A little over a year ago I had the opportunity to speak about process serving at an industry legal conference. The first slide in my deck was a drawing of a horse. I asked the audience how many used a process server who delivers documents by horse. Of course no one raised their hand. My next slide was a picture of a smart phone, and I asked how many use a process server who has deployed smart phone field technology. A few hands went up, but not more than 10-15 percent of the room.
I explained that the smart phone and associated web browser technology were the first wave of new technology in process serving in nearly a century, the first since the automobile replaced the horse as the primary method of transportation for process servers. It was first introduced several years ago by Scott Levine, president of JJL Process. I noted that, five years from now, 95 percent of the law firms in the room will be using a process server who has smart phone and web browser technology.
This technology allows for some amazing innovations
• Real-time transparent information shared with law firm clients via password-protected, web-based portals (rather than information known only to the process serving company).
• GPS-verified, time/date stamped, smart phone photos of every service attempt, evidencing the service location at time of service (rather than having no independent evidence).
• Feasibility scoring of the time between each service attempt, to identify unrealistic over-performance, and to cross-check that all server attempts are within legal days and hours (rather than running the risk of being accused of unfeasible and potentially “sewer service” routes, or illegal hours for service).
• Increased good service percentages by mandating the best practices of the top field servers, such as casting a wide net with morning, afternoon, evening and weekend attempts (rather than going to the same place on the same day and at the same time).
• Daily electronic updates sent to law firms’ offices, eliminating the need for manual data entry of court date and service information. This saves time and money and reduces errors.
• All good serves entered into smart phone apps by process servers are immediately relayed to the law firm via the process server’s mainframe (rather than finding out days later that a defendant has been served).
We started off with the horse and ended up with some of the amazing developments in new process serving technology. Can you see now what a horse has to do with process serving?
Very positive compliance implications also come with the new technology. Put yourself in the shoes of a large national creditor. You spend millions of dollars a year reimbursing your legal network firms for process serving expenses, but you are completely unaware of who the process servers are and what they are actually doing. You know that the FTC looked at “sewer service” in 2009, and this year the CFPB has mentioned “process serving” as an area of interest several times. Most recently, their Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking specifically mentions process serving. You realize that you have to establish compliance standards for process serving, but you really do not know much about it, as you do not have any direct relationships with collection industry process servers.
A few years ago, we started to hear this exact scenario from a number of major national creditors – look at the credit cards in your wallet, if you want to know which ones. They wanted to know more about process serving for the purpose of establishing guidelines for their legal networks to follow. The gist of the conversation was, “We don’t know where to start; please help!!” After a number of these conversations, we realized that there was a need for developing process serving compliance standards for the collection industry.
In 2012, a group of nine people began working together toward this end. Their backgrounds were collection attorneys, legal network executives, process server owners and compliance attorneys. The goal of this diverse group was to develop a preliminary set of process serving standards for the collection industry. After four or five drafts, this was accomplished. The group of nine was the Advisory Board for the Process Serving Standards Summit.
The goal of the Summit was to have a fully transparent and inclusive process of reviewing, revising and finalizing the Advisory Board’s draft document. Creditors, debt buyers, legal networks, collection law firms, compliance attorneys, process servers, trade associations and even a county judge participated in the Process Serving Standards Summit held mid- year 2012 in Denver. The two-day Summit made numerous and significant revisions to the draft standards, and each individual standard was democratically voted on by the participating organizations. In the spirit of inclusion, the Summit participants overwhelmingly directed that the standards be publicized in a comment period, allowing for further revisions. Comments were received and several more revisions were made to the standards by the Advisory Board.
The collection industry now has a set of process serving standards as a roadmap to answering the HOW, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHO of process serving. It is my hope that these standards become implemented throughout the industry. The technology that is now available will make compliance easier. To view the standards, click here: http://processservingstandards.com/Process_Serving_Standard.html
By Joel Rosenthal, Director of Business Development, JJL Process Corp., email@example.com