When allowed by law or rule, private process servers should always be used by attorneys instead of law enforcement officers, such as deputies from the sheriff’s civil office. Private process servers have a financial interest in making sure that the attorney’s process is served. Many times, private process servers do not charge unless service is perfected. Law enforcement officers get paid whether the attorney’s legal document is served or not. Because the private process server is motivated by keeping the process server’s business profitable and good reputation intact, the use of a private process server as opposed to law enforcement by attorneys protects the client’s interest, saves money in the long run and assists in maintaining a healthy attorney-client relationship.
Have you ever arrived for hearing with your client only to find out that law enforcement failed to get service on an essential party for that hearing? The failure usually happens in one of two ways: either the officer completely failed to get service, or the officer perfected copy service (a/k/a “gutter service”) and the judge rules that the copy service to be not good service. Justice is now delayed for your client. Although the officer’s failure to get good service is not completely your fault, you could have used a private process server that could have perfected personal service for you or at least notified you prior to hearing that service was not perfected. You would have had the opportunity to attempt other remedies had you known of problems with the service of process. Therefore, you could have better protected your client’s interests.
So, here you are, with your client, appearing for a hearing that will not take place. The $13 to $20 you paid the police agency for service is not refundable; your client will not get paid for the time he or she took off from work to attend the hearing; and, you will not be billing for your time for a hearing that did not occur. Add up those dollar amounts. This is the amount of money that has been wasted because service by law enforcement was not perfected. Had you hired a private process server that offered a “no payment, if no service” arrangement, the party probably would have been served or you might have been timely notified that there was trouble with service so that you could have attempted other remedies. Besides a party avoiding service, the usual problem with service is an old (or incorrect) address. The law enforcement officer isn’t going to give you immediate updates. A private process server will (or at least should) report problems immediately. You can also contact the private process server should you have questions. Try getting the cell phone number of the police officer serving your documents; it’s not going to happen. If you are notified of a problem, such as an incorrect address, you can attempt to find a correct address or the location of employment of the party to be served. Serving a party at work is almost always a sure thing; they’re trapped.
As most attorneys can attest, when the relationship between the attorney and client is a good one, counsel is at its most effective. If the client believes that he or she has wasted money and time due to delay, who will the client blame? Also, generally speaking, when a case is delayed, justice is delayed. Should children wait an additional 30 to 60 days for a continuance in child support cases because service of process was not handled correctly? What about a person who has been emotionally and physically injured? Trust is hard to come by these days, but when a client knows that his or her attorney is doing everything that the attorney can possibly do to ensure their interests are protected, trust comes naturally in the relationship. A good attorney-client relationship can also help when delivering and dealing with news of a negative outcome for the client.
I’m always amazed why attorneys do not use private process servers more often. The potential opportunity costs are just too high to use law enforcement for service of process. Clients’ interests are best protected by using private process servers. The use of private process servers by attorneys is one way that valuable relationships with clients can be maintained.