server industry has a relatively high turnover rate. There are several reasons for this, including the challenges and stress of the job, the unconventional work schedule, and the pressure to serve legal documents efficiently and effectively. For some individuals, the demands of the job and the unconventional schedule can be too much, leading to burnout and a desire to leave the field. Additionally, the pressure to perform and the stress of dealing with difficult individuals who are being served with legal documents can also contribute to a high turnover rate.


However, for those who are dedicated and passionate about the job, the high turnover rate can also present opportunities for advancement and growth within the industry. Individuals who are able to handle the challenges and demands of the job, and who have a strong commitment to the legal process, can establish a successful and rewarding career as a process server. Employers and organizations can also help to reduce the high turnover rate by providing support and resources for their process servers, such as training, mentorship programs, and opportunities for professional development. Additionally, by creating a positive work environment, promoting work-life balance, and recognizing and rewarding the contributions of process servers, employers can help to reduce turnover and ensure the long-term success of the process server industry.


Overall, the job of a process server can be physically and mentally demanding, and requires a high level of dedication and attention to detail. However, for those who are passionate about the legal system and have a strong sense of responsibility, it can also be a rewarding and fulfilling career.



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