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Monday, February 18, 2013

Five Questions All Process Servers Should Be Asking Themselves

Five Questions All Process Servers Should Be Asking Themselves.

1.      Are you prepared for the next five years?
Being prepared for the next five years would require you to have specific goals and objective in mind and then to develop and execute on a road map that will assist you in accomplishing your goals. 
2.      Is it likely that the industry will face more government rules and regulations as the result of Sewer Service issues, the Robo-signing scandal and increased scrutiny form the FTC and CFPB? 
If you think it is likely what are you doing to position your business to be able to address the increased compliance requirements that will be thrust upon the industry? If you don't think it is likely then I would submit you are not paying attention.  There are bills pending in New York and Maryland right now that could have dramatic impacts on the industry. 
3.      Is the role of a Process Server more routine and repetitious than it was five years ago?
The reason this question is important is, as you look at industries that have under gone massive change in the last few years you will see a common theme…  Those that were the most routine and repetitions in nature were the most likely to have been disrupted and changed forever.  I would suggest that there are functions that process servers perform that could arguably fall into that routine and repetitious definition.  Service of Registered Agents is a good example of one of the areas where I suspect massive change is going to happen.  What other parts of your business model are being challenged?
4.      Is the image of process servers in the eyes of the Courts and our customers better today than they were five years ago?
I would submit the answer is no.  Google “Process Server Fraud” the unflattering results are too numerous to list here.  Given the recent rash of bad news in the industry, perhaps the better question is what are you doing about it?  How are you differentiating yourself and your business so as not to be associated with the element?  It is everywhere…  If the Courts and your customers have cause to question the integrity of industry we are all in trouble.
5.      Has the advance of technology implemented by the Courts and your customers in the last five years had an impact on your business?
You bet! In a big way and impact of those changes have been felt by many in the industry.  In several jurisdictions around the United States court runners who have long been a part of running most process serving agencies are being replaced at an alarming rate by electronic court filing.  Another example is AT&T is encouraging law firms to send them their Subpoena’s electronically.
I would submit that most in the process serving industry do not take the time to explore questions like these let alone think about and plan for what the next five years might have in store for the industry.  I contend that if you think the last five years have been a challenge then the next five will present a much larger challenge for the process serving industry. If the industry and your individual process serving company does not have a plan and is not prepared to confront challenges, then it is in my opinion eroding and dying a slow death.
My intent is not to be the bearer of bad news or doom and gloom but rather to encourage those that plan on being in this industry for the long haul to start thinking outside the box. The march of technology and evolution waits for no man or industry. It is up to you to reinvent yourself and your business or you will be left behind.
The evidence of the shift that is happening is everywhere in some cases the shift is gradually so gradual in fact that most don’t even see it.  While other shifts are so massive and disruptive that you almost have no time to prepare let alone react.
Here are a few examples of the shift I am talking about that are relevant to or are directly related to the process serving industry:
Electronic Notaries

State of Virginia Leading the way of Electronic Notaries - The challenge facing the global move toward electronic notarization is establishing a legally reliable approach for performing and evidencing the electronic notarial act and managing notaries’ electronic signatures and seals. Without a Virginia Standard that is aligned to the various national signature laws and emerging industry access control and secure messaging requirements, notaries could face the need to have access to multiple electronic signing credentials and systems. At the same time, every relying party should know that the electronic signature and seal of the Virginia electronic notary are as legally valid and reliable as the electronic signature and seal of a notary in any other jurisdiction.

Electronic Service of Process
State of Virginia Leading the way on Electronic Service of Process -  If the statutory agent provides for electronic service, the service of process may be served on the statutory agent electronically. If electronic delivery is used, sufficient proof of the electronic delivery shall be retained, which may be an electronic receipt of delivery, a confirmation that the notice was sent by facsimile, or a certificate of service prepared by the sender confirming the electronic delivery. The statutory agent may charge an additional fee not to exceed $10 for such electronic service.
Electronic Court Filing
State of California Leading the Way on Electronic Court Filing - As of January 1, 2013, eFiling is mandatory for all civil cases (complex, unlimited, and limited) except for small claims cases. See Superior Court of Orange County Local Rule 352. Note: paper filings in civil cases will not be accepted after January 1, 2013.
Fewer Paralegal and Legal Secretaries
It was just two years ago that the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted an 18 percent growth rate in paralegal jobs through 2020, but now, according to an Associated Press analysis, a lot of that work is being taken over by technology replacing humans. “Those (paralegals) without technology knowledge and ability are at the highest risk,” says the Estrin Report
There are many other examples that I could cite that make the case that all industries must evolve and reinvent themselves if they are going to last and remain relevant. 
Are you prepared to do what it takes to start asking and answering the questions that will require you to examine where you are and where you see your business and the industry five years from now?    Process Servers must consider scenarios not just for formulating a strategy to respond to the future but more importantly, for inventing it.