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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Process Servers - From Here to There

Process Servers and Our Association; How Do we Get from Here to There

Private Process Servers - - - Do you and does your industry or association have a road map?  What I mean is do we have a clearly articulated set of goals and objectives from which we can plot a course that ensures we remain as important and as relevant to the legal system as we have been for many decades?   Depending upon who you ask the answer to these questions will vary.   Another way of putting it is… are we renewing our greatness or are we dangerously on the cusp of falling from greatness and ceasing to remain relevant?  

To be sure there are several forces that are having an impact on our industry in a negative way.  The ever increasing pace at which technology is causing the legal profession to evolve is a challenge that many in our industry have failed to recognize.   Case and point, is the number of process servers that no longer have a role in fulfilling their clients’ needs at the courts.   If your court is has not already implemented electronic access to case files and electronic filing it will over the next few years.  This evolution alone threatens to diminish our role and relevancy in the eyes of the legal profession.  With electronic filing comes electronic service between parties.   I attended a demonstration recently given by LexisNexis File & Serve where they demonstrated their product.  They showed that they have filed and served millions of documents with the court and enabled electronic service (party to party) service.  They are serving 5,400 transactions per calendar day electronically.     All that business is gone or otherwise out of reach to the typical process server/legal support agency.   Why is Lexis so successful?  They are successful because they figured out how to remain relevant and bring value to what had been a very labor intensive paper based fulfillment process.  They embraced change and made it work for them and their customers.

Private Process Servers need to take a page from their playbook and start evolving.  I am not talking about creating a website or online order placement or stat using systems.  That is easy and though important in today’s marketplace it will not win the day.

Process Servers in my opinion should be looking outside the box and should be trying to figure out how they can enable electronic service between parties (law firms) and even enable electronic service to defendants directly.  I know that makes process servers uncomfortable.  Well guess what if you don’t figure it out someone else will.

This brings me to your association and its role if any in leading the industry forward so as to ensure all of us are informed and in position to bring value to the legal industry.  From where I sit I think that for the most part your associations have failed this test and as stated earlier in this piece; they too are on the cusp of falling from greatness and are dangerously close to ceasing to remain relevant.

I would submit that NAPPS and the state chartered associations have a responsibility to address the fundamental problems and challenges facing the industry.  Whether they are technological challenges, Sewer Service or the likelihood of increased government regulations, an effective accountable and transparent association will be crucial to getting the industry From Here to There.

In order for that goal to be realized the associations must reexamine their structure, their purpose and their goals and objectives.  I believe that these thing must be refreshed if the associations are going to be effective in the years to come.

It is clear to me that it is not good enough to be reactive to the challenges I have noted in the piece, rather recognize that the legal eco-system that we exist and live in has been evolving for some time and we have not.  We are at a crossroads that will determine whether or not each of businesses will evolve or die a slow death.

I don't proclaim to have a crystal ball but I do know that we (the associations and our industry) are on the cusp of falling from greatness.    Some of us will not only survive but will thrive, while others will not.  That is just the way things work.  Call it natural selection or evolution, whatever you chose to call it you need to decide which side of the fence you plan or being on.  

I have watched and participated in a few associations and I have learned few lessons along the way.  One of the most important among them is those that we consider the forefathers or founders did an amazing thing by leading earlier on, but now is the time for the next generation of leaders to step up, they need to refresh, reorganize and reenergize the association and the industry.  It is time to acknowledge where we are as an industry and that the status-quo thinking and decisions are outdated, they lack vision and purpose.   We need and should demand leaders that will roll up their sleeves, embrace change and ensure we do not fall from greatness but remain relevant and prosper for years and decades to come.
 

Jeff H. Karotkin